Comedian Don Knotts is beloved by his many fans. He is one of those rare comic geniuses who created two characters still heavily seen in reruns – “Barney Fife” on The Andy Griffith Show and Ralph Furley on Three’s Company.
And lest we forget – Knotts’ movie roles in funny films like The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Hot Lead and Cold Feet, and Pleasantville.
Knotts did his fair share of variety shows, and a DVD compilation of a few of those rare skits (comedy and musical) and stand-up routines has finally hit the market. Entitled Don Knotts: Tied Up With Laughter, the one-hour DVD comes mostly from Knotts’ appearances on The Hollywood Palace.
Many folks may not remember The Hollywood Palace, but it was a Saturday night one-hour variety show that ran on ABC. No season by season DVDs have been released, which is a shame, as virtually all of the big Hollywood stars of the era turned up there at some point, including the Rolling Stones, Dean Martin, Bette Davis, John Wayne, and the Three Stooges.
MPI Video, a successful independent home video producer/distributor headquartered in Chicago, is spear-heading the project. MPI released the revered “lost episodes” of the Honeymooners, various Beatles projects (e.g. A Hard Day’s Night, Help!), and John Wayne’s star-studded Tribute to America.
Tied Up with Laughter is part of MPI’s Comic Legends Series, which includes Phyllis Diller, Tim Conway, and Dick Van Dyke. In correspondence with the project’s producer, Jim Pierson, he called the DVD a “fun time capsule of comedy.”
In this special comedy collection, the bug-eyed funnyman is joined by actress Jane Powell (the famous musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers), comic Jack Burns (he played “Deputy Warren Ferguson,” Knotts’ short-lived replacement on The Andy Griffith Show), Maureen Arthur (co-starred in The Love God? with Knotts), ubiquitous ’60s singer-actress Joey Heatherton, and former Dallas Cowboys player Lance Rentzel (Heatherton’s husband at the time).
Some of the best moments arrive when Knotts sings with Jimmy Durante in a memorable scene and later when he performs his legendary “nervous man” skit. Bonus material includes the comedian’s only appearance with Lucille Ball in a Jan. 8, 1973, appearance on her sitcom Here’s Lucy.
Unfortunately, Pierson stated that this is a one-time DVD, and no further Knotts projects are in the works. Incidentally, Knotts did at least two specials with Andy Griffith (i.e. The Andy Griffith – Don Knotts – Jim Nabors Show and The Don Knotts Special).
Sadly, Pierson revealed that both “specials with Andy were lost; otherwise, they would be released. Andy was upset to discover this, too. Old variety shows shot on videotape that never were rerun or syndicated later were often lost or tossed.”
“Filmed shows were generally safe as negatives almost always kept as well as distribution prints. Andy had a couple of early ‘70s sitcoms, and those were filmed and are fine, but never seen.”
Knotts did indeed guest as Barney Fife in one episode of The New Andy Griffith Show in January 1971, and it’s such a shame that this performance hasn’t been released on video. Knotts also had a short-lived variety series that same year on NBC called The Don Knotts Show. Pierson admitted, “It would be nice to do the Knotts’ variety series, too, but music licensing is expensive.”
So check out Don Knotts: Tied Up With Laughter. Perhaps if enough fans buy it [less than $10 on Amazon], it will clear the way for more of the talented comedian’s variety show work to see the light of day.
- DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! Like their alter egos, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were seemingly joined at the hip. Griffith played his role with supreme confidence, often acting the straight-man to Knotts’ outlandish antics. Lost for nearly 50 years, a video clip has recently been unearthed from a CBS variety special entitled The Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and Jim Nabors Show.It features the actors in living color reprising Sheriff Andy Taylor and Barney Fife on a vast soundstage. Released in October 1965, mere months after Knotts controversially departed The Andy Griffith Show for a short-lived career on the big screen, the video proves that the actors were masters of comedic timing and relished performing together in front of a live audience. The comedy team later collaborated in a funny yet touching 1967 episode, “Barney Comes to Mayberry”, that landed Knotts his fifth and final Emmy. Both features are only a click away…
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Exclusive Interview: One of the most popular guest stars to grace The Andy Griffith Show during its terrific eight-year run was the Dillards, likely the most visible progressive bluegrass group of the era. As the tight-lipped and backwoodsy “Darling Family,” the band was beamed into nearly 30 million homes in six well-remembered episodes along with their stubborn pa, Briscoe, and love-lorn sister, Charlene. The group’s leader is Rodney Dillard, a down to earth gentleman possessing many hats. The resident raconteur is a minister, songwriter, guitarist, singer and producer. In the most wide-ranging interview of his life and career thus far, Dillard relives yesteryear with many wonderful memories spent with the cast and crew in Mayberry.
Exclusive Interview No. 2: The Three Stooges will never win an armload of awards from the critical elite. So then why does the trio’s brilliantly timed comedy routines continue to age like vintage red wine? Moe Howard, with his jet black hair styled as a bowl cut, was always the forceful, bossy leader. Younger brother Curly possessed improvisational genius and uttered numerous catchphrases with abandon (e.g. “Nyuk, nyuk” and “I’m a victim of coicumstance!”). The frizzy-haired Larry Fine was caught somewhere in-between, often receiving the brunt of Moe’s slaps and eye pokes. Much like his character on-screen, Larry was a happy-go-lucky guy who didn’t worry about keeping money for very long and always found time to meet with his fans. Incidentally, the Stooge bumped shoulders with Elvis Presley while the King was filming “Jailhouse Rock”, since both were staying at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. Larry’s biographer, Steve Cox, maintains an extremely low online profile but fortunately agreed to speak at length about his fascination for the Three Stooges in the rollicking feature, “Paging Larry Fine: Author Steve Cox Recalls the Lovable Three Stooges Numbskull.”
Exclusive Interview No. 3: Innovative comedy artist Ray Stevens has scored hit singles on both the country and pop charts in his 50-year recording career. The versatile pianist has a knack for seemingly flipping the switch between laugh out loud and serious recordings. “Ahab the Arab,” “Gitarzan,” “Bridget the Midget (The Queen of the Blues),” The Streak,” “Shriner’s Convention,” “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” and the Grammy-winning “Everything Is Beautiful” are a sampling of his greatest hits. In a wide-ranging three-part interview [“Ray Stevens: Still Trying To Figure Out What He’s Gonna Do When He Grows Up”], Stevens recalls seeing Louis Armstrong in concert, playing trumpet on an Elvis Presley recording session, hearing himself on the radio for the first time, and offers a spirited behind the scenes commentary on the aforementioned singles and much more.
- Exclusive Interview No. 4: “Dad taught me to keep going and learn it all. He was capable of doing everything—the epitome of a true entertainer.” Dean Martin’s lovely daughter, Deana, keeps the limelight planted firmly on her family, performing and recording her dad’s material all around the world. Deana recently agreed to explore a side of the crooner rarely discussed in modern literature: a man of simple country music tastes versus the cliché-ridden, glitzy Vegas image. In “Deana Martin Can’t Help Remembering the Swingin’ King of Cool,” Dino’s daughter shares heretofore unheard memories regarding John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, family vacations, guitars, horses, watching old Westerns with Sammy Davis, Jr., golf, and their poignant, final Christmas spent together.
Further Reading: Elvis Presley and Johnny Carson were two kings in their respective fields who admired each other’s work immensely. However, Elvis swore off watching The Tonight Show on the evening of his 40th birthday after Carson supposedly uttered a “fat and forty” joke in his nightly monologue. Subsequent retellings of the episode by members of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia have painted Carson in a negative light. But did the King of Late Night actually say those words 40 years ago? A viewing of the original televised clip and accompanying Tonight Show transcript presents stone cold evidence that will lay the claim to rest. Investigate “What Johnny Carson Really Said About Elvis…” for the complete lowdown.
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