Classic TV: Gomer Pyle

An exasperated Sergeant Carter portrayed by the late Frank Sutton shown chewing out Private Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) in Gomer Pyle USMC in a spinoff from the Andy Griffith Show that ran from 1964 to 1969 on the CBS television network.

Gomer Pyle USMC was not the most realistic show ever filmed since a recruit like Gomer Pyle in a real Marine boot camp would never have made it even halfway through the arduous training that a Marine experiences.

It also was unrealistic in that Pyle and his exasperated sergeant would be in the same unit for five years. Still it was comedy at its best when the country bumpkin Pyle locked horns with the go by the book Sergeant Carter.

There were other storylines during the five years but the basic ingredient for the popularity of the show was the interaction between Pyle and Sgt. Carter.

The first episode with Andy Griffith lurking around the Marine base while watching his friend Pyle being berated by an angry Sgt. Carter was one of the funniest episodes. The highlight was when the other recruits talked Pyle into wearing Sgt. Carter’s dress blue uniform and the reaction of Sgt. Carter.

The following clip shows some of the interaction between Pyle and Sgt. Carter and the comedy that develops from the scene:

This clip shows Sgt. Carter at his best as he tries to get Private Pyle to stop smiling.

Jim Nabors as Pyle shows off his singing voice in this episode as he sings The Impossible Dream in a voice that resembles in no way the voice Pyle uses during his encounters with Sgt. Carter.

An interesting sidenote is how Pyle was named on the Andy Griffith Show. He was named after Gomer Cool a writer and Denver Pyle the actor who was featured as the patriarch of the Darling family in several episodes of the Andy Griffith Show.

Everett Greenbaum conceived the idea of having an inept mechanic on the show after he pulled into a service station with motor problems and the mechanic’s only solution to the problem was to add more gasoline to the tank.

Nabors like Don Knotts had left the Andy Griffith Show to pursue other career opportunities left Gomer Pyle after five years to have his own variety show. Since then he recorded many albums, acted in movies and television and performed on the night club circuit.

He almost died in 1994 from Hepatitis B but a transplant saved his life and Carol Burnett had a hand in finding a transplant for Nabors.

He turned 80 last June and now lives in Hawaii and has sung Back Home in Indiana for 30 years at the Indianapolis 500.

The tombstone for Frank Sutton who portrayed Sgt. Vincent Carter on the Gomer Pyle USMC television show.

Frank Sutton who portrayed Sergeant Carter died at the age of 50 on June 28, 1974 only five years after the end of the run for Gomer Pyle USMC. He suffered a heart attack before going on stage at a dinner theater in Shreveport, Louisiana.

His main claim to fame before becoming Sgt. Carter was when he acted in Marty a movie which won a Best Actor Award for Ernest Borgnine.

For some reason Gomer Pyle USMC reruns have not been easy to find on television today. It is classic television comedy at its best but apparently network executives today don’t think it is worthy of being shown in reruns as I am not even sure it can be found on any network today and anyone knowing where it can be seen is welcome to share that information with Nostalgia and Now readers.

Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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