Sgt. Carter Actor Frank Sutton Not Good Enough For Marines

Frank Sutton 1923-1974


Frank Spencer Sutton was born October 23, 1923 in Clarksville, Tennessee. He is best known for his portrayal of Sgt. Carter on Gomer Pyle. 

His father was a linotype operator for the Nashville Tennessean and died, when his son Frank was 14 years old.

Sutton tried to join the Marines, but was turned down for failing to pass the physical, because one arm was bent too far back at the elbow.

However, he was able to join the Army and participated in 14 assault landings, including those at Leyte, Luzon and Corregidor during World War II.

After the war he returned to work as an announcer on a Nashville radio station. However, that didn’t go so well, when his boss turned on the radio and heard silence, since Sutton had fallen asleep. That ended his radio career, but it helped launch his acting career, since he went to Columbia University and graduated  cum laude in Dramatic Arts.

First Television Job

Sutton’s first television acting job was on Captain Video and His Video Rangers in 1949.

He appeared in his first movie The Glenn Miller Story in 1954, but it was an uncredited role. He had another uncredited role in 1955 in the movie Marty.

His next major role was in Town Without Pity  in 1961, in which he portrayed Sgt. Chuck Snyder

First Big Break With Gomer Pyle USMC

Frank Sutton had acted in many movies and television shows from 1949-1964, but his big break came, when he was cast as Sgt. Vince Carter on Gomer Pyle USMC. He portrayed a tough guy sergeant, who encounters a green recruit in Gomer Pyle, who was portrayed by Jim Nabors. It was a classic match of a tough Marines sergeant, who was frustrated by a gentle Gomer time after time.

Both Sutton and Nabors were perfectly cast in their roles as Sgt. Carter and Gomer Pyle. Sgt. Carter is the sergeant, that most of us who served in the military encountered at some point, during our tour of duty, so was easy to identify with. We can all remember recruits like Gomer who didn’t have a clue, about what military life was all about. However, we also know that a recruit like Gomer would not have lasted through boot camp in real life.

Sgt. Carter helping Gomer Pyle through his first difficult days of military service.

Gomer infuriated Sgt. Carter by his actions, but Gomer never retaliated in kind. Gomer was a prime example of a soft answer turning away the wrath of Sgt. Carter.

The show was on television from 1964-1969. Sutton and Pyle both appeared in all 150 episodes of the show.

CBS originally rejected the show, since they were afraid the military theme would not go over well with their female viewers. However, when Danny Thomas the producer threatened to take the show to NBC, which caused CBS to rethink their decision and carry the show on the CBS network after all.

The show apparently used real Marines in some of the scenes, since Jim Nabors didn’t like watching the opening scene of the introduction to the show, which showed the Marines marching, since several of those soldiers had been killed in Vietnam later.

Gomer Pyle was never higher than private first class during the five-year run of the show.

Nabors decided to leave Gomer Pyle after five seasons, to star in the Jim Nabors Hour, which ran for 1969-1971. Sutton would appear on only 3 of the 51 episodes of the show.

The television of career for Sutton was over for the most part, after Gomer Pyle left the air. He appeared in five segments of Love American Style from 1970-1973.  He acted in two TV movies  Ernie, Madge and Artie (1973)  and Hurricane (1974).

The role of Sgt. Carter not only made him a star, but it also ended his acting career, since he was too closely identified with the Sgt. Carter character.

Frank Sutton died of a heart attack at the age of 50, in Shreveport, Louisiana on June 28,1974 while rehearsing for a dinner theater production. Sutton had went from television stardom, to acting on the dinner theater circuit, which showed how fast his fame flamed out after being Sgt. Carter.

Sadly, Gomer Pyle is one of the more difficult shows to find in reruns today. Even when it was being shown in reruns it was being shown in the early morning hours like around 4:30 in the morning.

It was one of my favorite television shows ever and would like to be able to see those shows again, if they are ever shown again.


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.

73 thoughts on “Sgt. Carter Actor Frank Sutton Not Good Enough For Marines”

  1. I just love the Gomer Pyle show Frank Sutton did such a great job and Gomer Pyle did too I wish they would have run it more years and I wish they’d show it more good show

    1. Ken, I agree….Gomer Pyle was a great show. Only problem is it is hard to find on TV anywhere today. The networks used to show it at 3 or 4 in the morning, but now can’t find it anywhere. Can’t even find it on Netflix now. Sgt. Carter cracked me up on that show. Gomer drove him to distraction, with Gomer trying so hard to impress Sgt. Carter, but failed miserably.

      1. Andrew, do you get a channel that’s known as MeTV? On this particular channel, Gomer Pyle, USMC is ran every morning at 5 a.m. and I know it’s early but if you have access to a DVR you can record it to watch later. I have one–it came with my cable, and I am not sure but that may be the only way you can have a DVR (but I am not 100% sure of that). Also you could record it if you get that channel (or any retro channel like it) and have a VCR. It may be worth looking into. Are you sure that there aren’t any episodes uploaded to YouTube? I haven’t looked yet, but there should be since there really are so many fans. I have even heard that there are a lot of fans worldwide!! It never hurts to call as I did; it was probably about twenty years ago that I had written and called (once each) to Chicago’s WGN which had just taken it off, wouldn’t you know, right after I got cable and just after I got to see only a couple of episodes. For some reason they did bring it back on, much to my delight. (I was probably not the only one who asked.) Well, good luck. I am a huge fan. I just love Gomer and Sgt. Carter, Bunny and LouAnn Poovey, Boyle and Duke Slater, all of the characters!! 😀 Great shows like this are hard to find and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, either. All the best for you finding the show, Alexia.

      2. We only get ME-TV if our satellite TV isn’t working. Thanks for mentioning that Gomer Pyle can be watched on ME TV. Gomer Pyle needs to be seen by those who never saw it in the past.

  2. I have been in love with Gomer Pyle since I was 6 years old. Sarg. Carter was a close second. I loved them both dearly. Also liked actor Roy Stuart. Jim Nabors is about the most gorgeous man God ever made. I loved Gomer’s personality. WISH I COULD MEET HIM!!! Elaine

    1. Glad you liked Jim Nabors so much along with Sgt. Carter and Roy Stuart who played Corporal Boyle. Sadly, Stuart died on Christmas Day of 2005 at the age of 78. Jim Nabors is now 84. It is almost impossible to find Gomer Pyle on TV today.

      1. MeTv has been airing “Gomer Pyle, USMC” for a couple years now at 9pm EST. I watch it every chance I get since I grew up watching reruns the show on channel 45 in Baltimore. They played all the classics back then like Gomer Pyle, Get Smart, Hogan’s Hero’s, Lost in Space, Star Trek, Dark.Shadows, etc.

      2. “Gomer Pyle USMC” appears every night on MeTV at 9 pm Pacific time. Check your local tv guide.

  3. YouTube to the Rescue. Since discovering the lack of Gomer Pyle reruns on TV, I indulge my Pyle addiction by watching it on YouTube.

    1. Frank, Enjoy the shows. It was almost like Gomer Pyle was being hid when it went into syndication. It used to come on one station about 4:30 in the morning. Wish we had DVR service back then, so we could have recorded them.

  4. Gomer’s all over YouTube, complete episodes. Watch on your computer, or get a Roku (which connects to your television like cable) and watch episodes on your TV!

      1. I record it on direct v channel 20. I watch an episode every day. I am not sure what time it is actually. I just have it on auto record. Good luck

  5. I loved Louann Poovie. It’s hard to find actors/actresses with a southern accent,let alone two on the same show. They make a lot of them lose their southern accent before they can get gigs in Hollywood.

    1. Elizabeth MacRae played Lou Ann and will be 80 years old on Feb.22. She was in her first TV show in 1951 in Search For Tomorrow. Her last show was in 1984, when she was in an episode of Guiding Light, so hasn’t been on TV or in movies for 32 years.

  6. Andrew Godfrey, I see now that I sent a message that wasn’t really necessary. Really, I have a weird habit of scanning through things a bit too quickly and usually only stop just when something jumps out at me. Hence my prior message that I’d just wrote to you. I know now that it’s all redundant. I realized that when I went to take a look at what I have just finished posting (to reread, hoping I made no errors) and THEN I find myself here reading all these great messages which means mine is only redundant. I know I should have read them first, but I just saw that certain particular one of yours (that jumped out at me) and thought maybe I could help you. Well, I still hope you’ve found and are getting to see Gomer episodes, somewhere, now!! I know how much I sure do enjoy watching it, myself, and it sounds like you do, too. Take care!!!

  7. I’m watching the show now. It’s the one where Gomer gets his private fairest class stripe. Classic USA comedy gold.

    1. Great that you are seeing the shows. I don’t understand why Gomer Pyle shows aren’t shown at better hours. It is almost like they are trying to hide the shows.

  8. There’s not much commentary online about the show, either, or (behind the scenes) production info. As a child, our family watched Gomer Pyle, USMC when it was in its original network run. My brother was in the Corps at the time as well, at Camp Pendleton. He said they all watched “Gomer” at the base every week. Binge-watching the show today on YouTube, I really appreciate just how much Frank Sutton made that show. Nabor’s character, however, is like “Gilligan;” he’s lovable… but frustrating. You want to kill him sometimes, or hope Carter does! 😀

    1. I agree with Tim that Sgt. Carter made the show even more than Gomer Pyle. The show did so well in the ratings, that the Jack Benny show was canceled. Wish we could see Gomer somewhere besides You Tube, since we have satellite internet and it starts and stops all during the show, since we live out in the country.

  9. Watching it now…..Greatest thing EVER!!!!! Two words….Amazon Firestick!!!!! EVERY EPISODE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS!!!!!

  10. Hated Gomer pyle as a young man love it as a adult. Frank Sutton was a real life hero in WW2. Liked Sutton as a actor, admire him as a person.

    1. Frank Sutton had a very impressive career with the Army. I knew all along he had military training and I thought maybe the Marine Corps. His uniform and the way he wore it showed that he had military training. If you ever saw him in a acting role other than G.P. he was a good actor.

      1. Frank Sutton was perfectly cast as Sgt. Carter. One of my favorite shows ever, but networks seemed to hide it in early morning hours after it went off network TV.

    1. Wish we had Decades channel here. Great that they are showing the Gomer Pyle shows all day. The scenes with Gomer and Sgt. Carter are all classics. Sad that actor Frank Sutton, who played Sgt. Carter died 43 years ago in 1974.

      1. Direct TV Channel 32 Me TV I watch them every night. US ARMY VET

  11. Gomer Pyle is currently being shown on METV at 9:00PM Eastern Time. I still love the show to this day. It is well written and acted. Frank Sutton is an absolute riot, and always find myself laughing during each episode. Perhaps Frank Sutton died early from being a heavy smoker which you could hear in his voice on the show. Gomer is always honest and does what is in his heart.

  12. I watched this show regularly and liked it as a kid, but never realized how hilarious Frank Sutton was in his role as Sgt Carter. Jim Nabors was great but Sutton was even better, just lol funny much of the time. He should have gotten an Emmy imo. I don’t see how some of the other actors kept from laughing those two were so funny especially Sutton as Carter. Great show to watch when you need something to cheer you up!

  13. GP was truly a funny show.Probably would not have worked without the chemistry of Sutton an Nabors.

    1. I agree. Sutton and Nabors made the show. Allan Melvin playing Sgt. Hacker was my third favorite actor in the show. He is known for the being the storeowner, who challenged Barney Fife to a fight on Andy Griffith Show.

  14. Only one grammatical error I saw in article: “had went” should be “had gone” (third paragraph from end ). Of course, one can be too correct, and the addage is “if you correct people’s grammar, you won’t have less friends, you’ll have fewer.”

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