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Don Knotts, master TV funnyman, was born 99 years ago today
Don Knotts was born 99 years ago today.
A comedic actor best known for his portrayal of Barney Fife on the 1960s television sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, Knotts also played landlord, Ralph Furley, on the 1970s and 1980s television sitcom, Three's Company.
Born in Morgantown, West Virginia, Knotts was the son of William Jesse Knotts and his wife, the former Elsie L. Moore. Knotts' father was a farmer.
Because of the burden of a fourth child (Don) being born so late (his mother was 40), William had a nervous breakdown, becoming a shell of his former self. Afflicted with both schizophrenia and alcoholism, he sometimes terrorized his young son, Don, with a knife, causing him to turn inward at an early age.
Knotts' father died of pneumonia when he was 13 years old. Knotts and his three brothers were then raised by their mother, who ran a boarding house in Morgantown. Knotts is a sixth cousin of Ron Howard, a co-star on The Andy Griffith Show. He began his career performing in many venues, including a ventriloquist act with a dummy named Danny "Hooch" Matador.
In a TV Guide interview in the 1970s, Knotts spoke about how, when he was in the Army, he was getting tired of playing straight man for a hunk of wood. According to Knotts, while on a ship in the South Pacific, he took the dummy topside and tossed him overboard. He swore he could hear the dummy calling for help as the ship sailed on, leaving him bobbing helplessly in the waves.
Knotts got his first major break on television in the soap opera, Search for Tomorrow, where he appeared from 1953 to 1955. He came to fame in 1956 on Steve Allen's variety show, as part of Allen's repertory company, most notably in Allen's mock "Man in the Street" interviews, always as an extremely nervous man.
In 1958, Knotts appeared in the film, No Time for Sergeants, alongside Andy Griffith. In 1960, when Griffith was offered the opportunity to headline in his own sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968), Knotts took the role of Barney Fife, the deputy — and originally cousin — of Sheriff Andy Taylor (portrayed by Griffith).
Knotts’s portrayal of the deputy on the popular show earned him five Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Comedy, one award for each of the five seasons he played the character. Self-important, romantic and nearly always wrong, Barney dreamed of the day he could use the one bullet Andy had issued to him although he did fire his gun on a few occasions.
He always fired his pistol accidentally while still in his holster or in the ceiling of the court house, at which point he would sadly hand his pistol to Andy. This is why Barney kept his one very shiny bullet in his shirt pocket.
While Barney was forever frustrated that Mayberry was too small for the delusional ideas he had of himself, viewers got the sense that he couldn't have survived anywhere else. Knotts played the comic and pathetic sides of the character with equal aplomb.
When the show first aired, Griffith was intended to be the comedic lead with Knotts as his straight man, similar to their roles in No Time for Sergeants. However, it was quickly discovered that the show was funnier with the roles reversed. As Griffith maintained in several interviews, "By the second episode, I knew that Don should be funny and I should play straight."
Believing earlier remarks made by Griffith that The Andy Griffith Show would soon be ending after five seasons, Knotts began to look for other work. He signed a five-film contract with Universal Studios and was caught off guard when Griffith announced he would be continuing with the show after all, However, Knotts’ hands were tied.
In his autobiography, Knotts admitted that he had not yet signed a contract when Griffith made his decision, but he had made up his mind believing that he would not get this chance again.
Knotts left the show in 1965. Within the series, it was announced that Deputy Fife had finally made the "big time," joining the Raleigh, North Carolina police force.
Knotts went on to star in a series of film comedies which drew on his high-strung persona from the TV series: he had a cameo appearance in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and starred in The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), The Love God? (1969) and How to Frame a Figg (1971).
Knotts would, however, return to the role of Barney Fife several times in the 1960s. He made five more guest appearances on The Andy Griffith Show (gaining him another two Emmys), and later appeared once more on the spin-off Mayberry RFD, where he was present as best man for the marriage of Andy Taylor and his longtime love, Helen Crump.
Don Knotts died on February 24, 2006 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from pulmonary and respiratory complications to pneumonia related to lung cancer. He had been undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the months before his death, but had gone home after he reportedly had been feeling better.
His long-time friend, Andy Griffith, visited Knotts’s bedside just hours before his death.
Here, Knotts and Andy Griffith perform some sketches in a CBS special in 1966.
The Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors Special, 1966
Yusuf Islam, also known as Cat Stevens, is 75 years old today.
A British singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, humanitarian, education philanthropist and prominent convert to Islam, as Cat Stevens, Islam’s early 1970s record albums, Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat, were both certified triple platinum in the United States.
His 1972 album, Catch Bull at Four, sold half a million copies in the first two weeks of release alone and was Billboard's #1 album for three consecutive weeks. He has also earned two ASCAP songwriting awards in consecutive years for "The First Cut Is the Deepest," which has been a hit single for four different artists.
Stevens converted to Islam in December, 1977 and adopted the name Yusuf Islam the following year. In 1979, he auctioned all his guitars for charity and left his music career to devote himself to educational and philanthropic causes in the Muslim community.
He has been given several awards for his work in promoting peace in the world, including the 2003 World Award, the 2004 Man for Peace Award and the 2007 Mediterranean Prize for Peace.
In 2006, he returned to pop music with his first album of new pop songs in 28 years, An Other Cup. He now goes professionally by the single name Yusuf. In 2009, he released the album Roadsinger, and in 2014, he released the album Tell 'Em I'm Gone, and began his first US tour since 1978.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. His second North American tour since his resurgence, featuring 12 shows in intimate venues, began in September, 2016.
Born in the Marylebone area of London, Yusuf’s family lived above the Moulin Rouge, a restaurant that his parents operated on the north end of Shaftesbury Avenue which was a short walk from Piccadilly Circus in the Soho theatre district of London.
All family members worked in the restaurant. His parents divorced when he was about eight years old, but they continued to maintain the family restaurant and live above it.
He developed an interest in piano at a fairly young age, eventually using the family baby grand piano to work out the chords, since no one else there played well enough to teach him. Inspired by the popularity of the Beatles at age 15, he extended his interest to the guitar, persuaded his father to buy his first instrument and began playing it and writing songs.
He would escape at times from his family responsibilities to the rooftop above their home, and listen to the tunes of the musicals drifting from just around the corner from Denmark Street, which was then the center of the British music industry.
Later, Yusuf has emphasized that the advent of West Side Story in particular affected him, giving him a "different view of life," he said in 2000. He wanted to establish a musical career and began to perform originally under the stage name "Steve Adams" in 1965 while at Hammersmith. At that point, his goal was to become a songwriter.
Among the musicians who influenced him were Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, blues artists Lead Belly and Muddy Waters, John Lennon, Biff Rose (who played on his first album), Leo Kottke and Paul Simon. He also wanted to emulate composers who wrote musicals, like Ira Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.
In 1965, he signed a publishing deal with Ardmore & Beechwood and cut several demos, including "The First Cut Is the Deepest." He chose the stage name Cat Stevens, in part because a girlfriend said he had eyes like a cat."
In 1966, at age 18, he impressed manager/producer Mike Hurst, formerly of British vocal group, The Springfields, with his songs and Hurst arranged for him to record a demo and then helped him get a record deal.
The first singles were hits. "I Love My Dog" charted at #28, and "Matthew and Son," the title song from his debut album, went to #2. "I'm Gonna Get Me a Gun" reached Britain's Top 10, and the album Matthew and Son itself began charting.
The original version of the The Tremeloes cover hit, "Here Comes My Baby," was written and recorded by Stevens. Over the next two years, Stevens recorded and toured with an eclectic group of artists ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Engelbert Humperdinck. Stevens was considered a fresh-faced teen star, placing several single releases in the British pop music charts.
On March 2, 2011, Yusuf released his latest song, "My People," as a free download available through his official website, as well as numerous other online outlets. Said to have been recorded at a studio located within a hundred yards of the site of the Berlin Wall, the song is inspired by a series of popular uprisings in the Arab world called the Arab Spring.
In April, 2011, Yusuf launched his first European tour in over 36 years. The ten-date tour visited Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and cities such as Stockholm, Hamburg, Oberhausen, Berlin, Munich, Rotterdam, Paris, Mannheim, Vienna and Brussels.
Here, as Cat Stevens, he performs “Morning Has Broken.”
On this day in 1899 — 124 years ago — Ernest Hemingway, author of such novels as For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, was born in Oak Park, Illinois.
The influential American literary icon became known for his straightforward prose and use of understatement. Hemingway, who tackled topics such as bullfighting and war in his work, also became famous for his own macho, hard-drinking persona.
As a boy, Hemingway, the second of six children of Clarence Hemingway, a doctor, and Grace Hall Hemingway, a musician, learned to fish and hunt. Each would remain lifelong passions.
After graduating from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 1917, he worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star in Missouri. The following year, as a volunteer ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Italy during World War I, he was wounded by mortar fire and spent months recuperating.
During the 1920s, Hemingway lived in Paris and was part of a group of expatriate writers and artists that included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.
In 1925, Hemingway published his first collection of short stories in the U.S., which was followed by his well-received 1926 debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, about a group of American and British expatriates in the 1920s who journey from Paris to Pamplona, Spain to watch bullfighting.
In 1929, Hemingway, who by then had left Europe and moved to Key West, Florida, published A Farewell to Arms, about an American ambulance driver on the Italian front during World War I and his love for a beautiful English nurse. In 1932, his non-fiction book, Death in the Afternoon, about bullfighting in Spain, was released.
It was followed in 1935 by another non-fiction work, Green Hills of Africa, about a safari Hemingway made to East Africa in the early 1930s. During the late 1930s, Hemingway traveled to Spain to report on that country’s civil war, and also spent time living in Cuba.
In 1937, he released To Have and Have Not, a novel about a fishing boat captain forced to run contraband between Key West and Cuba. In 1940, the acclaimed For Whom the Bell Tolls, about a young American fighting with a band of guerrillas in the Spanish civil war, made its debut.
Hemingway went on to work as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II, and release the 1950 novel, Across the River and into the Trees.
Hemingway’s last significant work to be published during his lifetime was 1952’s The Old Man and the Sea, a novella about an aging Cuban fisherman that was an allegory referring to the writer's own struggles to preserve his art in the face of fame and attention.
Hemingway had become a cult figure whose four marriages and adventurous exploits in big-game hunting and fishing were widely covered in the press. But despite his fame, he had not produced a major literary work in the decade before The Old Man and the Sea debuted. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.
After surviving two plane crashes in Africa in 1953, Hemingway became increasingly anxious and depressed. On July 2, 1961, he killed himself with a shotgun at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. (His father had committed suicide in 1928.)
Three novels by Hemingway were released posthumously—Islands in the Stream (1970), The Garden of Eden (1986) and True at First Light (1999) — as was the memoir A Moveable Feast (1964), which he penned about his time in Paris in the 1920s.
The glamorous, husky-voiced Swedish actress Greta Garbo, known for her almost unearthly beauty and intense desire for privacy, made her U.S. screen debut in The Torrent on this day in 1926 — 97 years ago today.
Born Greta Louisa Gustaffson in 1905, Garbo grew up in a poor family in Stockholm. At age 13, she started working as a lather girl at a barbershop and later moved to a department store, where she was asked to appear in a publicity film for the store.
Later, she appeared in a publicity film for a bakery. Pleased with her success, she applied for and won a scholarship to the Royal Dramatic Theater’s acting school, where she was discovered by director, Mauritz Stiller, one of the most powerful directors in Swedish cinema.
He cast her as the Countess Elizabeth Dohna in his critically acclaimed 1924 film, The Legend of Gosta Berling, which ran some four hours. He also gave her the now-famous stage name, Garbo.
In 1924, Louis B. Mayer of Hollywood’s powerful Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio hired Stiller on contract and brought him to the United States. Stiller only accepted the job on the condition that MGM contract Garbo as well.
Mayer agreed, although he reportedly considered Garbo too full-figured to succeed as an actress in America at the time. In The Torrent, a silent film co-starring the Latin heartthrob Ricardo Cortez, Garbo played a Spanish peasant girl who becomes an opera star.
Her charisma, beauty and acting talent made an immediate impact on the filmmakers, so much so that they raised her salary even before the movie was released. When it hit theaters, Garbo was an immediate sensation.
For his part, Stiller had been prevented by Mayer from directing The Torrent, and clashed with the studio repeatedly during the filming of a follow-up picture, The Temptress.
Fired mid-production, he had an unhappy stint at Paramount before being forced to return to Sweden, where he died in 1945. The loss reportedly left Garbo devastated.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, the Swedish beauty successfully made the transition to sound after becoming a star during the silent film era. Her first talking picture was Anna Christie in 1930, which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Romantically linked with numerous fellow celebrities, including her frequent co-star, John Gilbert, Garbo never married. Reserved and withdrawn, she recoiled from publicity, cloaking herself in dark glasses and large hats when she traveled.
“I want to be alone,” a line from her 1939 film, Grand Hotel, has often been used to sum up her aversion to fame. Garbo’s reclusiveness only heightened her mystique, however.
Although she retired from moviemaking in 1941, she was chosen by the entertainment trade newspaper Variety in 1950 as the best actress of the first half of the 20th century. She became an American citizen in 1951, and was honored with a special Academy Award for her “unforgettable” work in 1954.
Garbo died on April 15, 1990.
Maybelle, Sara and A.P. Carter appear ready for a performance in Poor Valley, Virginia, 1929
The furs and hats are typical garb for the performers of the day.
Sara Carter, a member of the famous Carter family, was born 126 years ago today.
A musician, singer and songwriter, Carter is remembered for her deep, distinctive, mature singing voice. She was the lead singer on most of the recordings of the historic Carter Family act in the 1920s and 1930s. In her earliest recordings, her voice was pitched very high.
Born in Copper Creek, Virginia (Rich Valley), she was the daughter of William Sevier Dougherty and Nancy Elizabeth Kilgore. Sara married A. P. Carter on June 18, 1915, but they were later divorced in 1939. They had three children: Gladys (Millard), Janette (Jett) and Joe.
In 1927, she and A. P. began performing as the Carter Family, perhaps the first commercial rural country music group. They were joined by her cousin, Maybelle, who was married to A. P.'s brother, Ezra Carter.
Later she married Coy Bayes, A. P.'s first cousin, and moved to California in 1943, and the original group disbanded. In the late 1940s, Maybelle began performing with her daughters, Helen, June and Anita, as The Carter Sisters (the act was renamed The Carter Family during the 1960s).
On some Carter Family recordings, Sara is incorrectly credited as author of the songs "Fifty Miles of Elbow Room" and "Keep on the Firing Line." The truth is she discovered these public domain songs when they were being sung at a church she visited.
RCA gave her songwriter credit, as it did A. P. Carter on his public domain discoveries. The Carter Family recordings of these tunes did, however, bring the songs wide fame and are largely responsible for their being known today.
Sara actually did write or cowrite several other songs. Examples include My Foothills Home, The Dying Soldier, Lonesome Pine Special, Farther On and Railroading on the Great Divide.
Sara reunited with Maybelle briefly in the 1960s for two albums, and they briefly performed together during the folk music craze of the time.
The duo were also featured as guests in a late 1960s episode of The Wilburn Brothers television show, singing "Little Moses" and "As The Band Kept Playing Dixie." Following this period, Sara went back into retirement in California.
Carter died on January 8, 1979.
Here, Sara and Maybelle Carter reunite on the Johnny Cash Show in 1970.
Dunes, Cape San Blas, Florida
Photo by Clyde Butcher
“I had heard about the beautiful sand dunes in the Panhandle of Florida, so I decided to go photograph them. When I arrived, the weather was overcast. Everyday for a week I went out to the dunes, set up my camera, and waited for the light to be right, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Finally, on the last day I was there, the sun broke through the clouds just long enough for me to shoot two pieces of film.”