Monday, May 7, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Barney Fife


Name: Bernard "Barney" Fife

Portrayed by: Don Knotts

TV series: The Andy Griffith Show (the Barney years were 1960-64)

Occupation: Deputy Sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina; later took a detective job in Raleigh. Worked briefly as a dog catcher and vacuum cleaner salesman.

Early Life:  Graduated from Mayberry Union High School with friend Andy Taylor. He served in the Army during World War II, running the Post Exchange library on Staten Island, NY.


Lifestyle: Lived in Mrs. Mendelbright's Boarding House. When not on duty, wore a fedora and a "salt and pepper suit" (Andy thought it made Barney look like Adolpe Menjou).

Family and Friends: Best friend is Sheriff Andy Taylor. (According to the first episode, Andy and Barney are cousins, but subsequent episodes seem to dispute that relationship.) Barney was the best man at Andy's wedding and godfather to Opie. Barney dated Hilda Mae and then Juanita Beasley, a waitress at the Junction Cafe and later the Bluebird Diner. Thelma Lou became his long-time girlfriend and they eventually married (but not during the run of The Andy Griffith Show). Barney had a cousin named Virgil (Michael J. Pollard). Barney's mother appeared only in the second episode.

Non-talents: So inept with his firearm that Andy only gave him one bullet--for emergencies. Liked to sing, but sounded dreadful (once replaced by Gomer in a choir).

Trademarks: Called Andy "Ange."

Classic quotes:  "This is big. Big, big, big. Really big."  "I had my eye on you right from the start, mister!"  "Beats all, Andy. Just beats all!"  "Nip it in the bud!"

Classic episodes: "Andy Saves Barney's Morale" (left in charge of the sheriff's department, Barney arrests almost everyone); "Barney and the Cave Rescue" (heroic Barney saves Andy and Helen after a cave landslide); and "The Haunted House" (a prelude to the Don Knotts movie The Ghost and Mr. Chicken).

14 comments:

  1. Great acting isn't always found in serious shows/movies/plays. Don Knott's characterization of Barney is just about as good as it gets. My favorite Barney moments: making a citizen's arrest and his declaration (about some Mayberry issue) that he and Andy had to "nip it, nip it, nip it in the bud!."

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    1. The actor and character fit each other perfectly. It was a shame Don Knott left the series, because I don't think he was ever as funny.

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  2. I love the picture you posted of Barney Fife, because that is the look that captures him perfectly. I had forgotten that he finally married Thelma Lou. Barney was an unforgettable character. Mayberry was a slice of America at a simpler time.
    Well done, Rick!

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    1. Toto, as you may know, Andy Griffith modeled Mayberry on Mount Airy, NC. I've driven through that city many times in the past. There were always lots of tie-ins to the TV show, such as an Aunt Bea cafe.

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  3. I think Barney made that show. The episodes without him aren't nearly as funny. My favorite episode is probably the "singing in the choir" one, where they are dubbing a deep baritone voice for him.

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  4. I agree! But, surprisingly, the series lasted four years without Barney and the spin-off MAYBERRY R.F.D. another three.

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  5. Great choice! I agree that Barney is perhaps THE key ingredient in making THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW so special. I'm just not really interested in it after he left. I've seen a lot of episodes but haven't ever seen "The Haunted house"...need to remedy that, as I get a real kick out of GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN.

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  6. Who doesn't love Barney Fife! He was the only reason to watch The Andy Griffith Show.

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  7. Oh, and BTW, I just looked at your sidebar for favorite Paul Newman films--where is Hud?

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  8. "The Andy Griffith Show", was never the same when "Barney" left the show. I think that is about the time I quit watching.

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  9. The right actor and the right role came together in Mayberry.

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  10. Barney Fife is one of a handful of genuinely original characters in TV history -- nobody like him before or since. As much as I do like the series, comments here are correct: the show lost something indispensible when Don Knotts left.

    I haven't verified it, but I'm sure Knotts's Emmy haul must be some kind of record: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy four years running, then he left the show, came back the next season for a one-shot guest appearance -- and won the Emmy again. I remember the year after that, at the Emmys, host Bob Hope announced: "Here to present the Don Knotts Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy..."

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  11. My favorite one of all is "Barney's Side Car". Tickled thinking about it now!

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  12. I really liked the relationship between Barney and Andy. They would have done anything for each other, those two. Talk about a bro-mance! So cute! Thanks for the post!

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