Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken of my favorite movies...and reminds me a lot of the Halloween season. I forgot to watch it this Halloween, but I'll make a point to watch it this week.
Don Knott's first starring feature for Universal was "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken", (a play on the title, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" 1947.) and is, without a doubt one his best pictures. He was born to play that character. It scared me to no end as kid and to watch Knotts jump and scream, then buck and push his way through the things that scared him, made me feel that I could do it too.

Don Knotts talks about the classic:
"Interestingly, when I did my first movie for Universal, - The Ghost And Mr. Chicken”- I had just left the Andy Griffith show. We had gotten into some writing trouble on the feature, and I asked Andy to help us out, and he did. He suggested that we make more of the guy that yells, "Atta' boy Luther!". So, we worked him in throughout the movie. Strangely enough, it was Universal that wanted to finally show that guy at the end, but I refused. I felt real good about that movie."
For years, Knotts recalls, people would yell at him, “That a boy, Luther.” Andy Griffith was fond of the line; “I’d rather have good food than bad food.”

(The mystery of the voice can be solved if you pay atttention to the court scene when the baliff hands the judge the bible. Listen to the baliff's voice and the mystery voice and they're the same...Cliff Norton. Norton did lots of voice work for Hanna Barbera in the 60's, one being the Jetsons. One of the writers, Everett Greenbaum, was supposed to be the voice, but this scene has Norton's voice and the mystery side by side, and they are identical.)

Why did you leave the Andy Griffith show?
"Well, actually I left the show at the time because Andy had said he was only going to go for five years. I talked to him in the middle of the fifth year, and he said he still intended to stop. So I started to look around and I interviewed with a bunch of people, as I was hot, of course, at that time.
Then all of a sudden Andy turned around and changed his mind. He came to me and said, “I’ve decided to stay on. What do you think? We’ve got a new deal to offer you. Do you want to stay?” But by then I had already really committed myself to Universal, where I had an opportunity to make features. Although I didn’t have a production company, they gave me an office, my own writers, and a five year contract. It was a nice deal, and by then I thought it was time for me to move on- so I did. I came back and did a few shows with Andy. I used to kid them when I came back. I’d say, “Are you still working with that little screen?” Then they’d yell, “Here comes the movie actor.”
Were you satisfied with the films you made at Universal?
"Yes, the first three films I made out there I was very pleased with (Ghost, Reluctant Astronaut, Shakiest). The last two I was not."
Those would have been how To Frame A Figg and The Love God?
" Right."
Many of your fans consider The Love God? A cult movie that ranks with your funniest efforts.
"Maybe, but many people thought it was too risqué for my image at that time. Most of the theaters that showed my films would not even book it because they thought it would not be acceptable to audiences."

Speaking of bucking the traditional Don Knotts image, is it true you were the idol of a commune of hippies around the time of The Love God?
"That’s true, I ran into a guy in Hawaii- on Waikiki. He was a hippie and invited me to his “pad.” When I got there, I found all these guys hanging out passing around marijuana. (laughs) However, I only spent one day with them- I never moved in."

His first motion picture, TGAMC, did exploit the character of Barney and the Man On The Street for Knott’s role as Luther. The script, after all, was written by two writers from The Andy Griffith Show. In fact, the picture is very reminiscent of the episode entitled, “The Haunted House,” in which Barney and Gomer attempt to retrieve Opie’s ball that landed in a spooky mansion (being used as a cover by a bootlegger.) In any event, Knotts subsequent family entertainment films moved him light years away from the original character of Barney.

"...And they used Bon-Ami!"
TGAMC was filmed in 17 days. There was some concern about the use of the trade name, "Bon-Ami." After some waiting, during which no one on the production staff had yet contacted the company, Don Knotts himself decided to call Bon-Ami and ask permission to use the name in the film, which was granted.
The familiar Universal suburban street set has been seen in many productions: Leave it To Beaver. the Munsters..and even The Burbs.
When the feature opened, it double billed with "Munster Go Home" at a lot of theatres, and some even got to see the Munster Koach up close at these galas.


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