From The Incredible Mr. Limpet to The Shakiest Gun In The West, Don Knotts was pure comedy gold and a major box office draw at the height of his career. But what do you get when you pair Don Knotts with a haunted house? Exactly what you'd expect and then some. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is still one of his funniest films, decades after its 1966 release and for many has become a Halloween favorite for the whole family. Did you know that the entire concept of the feature film actually came from an episode of The Andy Griffith Show?
That's right! Back before Knotts had left the show to pursue his film career, he starred alongside Andy Griffith as Deputy Barney Fife on the popular TV show. In the second episode of season 4, "The Haunted House" follows Barney Fife, Andy Taylor, and Gomer Pyle as they go into an old house to get Opie's baseball. It was the concept of putting those goofy characters in a haunted house that led some of the writers from the show to finalize this beloved film.
Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum wrote the film and even received some help and inspiration from fellow Andy Griffith writer, Harvey Bullock, who wrote "The Haunted House" episode. During the film, you even feel like you're in Mayberry half the time, partially because many of the townsfolk from the show make appearances -- Hal Smith, Reta Shaw, Charles Lane, and Lurene Tuttle to name a few. The constant "Attaboy, Luther" shouted from off-screen just goes to show that those TV writers know how to get their laughs in.
The beloved comedy follows Knotts as Luther Heggs, a shy typesetter at the Rachel Courier Express who dreams of being a reporter in his small town in Kansas. Joan Staley co-stars as Luther's love interest Alma Parker. Luther's boss George Beckett (Dick Sargent) and reporter at the paper, Ollie Weaver (Skip Homeier), get the idea to have their timid typesetter spend the night in the old Simmons mansion where there had been a tragic murder-suicide years before. Since it's the 20th anniversary of the horrific event, the story that gets published in the small town newspaper of Luther's night in the murder house causes quite a stir.
Nicholas Simmons (Philip Ober) does not like the paranormal press his family house gets and Mr. Simmons even decides to sue Luther and the paper. Watching Luther running scared through the house and frantically hyperventilating at the organ music is just Don Knotts doing what he does best. Will the murder mystery be solved? Will the town finally believe Luther's story? Will Luther ever have any prospects outside of his current life at Mrs. Natalie Miller's boarding house? Rewatch this Alan Rafkin directed comedy classic to find out!
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