The story of the Don Knotts Film Festival

Which Knotts movies would you pick to show?

What is Don Knotts' ultimate legacy? The Andy Griffith Show casts a long shadow. Is there room for Knotts to be remembered for his film work as well?

In 1989, a group of college students at Ohio's Denison University gathered to celebrate the historically underappreciated comedy filmography of one Jesse Donald Knotts. 

The Don Knotts Film Festival, held in Denison's Slayter Hall Auditorium was presented on Saturday, March 11, 1989, and must've been the hottest ticket in Granville. It was a festival with a thesis: Don Knotts' catalog of movies didn't get enough recognition. The festival's organizer, film student Paul Mollard, was passionate about proselytizing the Way of the Don.

"Sure, some people think it's a big joke," said Mollard, then a junior in Denison's film department. "But I think he's unrecognized."

Of the 18 movies Knotts starred in before '89, Mollard chose three to program for his fest. The lineup included his favorite, The Reluctant Astronaut. The triple-feature presentation was then rounded out by The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, before closing with The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

The festival positioned Knotts as a misunderstood icon. Mollard endeavored to rectify this by giving Knotts his flowers while Don could still smell them.

"He has this character that remains the same, regardless of the director or the studio," said Mollard. "It's like the way the French love Jerry Lewis. They think Jerry Lewis is a genius. Now, I'm not saying Don Knotts is a Jerry Lewis, but there is definitely a body of work there that stands out." 

Mollard explained Knotts' appeal in an interview with The Newark Advocate.

"He's definitely an underdog, just like all the great film comics like Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and even Woody Allen."

"They're all these fidgety little men who are clumsy but they're loveable. You put them in situations, and the comedy arises out of that."

So which Don Knotts movie is your favorite? How would you program your hometown's Don Knotts Film Festival? Let us know in the comments section below!

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16 Comments

MichaelVegas 7 months ago
I always liked the Don and Tim Conway movies like Private eyes
Nettie58 7 months ago
“The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” has always been my favorite Don Knotts movie, and I have enjoyed it many times over the years. How I wish the current generation could be as enamored by the ‘catcall’ “Attaboy, Luther!” as I have always been!!😜😆😃
timothys71 7 months ago
Am I the only person who will admit to liking "The Apple Dumpling Gang"? That was one of the first live-action movies that I saw when I was a kid, and now I have it on DVD.
George58 7 months ago
"The Ghost & Mr. Chicken" is my favorite. I love that movie, so damn funny. Its like watching the "Honeymooners". You've seen the episode/movie hundreds of times yet you still laugh at the same scenes that are comical.
exit79 7 months ago
The article "nailed" all three of my favorite Don Knotts movies: 1) The Ghost and Mr Chicken 2) The Reluctant Astronaut, and 3) The Incredible Mr Limpett
Scott76112 7 months ago
Mr. Limpet was one of my favorites as a kid.
I watched it recently and it's still pretty entertaining.
JohnGrant 7 months ago
Mr. Limpet was too weird to watch
Mitch8901 7 months ago
"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" is definitely my ultimate favorite to watch especially a few days before Halloween. My second favorite is "Private Eyes" with Tim Conway.
TSeym22 7 months ago
I'm generally not a Don Knotts fan, but I do enjoy "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." My absolute favorite, however, is "The Incredible Mr. Limpet."
top_cat_james_1 7 months ago
No love for "The Love God?" (1969)?
Too dirty for Knott's family audience, not dirty enough for everyone else.
Knotts' nott Knott's.
MrsPhilHarris 7 months ago
Love his movies, especially The Ghost & Mr. Chicken.
harlow1313 MrsPhilHarris 7 months ago
I am fond of Dirty Abner Peacock, his righteous threads and that gone dance number.
harlow1313 7 months ago
In the seventies, as an undergraduate at Slippery Rock State College, I made that very suggestion, a Don Knotts Film Festival, in writing. My dim classmates only wanted "Star Wars."

I have always been a bit out of step.
Runeshaper 7 months ago
The Don Knotts Film Festival sounds FANTASTIC! I love him in all movies and TV shows!
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