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Before it hit the stage or the big screen, No Time For Sergeants was a bestselling novel – a hot property in Hollywood that actors were lining up to audition for.
Enter Don Knotts and Andy Griffith.
At the time, Knotts was unemployed. After a hectic season of juggling radio, television, and a newborn child, Knotts found himself needing a job badly.
As fate would have it, Knotts heard about an audition for the Broadway adaption of No Time on the last day of auditions. With only thirty minutes left, he raced across town and… arrived too late.
However, his sad disposition earned the empathy of a receptionist who convinced the assistant producer to give him a chance. And just like that, Knotts got his foot in the door and was allowed to audition later on. While Knotts didn’t get the part he wanted (the best friend role of Ben), he did manage to land two small parts.
Ironically, Andy Griffith had a similar experience. After reading the novel, Griffith contacted the author Mac Hyman who passed him onto his agent, where he discovered that it was to be turned into a movie, a play, and a television hour – something most others didn’t know yet.
Griffith auditioned for the television role, but unfortunately, it didn’t go well because he was out of practice acting, having been focused on stand-up.
Unwilling to give up, Griffith purposefully began a conversation in the waiting room which eventually lead to one of his routines in which he riffs on Shakespeare. As people began to eavesdrop on his comical take on Hamlet, he knew his second “audition” was working. As it turned out, the woman he was speaking to was the director of the television episode.
Just like that, Griffith landed the lead.
It was on the set of the Broadway play that Andy and Don met for the first time. Griffith recognized Knott’s voice from radio, and the conversation went on from there.
“Both of us were inherently shy people, but now the ice was broken,” Don remembered.
Their friendship grew from there as they spent time backstage getting to know each other.
The play was a major success and shot Griffith into the spotlight – and more specifically into his film debut, A Face in the Crowd with director Elia Kazan.
Shortly after the play, Griffith and Knotts reprised their roles for the film adaption of No Time. Their friendship, which started on the set of the comedy, would continue afterwards, and, of course, lead them to their fan-favorite collaborations in The Andy Griffith Show.