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Don Knotts’ ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Salary May Have Pushed Him to Leave Mayberry for Hollywood

Don Knotts’ ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Salary May Have Pushed Him to Leave Mayberry for Hollywood

Don Knotts and Andy Griffith worked well together for five seasons on The Andy Griffith Show before Knotts left to make movies. Yet there may have been more behind Knotts’ exit than first revealed. In order to get a look at that side of the story, we have to view Griffith from a business standpoint.

His management worked out a deal with show producers that financially set Andy Griffith up for success…or failure. If the show didn’t catch on, then Griffith would not make as much. But the sitcom was a big hit, which turned into prosperity for Griffith.

Along with his rich deal, Griffith managed to get full control over certain aspects of the show. He really was a hands-on type of guy, working with scripts all the time. Griffith’s goal was to make the show better than the last episode. This mindset has been reflected in comments over the years from Ron Howard, who played Opie, and Griffith himself.

Don Knotts Didn’t Get a Big Salary From ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Well, with Andy Griffith in charge on and off screen to a degree, where did this leave Don Knotts? Much less off than Griffith, to say the least. Sherwin Bash, Knotts’ manager, talked about his client’s financial deal with Richard Kelly for Kelly’s The Andy Griffith Show book.

“I worked out this terrible deal for [Don Knotts], where he ended up making no money in five years,” said Bash. Knotts only made about $1,250 an episode. That’s roughly $35,000 a year, which fell way short of Griffith’s stratosphere.

While we don’t have specific details about Griffith’s salary, it’s safe to say that he got some security due to his name being on the show. Toss in what creative control he negotiated for at the start, and Griffith had inroads toward different financial pots.

All Don Knotts had was his salary. That’s it. Making $35,000 isn’t bad, but it probably pales in comparison to Griffith’s salary.

Reportedly, Don Knotts and Andy Griffith met after Season 5, MeTV said. Knotts did ask for more compensation, but Griffith misunderstood what Knotts was asking for at the time. Ultimately, Knotts left and made movies like The Incredible Mr. Limpet and The Reluctant Astronaut, among others.

Don Knotts’ Movie Career Paid Off in the Long Run

Don Knotts’ movies did not bring him break-the-bank types of salaries, but they were better than his TV salary. From the mid-1960s into the 1970s, Knotts was a regular on movie screens. He had starring roles while also co-starring with Tim Conway in films like The Apple Dumpling Gang.

Of course, Don Knotts had some guest-starring appearances on The Andy Griffith Show as himself. He wore a suit in most of these, a far cry from his deputy uniform.

The salary issues could have caused a solid rift between the two actors. But it didn’t stick up to the test of time. Longtime fans know Don Knotts joined with Andy Griffith on the latter’s lawyer/courtroom drama Matlock. Knotts’ character brought some humor to the show, but it felt out of place in a show where drama was the main calling card. Knotts lasted a little more than one season before he was let go.

And on Matlock, much like on his own show, Andy Griffith had a slice of creative control. He could make calls on who stayed and who left.

There are not too many stories publicly about Don Knotts and Andy Griffith fighting among themselves. Being friends does not keep them from being themselves, far beyond their on-screen personas, Griffith was one of the last people to see Knotts alive at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles before he died. Knotts was 81 when he passed away in 2006. Griffith died in 2012 at 86 years old.  

Yet their on-screen chemistry on The Andy Griffith Show comes through loud and clear all these years later.