“Well, goooooooollllllllllllly!!! Shazam!”
Jim Nabors was an all-around entertainer whose gifts extended to comedy, acting, and music. In the latter pursuit, he was especially successful: he recorded 28 albums, including five that went gold and one that went platinum. But to many, his most memorable and enduring legacy was his performance in the title role of the television sitcom Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
The Gomer character originated on the The Andy Griffith Show, where he was Mayberry’s na’ve but good-natured gas station attendant. After only one season on that show, Gomer became so well-liked that CBS decided to give him his own spin-off. Thus, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was born.
In the new show, Gomer gave up Mayberry and his job for a career in the peacetime United States Marine Corps. Almost instantly, the hapless Gomer ran into trouble with his immediate superior, Sgt. Vince Carter. Carter didn’t believe anyone could be so na’ve and was convinced that Gomer was out to make him look foolish. However, he became protective of Gomer once he discovered that this was how Gomer really was.
Just the same, Carter had a short temper and frequently found himself getting exasperated with Gomer. Their comedic interplay was a major source of laughs on the show, perhaps best displayed in the episode ‘I’m Always Chasing Gomers,’ in which Gomer accidentally got trapped on the plane taking Carter home for a vacation. Carter was thus forced to take Gomer home with him, and Private Pyle unintentionally drove the man to his breaking point as he turned the vacation into a comic farce.
Gomer’s fellow recruit, Private Duke Slater, was a girl-chaser and an aspiring nightclub comic with a talent for doing impressions. Colonel Gray was the base’s commanding officer, and Sergeant Charley Hacker was the mess sergeant, who often made bets with Carter that involved Gomer. One of the most amusing characters was Lou Ann, Gomer’s girlfriend: she was an aspiring singer who happened to have an atrocious singing voice.
Episodes usually revolved the antics that ensued when Gomer’s trusting nature got him into unusual situations. Some of the more memorable predicaments that Gomer got into included accidentally recruiting a bank robber for the Marine Corps (“Gomer The Recruiter”) and letting a group of hippies talk him into re-painting a Marine vehicle in psychedelic colors (“Flower Power”). However, Gomer’s good humor helped him get out of even the worst jams.
The show ran for five seasons on CBS before being cancelled in September of 1969. The same season it was cancelled, the network began re-running episodes in its daytime lineup. This continued until 1972, which gives a pretty good representation of the character’s enduring popularity. The show is still avidly watched by fans today in syndication and will always be remembered for the mixture of innocent charm and flawless comic timing that Jim Nabors brought to his performance.
The first 30 episodes were filmed in black and white.
USA / CBS – Ashland / 150×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 25 September 1964 – 19 September 1969
Jim Nabors as Private Gomer Pyle
Frank Sutton as Sgt. Vincent Carter
Ronnie Schell as Duke Slater
Allan Melvin as Sgt. Hacker (1965-69)
Forrest Compton as Col. Gray (1965-70)
Barbara Stuart as Miss Bunny Wilson
Elizabeth MacRae as LuAnn Poovey
Roy Stuart as Corporal Chuck Boyle (1965-68)
Ted Bessell as Pvt. Jim Purcell (1965)
Ted Bessell as Pvt. Frankie Lombardi (1966)
Forrest Compton as Lt. Benson (1964)
William Christopher as Private Lester Hummel
Tommy Leonetti as Corporal Nick Guccinello (1964-65)
Larry Hovis as Larry Gotschalk
Tol Avery as JD Poovey (1967)
Kathleen Freeman as Mrs. Carter (1969)
Enid Markey as Grandma Pyle (1967)