Knotts, McGavin: Our Present Business Is General Woe

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Proving that the universe is ruled by a malevolent god, America must cope with the double sorrow of losing Don Knotts and Darren McGavin within a single 24-hour period. Too soon gone, the ever-youthful stars were 81 and and 83, respectively. Knotts, beloved for decades as Mr. Limpet, Barney Fife, Mr. Furley, and the title hero of The Reluctant Astronaut (which I once believed was the greatest film ever made), needs no introduction, so I'll just say that he enjoyed the career longevity of actors who never looked young. Even in recent years, when he was really getting decrepit and doing mostly voice work, Knotts still managed to show up once in a while in a guest spot, inevitably stealing whatever show he graced.

McGavin, another world-class scene stealer, had an even more varied career, but in his signature part in the horror series Kolchak:The Night Stalker—which easily trounces All the President's Men and all other contenders as the greatest reporter-as-hero work in the canon—he outshone not only the walk-on vampires and demons but a supporting cast that included Simon Oakland, Ruth McDevitt, and John Fiedler. (Where can you find a cast like that today?)

Sure, the rule of three deaths is just superstition, but still I fear for Robert "Exidor" Donner.

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  1. Ah, heck. I grew up on these guys. I love the story about McGavin’s fake cursing in “A Christmas Story,” where the ratings board insisted his language deserved something other than a G. He went to the Board with a tape of the words slowed down as much as possible demonstrating that he just said nonsense syllables that sounded bad. They got the “G.” I also remember fondly arguing with an obnoxious date in college that “The Night Stalker” was a better show than almost all episodes of “Twilight Zone.” Requiescate in Pacem.

  2. Not to put too fine a point on it, but wasn’t The Fish and Mr. Limpett way better than The Reluctant Astronaut?

    Anyway, I think Don Knotts would have made a fantastic Walter Mitty. Danny Kaye was convincing as a daydreamer but after seeing his portrayal of Hans Christian Anderson I can’t help but wonder if he wasn’t really daydreaming about a chorus line of boys in their tighty-whiteys. Somehow I don’t have that kind of verisimilitude problem with Knotts.

  3. Don Knotts came to my college once and did a spot for the local college radio statio. Really really nice guy.

  4. I’m not sure you can really say that Don Knotts was “beloved” as Mr. Furley. Mr. Furley was really more embarraassing than anything else. I’d go with “The Reluctant Astronaut.” That’s much more belovable.

  5. There is still nothing funnier on television than Deputy Barney Fife. Knotts’ brilliant comedic acting created a diminutive giant, still the standard-bearer for the insecure egoist. I’ve never laughed at anything more than the episode where Fife has to be talked through the recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution. Rest in peace, Don Knotts.

  6. There is still nothing funnier on television than Deputy Barney Fife. Knotts’ brilliant comedic acting created a diminutive giant, still the standard-bearer for the insecure egoist. I’ve never laughed at anything more than the episode where Fife has to be talked through the recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution. Rest in peace, Don Knotts.

  7. Awwww man! I was wondering what was currently going on with McGavin after I got Kolchak on DVD last Halloween. Too bad.

  8. “Sure, the rule of three deaths is just superstition…”

    Does the fact that my favorite game store is going out of business count?

  9. His brief scene in “No Time For Sergeants” as an Air Force psyh tester was one of the funniest in American film. And the first time he and Andy Griffiths ever appeared together.

  10. Besides the fact that “A Christmas Story” was divinely inspired in the first place, the actors brought it to wonderful, eternal, cult life. McGavin’s cursing was fantastic, as was his pure, clueless-male joy when opening and setting up the burlesque leg lamp. He’ll be missed.

  11. I was never a particularly big fan of Don Knotts (he was funny, but lacked range), but I will really miss Darren Mcgavin. 🙁

  12. RIP Darren McGavin.

    I guess the lesson in this is that life is fra-gee-lay.

  13. Don Knotts has a Darren McGavin number of 1.

    Don Knotts was in Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978) with Darren McGavin

  14. My personal Don Knott’s fav…the bit on (I think) Steve Allen where he played the bomb tester. I’m laughing just thinking about it.

    McGavin was always a personal fav because of Night Stalker and my wife and kids got me the 20th anniversary edition of The Christmas Story a few years back.

    I always liked him in the interesting but ultimately disappointing adaptation of the Martian Chronicles. He saved the miniseries from the otherwise turgid performance by Rock Hudson.

    Was surprised to find that he did the book on tape of the another old fav, the Travis McGee novels.

    These guys will be missed and remembered well.

  15. The greatest film ever made was “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”. Due not only to Mr. Knotts’ masterful performance (which made him my favorite actor for a time), but also to the haunting, inimitable organ score.

  16. No, Mark Borok No!

    The Incredible Mr. Limpet was the greatest film ever made!

  17. The nightstalker is such a lost classic. I remember that show scaring the daylights out of me when I was like 7. Nightstalker and Christmas story, those alone make McGavin a legend. What a shame.

  18. My favorite McGavin flick was By Dawn’s Early Light in which he plays a right-wing nutcase who becomes president after a nuclear war. A masterpiece of scenery-chewing.

    The Incredible Mr. Limpett was the Citizen Kane of talking-dolphin movies. Seriously, I’ve never watch the flick that it didn’t utterly delight me. Godspeed, guys…and thanks for the memories.

  19. In honor of two other great Americans who died in a 24hour period of each other, I have to imagine Darren McGavin’s last words were a curmudgeonly, “Don Knotts still lives.” http://www.heritage.org/Research/PoliticalPhilosophy/EM724.cfm

    Anyway, RIP to both.

  20. Wait a second, we already have our three: Andreas Katsulas (G’Kar from Babylon 5) died on the 15.

  21. “…he was funny, but lacked range.”

    Not so. Don Knotts was the complete comedian who could make you laugh as well as cry. Well, maybe not actually cry. That’s a cliche, but you know what I mean. Take another look at the old Andy Griffith shows and give the guy the credit he deserves. They’re in reruns forever, which says a lot.

  22. octavia butler

  23. I like to think Knotts is in heaven right now, eavesdropping on our conversations and mistakenly thinking there’s something dirty going on down here.

  24. Sorry, you’re all film morons.

    Shakiest Gun In The West is the greatest movie of all time.

  25. The Incredible Mr. Limpett was the Citizen Kane of talking-dolphin movies.

    No, The Day of the Dolphin is the Citizen Kane of talking-dolphin movies.

  26. octavia butler

    Dammit.

  27. My wife & I still can’t go more than a few months without eventually blurting out a “You used up all the glue on PURPOSE.” or “Not a finger!” Which, really aren’t that funny at all unless you’ve seen the genius that first delivered them.

    As for Don Knotts, I still laugh thinking of the episode where Barney Fife is trying to gain height & weight to pass the test to be deputy, and he is hanging in his closet by the neck in order to try to stretch his spine, while Opie & the kids are staring at him through the window, utterly confused.

    RIP to both.

  28. Andreas Katsulas is also dead?

    My jaw drops, hitting the table. The thud it makes is NOT, as Citizen G’Kar might have said, “an agreeable thumping noise.” Ouch.

  29. Nipped in the bud. R.I.P.

  30. PS: I realize that 80+ years is quite a long “bud,” I’m just saying what it feels like.

  31. Weren’t both Don and Darren implicated in Bob Crane’s death? I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this.

  32. For some reason, none of the obits I’ve seen mention Knott’s role in No Time for Sergeants. Testing Andy Griffith for dexterity. One of the funniest scenes in a very funny movie. I think that is where Andy Griffith got to know him.

  33. but still I fear for Robert “Exidor” Donner

    Let him rest while he’s on earth. Just think, every time he makes a reservation at a restaurant he gets to hear them call for the Donner party.

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