|Full Name||Bernard P. Milton Oliver Fife|
|Occupation||Mayberry Sheriff's Office (former Deputy Sheriff)
Raleigh Police Department (Detective)
|First Episode||The New Housekeeper|
|Last Episode||Andy and Helen Get Married (Mayberry R.F.D)|
|Spin-off Appearances||Mayberry R.F.D|
Return to Mayberry
Cousins: Virgil, Andy Taylor (Mentioned Twice)
|Spouse||Thelma Lou (m. 1986)|
|Romances||Miss Rosemary, Juanita Beasley, Thelma Lou, Hilda Mae|
|Portrayed by||Don Knotts|
- "Why Andy's the best friend I got in the whole world, and as far as I'm concerned, he's the best sheriff too. All them things I said; for example, his using the squad car for personal reasons. Sure, he was delivering groceries to Emma Watson because she was too sick to get down to the market, and that's just one example of the thing's Andy's done for the folks in this town. I could give you a lot more. You gotta understand, this is a small town. The sheriff is more than just a sheriff. He's a friend, and the people in this town, they ain't got a better friend than Andy Taylor. As far as Andy knowing his job, I'd just like for you to take a look in the record book, Mr. Jackson. You know there ain't been a major crime committed in this town thanks to Sheriff Taylor? The only ruckus you'd ever have in Mayberry is if you tried to remove him from office. Then you'd have a riot. You asked me if Andy runs a tight ship, Mr. Milton. Well, no he don't. But that's because of something that he's been trying to teach me ever since I started working for him, and that is, when you're a law man and you're dealing with people, you do a whole lot better if you go not so much by the book, but by the heart. I guess maybe that's kinda hard for some of you to understand. I don't know. It's all I got to say."
- ―Barney (about Andy)[src]
Don Knotts created Deputy Barney Fife as a hyper-kinetic but a comically inept counterpart to Mayberry's practical and composed Sheriff Andy Taylor. Sometimes considered a blowhard with delusions of grandeur, Barney fancies himself an expert on firearms, women, singing, and just about any other topic of conversation brought up while he is around. Conversely, Andy knows that Barney's false bravado is a smokescreen for his insecurities and low self-confidence.
Barney is often overly analytical and alarmist about benign situations, such as the modest Mayberry crime scene. He takes a minor infraction, blows it out of proportion, and then concocts an elaborate solution (sometimes involving inept civilians, like Otis Campbell or Gomer Pyle) to resolve it. This only inflicts tremendous angst on Andy. In one early episode, where Andy was briefly summoned away, acting sheriff Barney proceeds to book and lock up nearly everyone in town, including Mayor Pike. Despite his shortcomings, Barney is zealous about law enforcement, regularly spouting off penal codes and ordinances to thugs and jaywalkers alike.
An emotional powder-keg, Barney often overreacts with panic, despair, or bug-eyed fear. He has what he describes as a "low sugar blood content." Barney is smug and self-confident until true leadership is sought, whereupon he dances about in a fluster. Outwardly "a man of the world," Barney is truly naïve and easily duped. Though constantly warned by Andy, Barney falls for countless scams. This gullibility is evident in many episodes, including, Barney's First Car where he is conned into buying a lemon from a crafty old widow.
A gossip and gadfly, Barney is known for blabbing both personal and police secrets (such as Andy's scrutiny of women's rings at the jewelry store, or the locale and time of a stakeout or arrival of an armored car). While this may expose him as a halfwit, Barney is at heart a caring, amiable soul. Despite a knack for exasperating the townsfolk, he is fondly embraced by most of them.
Nonetheless, Barney still has his rare moments of courage and loyalty. Two episodes demonstrate Barney's ability to rise up to challenges. In the second season episode, Andy on Trial, a millionaire wants revenge on Andy for giving him a traffic ticket. The traffic violator then dispatches a seductive female reporter to town and she prompts Barney for details of Andy's life, twisting them into transgressions. It all comes back to haunt both deputy and sheriff when said information puts Andy on trial for misconduct. After the prosecuting attorney forces Barney to admit everything he said was true in front of Andy.
He sheepishly admits to playing up to the sexy reporter (one of the rare times he admits to getting full up of himself), but vowing that Andy is an outstanding lawman, whose caring methodology is far more effective than "going by the book." In the third season episode Lawman Barney, two farmers illegally selling produce on the road do not take a warning from Barney seriously and run him off the road, taunting him. When Andy makes a more serious warning to the farmers later, they reveal that they had run off a deputy earlier. Knowing that they're talking about Barney, Andy makes up a story about "Crazy Gun Barney" and "that dirty game he plays" and how his running off was just a ploy. When Andy orders Barney to return to the scene, he sees the same farmers panic and rushing to get off the road upon seeing him, Barney believes they are at last taking him seriously and, as usual, begins to puff and swagger. Later, the farmers discover from the town locals that what Andy said about Barney was not true. Floyd Lawson (who was among those locals) goes to Andy and tells him the story, and that the farmers left a message that they were back in business and want Barney "as a customer." Barney overhears this and decides to go back to the scene on his own but Andy decides to comes along. Pulling up to the scene, Barney stops the car and makes Andy get out so he can handle it on his own. As Barney confronts the farmers, he finds his inner strength and as they get closer towards him, he tells them that despite them both being bigger than he is, his badge "represents a lot of people that are a lot bigger than either one of you." Defeated, the farmers pack up and leave.
One major comedic source is Barney's lack of ability with a firearm. After numerous misfires (usually a Colt or Smith & Wesson M&P .38 caliber revolver), Andy restricts Barney to carrying only a single bullet in his shirt pocket, "in case of an emergency." However, the bullet always seems to find its way back into the pistol where, predictably, it is accidentally discharged. The accidental discharge of Barney's pistol becomes a running gag: Barney gives a lecture on gun safety and either shoots the floor through his holster or assuming the safety is on, causes the gun to fire.
Another gag has Barney locking himself or together with Andy in one of the jail cells, with the keys usually just out of reach. Realizing they can't free themselves, they shamelessly yell for help. When referring to his personality quirks (not wearing a hat after someone, etc.) he would always say, "my mother was the same way." And, it never fails that when his name is in print, it's always misspelled as either Fice or Fike, resulting in comedic frustration.
Barney is also extremely over-dramatic when it comes to his duties. In The Manhunt, Barney orders everyone off the streets in front of the courthouse after a famous convicted criminal escapes from prison, claiming that "there's gonna be trouble around here!". In The Keeper of the Flame, when Jubile Foster accuses a group of kids (which includes Andy's own son Opie) of burning down his barn, Barney suggests to Andy that they conduct a "line-up", where they "call in every kid in Mayberry", presumably to line them all up for serious questioning. Andy immediately refuses the idea and the two proceed to leave the site of the burning barn, having finished their work there. Although once in the car, Barney once again unsuccessfully tries to suggest the line-up again. On numerous other occasions, Barney swears in additional deputies, usually consisting of delinquents like Gomer Pyle, who is horrible with guns, or Otis Campbell, the town drunk. He does this anytime he fears Andy to be in any grave danger; of course, Andy is far from danger in any of these cases.
Other running gags:
- Waddles from a squatting position when sneaking around.
- Expert on all subjects (especially romance, history, and the paranormal).
- Mispronounces common words like "therapeutic" as "therapettic."
- Secret phone calls to Juanita that always end in embarrassment.
- Failed attempts to sing in harmony with someone, or a group.
- Walks into traffic when angry or in a hurry.
- Intense obsession with Andy getting engaged.
- Mastery of the harmonica.
- Giving Otis various kinds of sobriety tests before releasing him.
- Gets comically drunk from drinking spiked water or cider.
Early in the series, Andy and Barney comment that they are cousins. However, several episodes muddy the lineage and suggest that Barney may not be directly related to the Taylors. On Aunt Bee's Invisible Beau, Barney tells Andy, "If she (Aunt Bee Taylor) were my aunt, I'd wanna investigate this fella" (no familial Taylor ties). In one porch dialogue, Barney speaks to Andy about buying his folks a septic tank for their anniversary. Andy does not refer to them as aunt and uncle (no familial Fife ties). On several occasions, Aunt Bee reminds Andy that, "he's YOUR friend" (suggesting no blood kin to either Taylor). Yet in another installment, "Cousin Virgil", Andy is introduced to Barney's backward cousin (played by Michael J. Pollard), who is obviously not related to the sheriff. While one can rule out a shared Taylor bond, the two could be related via Andy's maternal side, or most probably via Andy's late wife. Genetics aside, Barney and "Ange" (as he frequently addresses Andy, a derivation from Knotts' real-life nickname for Griffith) are best friends, having grown up together in Mayberry, and Barney maintains warm relations with Andy's son Opie and his Aunt Bee.
When he's not patrolling the streets of Mayberry, Barney spends his free time dating a local girl named Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) (whom he met in 1960 at Wilton Blair's funeral and whom he eventually marries in Return to Mayberry, a 1986 NBC movie). Thelma Lou is Barney's main girlfriend until his 1965 departure. Barney also dates other women, in particular, an oft-mentioned but never seen Bluebird Diner waitress named Juanita Beasley.
Barney takes up residence in a few places including the Raleigh YMCA and Mrs. Mendelbright's boarding house (where she forbids him from owning either a "hot plate" cooker or a light bulb over 40 watts). In Sheriff Barney we learn that Barney lives at 411 Elm Street, however, it is unclear if this address refers to Barney's own home or Mrs. Mendelbright's boarding house address.
When not on duty, he is usually seen in a fedora and a tweed suit (the "old salt and pepper.") Although the deputy fancies himself a singer, he has a "tin ear". Nearly being barred from singing engagements was a dilemma for Barney, and is highlighted by several episodes, most notably, Barney and the Choir and The Song Festers. He does, however, serenade Juanita over the office phone, without complaints.
Although, due to audition nerves, Barney missed his chance to be included in the folk album recorded in the episode Mayberry on Record, his performance talents range from the Harmonica, Bongo Drums, Cymbals, stage acting, and many types of dancing. He also has a trained singing voice which is arguably on par with Leonard Blush. He was frequently a member of the Mayberry choir but was once excluded due to receiving a cash award, making him ineligible for competitions.
Some continuity slip-ups can be expected, as the series had several writers. An illustration of this is with the various middle names given for both Barney and Andy. In the episode Class Reunion, Barney's middle name is Milton, though at other times he is called "Bernard P. Fife". In another episode, where he believes he is the descendant of Nathan Tibbs, a Mayberry Revolutionary hero, he says his name is "Barney 'Tibbs' Fife". Andy jokingly says, "I thought your middle name was Oliver." A similar problem exist with Andy's middle name, which was given as Jackson on his own show (when his high school photo was shown), but his newborn son's name was given as Andrew Samuel Taylor Jr. on Mayberry R.F.D. (during a christening).
World War II
Like Andy, who was stationed in France, Barney served in World War II, although he was a file clerk who never left the United States (he stated that "me and this other fella ran the PX library" on Staten Island). (It should be noted that both Andy and Barney graduated from Mayberry Union High School in June, 1945 and that the war in Europe was over in May 1945. With at least six weeks of basic training, Andy couldn't have been in Europe before August, 1945. Andy couldn't possibly have seen action on a European battlefield.) Barney was nevertheless proud of his war record: "I did my part to lick the dreaded Hun," he boasted on one occasion. Ironically, Barney later acquired knowledge of military discipline from Hugo Hopfleisch, a retired German soldier who served in World War I and eventually took up residence in Mayberry. "[He] may have been on the wrong team back in '18," Barney admitted, "but he's a heck of a soldier!"
Don Knotts appeared as Barney Fife on an episode of "The Joey Bishop Show" ("Joey's Hideaway Cabin") and the pilot episode of The New Andy Griffith Show, with Andy Griffith playing the character of Andy Sawyer. He also performed with Andy and Jim Nabors in The Andy Griffith-Don Knotts-Jim Nabors Show. He later parodied Barney Fife on the "Christmas Story" episode of "Step By Step" (starring Patrick Duffey and Suzanne Somers) by playing a character named Deputy Feif.
- Calling a police officer or authority figure "Barney Fife" has become an American slang term for gross ineptitude or over-zealousness.
- Eagle Eye Barney is just one of Barney's many nicknames. A full list can be found Here.
- A full list of Barney's songs can he found here.
- Barney's Blunder are can be found here.
During the first five seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, Don Knotts (Barney Fife) is absent from 21 episodes:
- Opie's Charity (Season 1, Episode 8)
- A Feud is A Feud (Season 1, Episode 9)
- The Beauty Contest (Season 1, Episode 16)
- Andy and Opie, Housekeepers (Season 1, Episode 23)
- Mayberry Goes Bankrupt (Season 2, Episode 4)
- Aunt Bee's Brief Encounter (Season 2, Episode 9)
- Wedding Bells for Aunt Bee (Season 2, Episode 26)
- Floyd, the Gay Deceiver (Season 3, Episode 9)
- Opie's Rival (Season 3, Episode 10)
- The Bed Jacket (Season 3, Episode 12)
- The Darlings Are Coming (Season 3, Episode 25)
- Briscoe Declares For Aunt Bee (Season 4, Episode 5)
- Gomer the House Guest (Season 4, Episode 6)
- Andy Saves Gomer (Season 4, Episode 23)
- Bargain Day (Season 4, Episode 24)
- Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C (Season 4, Episode 32)
- Family Visit (Season 5, Episode 3)
- Aunt Bee's Romance (Season 5, Episode 5)
- Goober Takes A Car Apart (Season 5, Episode 17)
- Guest in the House (Season 5, Episode 24)
- Opie and the Carnival (Season 5, Episode 31)
- Banjo-Playing Deputy (Season 5, Episode 32)
According to Daniel De Vise's book, Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, Don Knotts begged for time off during his time on the show, which would explain why Barney was absent from time-to-time during the first five seasons. On average, he was absent from every eight episodes (7.57).
- "Nip it in the bud!"
- "Heartaches! Nothing but heartaches!"
- "Nip it! Nip it! Nip it!"
- "You're not talking to a jerk, you know!"
- "Rule Number One: Obey ALL rules!!"
- (Referring to Ernest T. Bass) "He's a nut!"
- "There are two kinds of cops. The quick and the dead."
- (After being seen performing an unusual action) "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen a man (performed action) before?"
- "You know what they say about a man that puts off getting married? They say he starts getting irritable, yep. That's what they say."
- "Now, men, I have just one thing to say. This isn't gonna be kid's stuff, and you'll be on your own, and there will be no mollycoddling."
- "That badge means something! Don't disgrace it!"
- "It is definitely no fun when that iron door clangs shut on you." (This is from an instance where Barney teaches Opie and his friends about the law.)
- "The kindness of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."
- "Floyd, if you would keep your mind outta Washington and stick to your barbering, I might get a better haircut. Now, what did you do with my sideburns?"
- (Paying Floyd) "Here, go buy a barber book!"
- "Hablae usted espanoly?"
- "Now, here at 'the Rock,' we have two basic rules. Memorize them so that you can say them in your sleep. The first rule is: Obey all rules! Secondly: Do not write on the walls...as it takes a lot of work...to erase writing...off of walls."
- "All right, all right, all right! Of course you smell gas. What do you think this car runs on, coal?"
- (Referring to Floyd) "See what I mean? He's blind as an owl!"
- "You're real funny, you know that? We ought to book you on one of those excursion lines." (There are various versions of this theme, after Andy has gently poked fun at Barney).
- "I had my eye on you right from the start, mister!" (spoken by Barney whenever Andy exposed a con artist whom Barney up to that moment had naively trusted)
- "Tick a lock!"
- "This is BIG! BIG! BIG BIG! Really Big!"
- "Alright, SHAKEDOWN!"
- "When you see a weasel's tracks, lock up your hens" (used to convey suspicion)
- "If a chicken hawk is hanging around, a wise rooster doesn't bury his head...he keeps his eye on the chicken" (advice to Andy when another man is in pursuit of his girl)
- "If you flew a quail through this room, every woman in it'd point." (referencing a room full of ugly girls)
- "Beats all Andy, just beats all"
- "I'm sorry about this, but us lawmen can't take chances!" --Barney (as he frisks an older woman at a roadblock, searching for escaped convicts) "But Barney! I'm your mother!"
- "She's a DOG!!" (Describing Thelma Lou's cousin, Mary Grace Gossage)
- "You beat everything, you know that?" (Used by Barney and Andy, when frustrated with the other)
- "Welcome to Checkpoint Chickie"
- Well what do you think people do with your stuff, soak it in bread and eat it? (Barney when he hears two moonshiners' excuse for selling moonshine)