Both Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, longtime friends and stars of The Andy Griffith Show, were fathers as well as television stars.
In a story related by Daniel de Visé the author of Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, who is also Don Knotts’ brother-in-law, Griffith called Knotts on his soft touch when it came to parenting.
Knotts and his 1st wife had two children
The Barney Fife actor and his first wife Kay were married in 1948. Their daughter Karen was born in 1954 and son Tom followed soon after in 1957. Even though his career kept him busy, the future Three’s Company star was devoted to his kids.
“He worked very long hours,” Karen, who is an actor and comedian, told de Visé. “Sometimes twelve hours. If he’d missed dinner, he would always come up to our room and say good-night to us.”
His daughter recalled her father’s assistance in helping her fall asleep at night.
“I just couldn’t go to sleep, and he bought me a little radio, and I left it on all night, and it cured me of my sleeplessness,” she recalled.
The Knotts divorced and Don got his kids on the weekends
Eventually, Don and Kay divorced in 1964 and Don spent time with his children on the weekends, when they would stay with him.
According to Knotts’ son Tom, his father would from time to time take his kids to visit Griffith’s home, as his co-star’s children were “close in age” to his own.
“They would sit there as grown-ups, talking, while we were swimming,” Tom told de Visé. “And they talked a lot on the phone. And he’d call him Ange, I remember that.”
As Karen got older, her desire to act professionally grew. “[Don] was worried about Karen all the time,” a family friend told the author. “[He] worried that she would always be a recovering actress.”
Griffith chided his friend’s parenting
During the moments when the friends were together with their children, the two men got to know one another’s offspring well. Karen noted that as a youngster, she daydreamed a great deal, and on one day, her dillydallying caught the attention of Griffith.
“Karen and Tom Knotts did make the occasional appearance at their father’s workplace. ‘I was visiting my dad on the set once,’ de Visé quoted Karen as saying. ‘And I was extremely slow, everything I did, because I was always daydreaming. And I was in the lavatory, just daydreaming, and my dad and Andy were outside the door talking.”
To what must have been her surprise, Karen heard Griffith say her name, and he wasn’t happy.
“And all of a sudden, Andy said, ‘Don, I love Karen, but she is so …. darn …. slow!,” Karen recalled Griffith as saying.
Her father “sheepishly” asked her through the restroom door, “Are you done?”
Griffith apparently was underwhelmed with his friend’s parenting of a slowpoke child and decided to say something, which sounded more like an exchange between the sheriff and his deputy: “You’re one tough dad.”
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