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!