Rara-avis is my Yahoo list for keeping up with what’s worth reading in noir and hard-boiled crime fiction. Periodically, personal definitions of noir and hard-boiled are reargued, and occasionally current events take us off on a tangent. In bringing such a diversion soundly back to the topic of the list, my esteemed colleague Kerry Schooley produced an analysis that I believe deserves a wider audience:
I think it an oversight that we’ve ignored the dark side of Barney Fife in this latest thread of noir character roles played by recently deceased actors.
It’s true that in his nineteen motion pictures, his own television variety series and several specials, Knotts was known best for his comedy roles, but Barney was forever scheming for permission to put bullets into his gun, to what nefarious purposes we may only speculate. How eagerly Fife wanted to lock up everyone in Mayberry, and have his way with them. What greater example exists in the history of American television entertainment of the bald exercise of corrupt power? In hindsight, it was really only Griffith’s comic reaction, as the long-suffering and overly patient Sheriff Taylor, who brought out what humour there was in the existence of the loser Fife.
I’d also like to ask who could forget the darkly sinister, sexually obsessive Ralph Furley, as assayed by Knotts on Three’s Company, but apparently everyone has.