Don Knotts was a nervous wreck when The Ghost and Mr. Chicken premiered
Leaving the safety of a regular TV show for the silver screen was a gamble, and Knotts was well aware of the risk.
Don Knotts was associated with nervousness throughout his career. Heck, the proto-Barney Fife character that he created and became famous for on The Steve Allen Show was known as "The Nervous Man." Knotts knew exactly how to get a laugh by playing a wide-eyed, trembling guy in over his head.
The shakiness wasn't just for the act. Offscreen, Knotts was famously shy and soft-spoken. The move from the massively successful Andy Griffith Show to the big screen was a big leap for Knotts, and he knew it.
The Associated Press went a step further, calling it "an expensive risk." They went on to add "[Knotts] enjoyed a safe and lucrative — $3,500 a week — berth on The Andy Griffith Show and could have remained at a raise to $5,000 weekly and a 10 percent interest in the series." That would be roughly $45,000 weekly in today's money, not counting the interest in the show. "But he chose the Universal contract instead."
The gamble of leaving TAGS got to Knotts during the lead-up to the release of his first movie after departing the show, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. United Press International wrote that "Knotts... sweated it out in cold panic. He lost weight, which he could ill afford, chewed his fingernails and prayed a great deal. He developed a slight twitch."
"I went through so many reactions I didn't have any idea how the picture would be received," Knotts said, while the article notes that he was "picking at" his lunch in the Universal lunchroom. "I was proud of the picture, but worried."
Since The Andy Griffith Show performed so well in the South, the studio chose to have the debut of the movie in New Orleans.
"We had a preview down in New Orleans, and I climbed up on cloud 9," Knotts said. "The audience laughed in all the right places. They even laughed in some unexpected spots. I was so excited I could hardly sit in my seat. For the first time in months I really relaxed."
Well, maybe not entirely. Even as the movie was performing well where it was released in the South, Knotts couldn't fully let his guard down. He was worried that people were only turning up out of hometown loyalty since he was from West Virginia himself. To put these fears at ease, Universal went North — far North. They opened the film in Toronto, and it was a smash hit.
"That meant a lot to me," Knotts said. "I didn't want the movie just to be a hit in the South."
He didn't have much to worry about in the end. As the Associated Press noted, "Shot for a half-million dollars, it has already returned four million, which makes it a better investment than most of the studio's product in recent years. The movie is still playing hither and yon and hasn't even braved New York City as yet."
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Funny movie but the funniest part is we had a Airman Second Class (E3) who's
last name was Luther. Every time we'd see him we'd say "Atta Boy, Luther".
the most over played movies are....
#2 any rocky movie
#3 ghost and mr chicken (of course I call Barney "the chicken - his bones very fragile - he try hard but no can cut it"