The Andy Griffith Show star Don Knotts played Deputy Barney Fife on the series.
Knotts at one point during the beloved sitcom’s run was shocked to begin receiving an odd item – in large quantity – from fans.
Here’s what it was and why fans wanted Knotts to have it.
How Barney Fife came to be
Don Knotts was out of work when he saw his friend Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show‘s pilot episode on The Danny Thomas Show in 1960. Knotts was delighted with the pilot and envisioned himself being part of Griffith’s show.
Knotts spoke to Richard Kelly, author of 1981’s The Andy Griffith Show, about what made him get in touch with Griffith.
“I saw Andy’s pilot on The Danny Thomas Show and noticed he didn’t have a deputy,” Kelly reported Knotts as saying. “I learned Andy was on vacation in North Carolina, so I called him and said, ‘It would be neat if you had a deputy.’”
Griffith agreed and encouraged Knotts to call the show’s producer, Sheldon Leonard. After an audition, Barney Fife was born and signed on for five years.
Barney Fife always kept 1 bullet in his shirt pocket
One of the series’ running jokes was Barney Fife’s inevitable awful handling of firearms. And so, Sheriff Taylor for everyone’s safety, limited his deputy to one bullet to be kept in his shirt pocket.
Knotts perfected the comic fumble for his shirt pocket whenever he felt danger loomed or was imminent. Watching him then load his gun while shaking from anxiety was what audiences grew to expect and love from the expressive actor.
The man who created one of TV’s greatest second bananas told Kelly he saw Barney Fife as “a childlike man who was funny mainly because he was never able to hide anything in his face. Barney never hid anything. He wasn’t able to. In my mind, that was really the key to Barney’s character.”
Don Knotts kept getting this from fans
It must have bothered the show’s viewers a great deal to see Andy Taylor’s deputy with one bullet only because to Don Knotts, it seemed that fans began sending him bullets a great deal.
Knotts was a huge fan favorite of the show and this was evident when the actor made himself available for autographs, as author Daniel de Visé noted in his 2015 book, Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.
“‘They would line up along the hotel, three blocks, and wait in line to get an autograph from him,’” actor Dodie Brown told de Visé. “‘They would come up and say, ‘I’m your best fan,’ Every single person would say that. Every policeman would bring him bullets.’
“Don never knew what to do with the bullets,” de Visé wrote. “Hundreds of them rattled around the drawers of his Century City condo.”
Deputy Barney Fife would have enjoyed having all of those bullets handy in his shirt pocket.
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