Ron Howard and Betty Lynn cried when Don Knotts left Mayberry

Tears flowed when the actor left the show.

All good things must come to an end. Sometimes, the good thing ends as planned, and other times it gets canceled before its time. In the case of Don Knotts' role as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, the good thing ended when Knotts departed the show for a movie career. The grass is always greener, especially when the other side of the fence is Hollywood. While he was always an important component of The Andy Griffith Show, the program went on without him, but it was never the same.

Knotts wasn't just beloved by the audiences, either. Even within the cast and crew of folks that watched him work, there was an understanding that Knotts was something special.

The decision had repercussions beyond Barney's presence, too. When Knotts left the show, there was no longer any need for Barney's girlfriend, Thelma Lou. Reportedly, Betty Lynn (who starred in the show as Thelma Lou) was offered other storylines, but she turned them down to stay true to her character and Knotts'. 

On a 2019 episode of the Away Message podcast, Lynn explained how Knotts' decision to leave affected her as well.

"The Andy Griffith Show never signed me to a contract," said Lynn. "They would just call me and let me know that I had four days. I never knew if they'd call me again to be on it or not. Finally, I had to leave because Don did. He went to Universal to do movies and he was very thrilled over that, he really wanted to do that."

In the forward to Knotts' daughter's memoir, Tied Up in Knotts: My Dad and Me, Lynn spoke glowingly about working with the crew of The Andy Griffith Show.

"I couldn't wait to go to set, because I loved doing it so much," said Lynn. "Everybody on it was wonderful, as actors. They were all great to work with. And that doesn't happen every day of the week in show business."

She also revealed what it was like on set the day that Barney left Mayberry.

"When Don did his last show, that was it for me, I was gone. I went to the ladies' room and cried and cried. Ron [Howard] also cried. Barney was my purpose for being there."

The upset feelings were understandable, especially for the young Howard. Don Knotts had been a source of laughter for Howard from the ages of six through eleven, so of course he'd be sad to see Knotts go. 

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4 Comments

Rick 1 month ago
MeTV had a story last year about Betty Lynn being offered a role where she worked in Mayberry's hair salon after Knotts left: https://www.metv.com/stories/after-don-knotts-left-the-andy-griffith-show-betty-lynn-was-offered-another-storyline-but-she-wouldnt-take-it

I think it shows real artistic principles that she declined. The character and the show were more important to Betty Lynn than the paycheck. She was right that Thelma Lou didn't make sense without Barney, but when a popular TV show offers you a part, it must take a lot of fortitude to turn it down.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
I'm sure many of the cast, crew, and fans of the show were very sad when Knotts left.
JHP Runeshaper 28 days ago
c'ept francis B (atch)
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