"After little more than a season playing Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, Jim Nabors got his own series built around the same character. Gomer was a likable, naive, bumbling rural character who gave up his job as a gas-station attendant in Mayberry to join the peace time Marine Corps, which stationed him at Camp Henerson, California."
- The Complete Directory to Prime Network TV Shows 1946 - Present
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., a spin-off of The Andy Griffith Show, ran on CBS for five seasons, from September 22, 1964 until May 2, 1969. The series was created by TV director and producer Aaron Ruben, who directed episodes of The Phil Silvers Show and later produced The Andy Griffith Show. Ruben produced Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. with Sheldon Leonard and Ronald Jacobs,
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C, aired in black-and-white during its first season and in colour for the remaining four seasons.
THE CAST OF GOMER PYLE, U.S.M,C.
JIM NABORS (Private Gomer Pyle):
James Thurston Nabors was born in Sylacauga, Alabama on June 12, 1930. The singer, actor and comedian was one of the biggest television stars of the 1960s and 1970s.. Singing at church and at school played a big part in his early life. He graduated from the University of Alabama, where he performed in skits. After graduation, Jim moved to New York City and became a typing clerk at the United Nations. He spent a year in New York before heading to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he took a job as a film cutter for an NBC affiliate station, mainly inserting commercials into late night movies.
Still, Jim Nabors wanted to get into show business and Hollywood beckoned. A move to Los Angeles made sense from a career perspective, but also because Jim suffered from asthma, so the environment in California would be beneficial to his health. He planned to work as an assistant film editor at NBC, but ss it turned out, it was his act at The Horn, a nightclub in Santa Monica, California that led to his stardom.
Jim sang and danced in cabaret style at The Horn and his routine featured a character similar to Gomer Pyle. Jim's character sang in a beautiful baritone, but his speaking voice was often high-pitched and comedic. Comedian Bill Dana saw Jim's act and invited him to appear on The Steve Allen Show, which according to several sources, he did.
Jim, however, was also seen at the Horn by fellow Southerner, Andy Griffith and it was his discovery by Andy that would determine his fate. Andy hired Jim to play Gomer Pyle, a dimwitted, but good-hearted, gas station attendant for one episode of his show. Gomer was the cousin of Goober Pyle, played by George Lindsey. The two worked at Wally's Filling Station in the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina.
Jim's character was very well-received and he soon became a regular on the Andy Griffith Show. Gomer, the likable mechanic, introduced such catchphrases as "Gol-ly" and "Shazam" to American TV audiences. His childlike innocence seemed to appeal to viewers.
Jim Nabors appeared over 20 times on The Andy Griffith Show before it was decided to star him in a spin-off. The pilot for Gomer Pyle, U.S.M,C. aired on May 18, 1964 as the season finale of the fourth season of the Griffith show. In the episode, simply entitled "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," Gomer joins the Marines and Andy drives him to the base. When Andy discovers that Sergeant Carter (Frank Sutton) intends to send Gomer home, he attempts to get the sergeant to understand Gomer's point of view.
Jim's new series debuted the following September. It was a ratings hit and Jim became a popular television star in his own right. After Gomer Pyle ended its run in May of 1969, Jim hosted a CBS variety show, The Jim Nabors Hour, The Jim Nabors Hour premiered in September of that year, with Andy Griffith as a guest star. Jim was able to display his singing talent on the show and his castmates from Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. made regular appearances.
Jim and Carol Burnett were good friends. Carol appeared on The Jim Nabors Hour and he was a frequent guest on Carol's show. Carol considered Jim her "good luck charm" and he was the guest star on the first episode of every season during the 11 years that her show was on the air. Jim was also a friend of Lucille Ball and he appeared with her as Gomer Pyle in a 1966 episode of The Lucy Show entitled "Lucy Gets Caught Up in the Draft" (Air Date, November 14, 1968)
Due to his Gomer Pyle role, Jim was often typecast and given comedic roles. He played his first dramatic role in a 1973 episode of The Rockies entitled "Down Home Boy" (Season 2, Episode 11, November 19, 1973). In the episode, Jim portrayed Corley Curlew, a man called on to be an assassin after the death of his sister
Jim was a guest star in a 1974 episode of the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. From 1975 to 1976, he and Ruth Buzzi co-starred in The Lost Saucer, a Saturday morning children's show. They played bumbling androids who travel through time with two children.
Jim eventually grew tired of the hard work and grind associated with prime time TV. So, he moved away from television work to focus on concert performances and and his role in a touring production of Man of La Mancha. Jim had vacationed in Hawaii since the 1960s. In 1976, he moved from Bel Air, California to Honolulu.
In 1994, Jim underwent a liver transplant after contracting Hepatitis B in India. He stated that he had cut himself with a contaminated straight razor that he had bought there.
In 1996, Jim returned to television, reprising his Gomer Pyle role for the TV movie Return to Mayberry, which reunited the cast of The Andy Griffith Show..
In 2013, Jim married Stan Cadwallader, his partner of 36 years, at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. The ceremony took place a month after same-sex marriage became legal in the state of Washington.
Jim was known for singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" every Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis 500 beginning in 1972, except when faced with scheduling conflicts. He performed the song for the last time in 2014 because health issues were making it difficult for him to travel. His physical condition had deteriorated because his immune system had been affected by the liver transplant. On November 30, 2017, Jim Nabors died peacefully at his Honolulu home. He was 87 years old at the time of his passing.
FRANK SUTTON (Sgt. Vince Carter): Frank Sutton, who played Gunnery Sergeant Vince Carter, died on June 28, 1974. He was only 50 years old at the time of his death. While preparing to perform in a play in Shreveport, Louisiana, he suffered a heart attack.
Frank Spencer Sutton was born in Clarksville, Tennessee on October 23, 1923. He and his parents moved to Nashville, where Frank belonged to his high school drama club. After graduation, he returned to his hometown of Clarksville and worked as a radio announcer.
During World War II, Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the South Pacific. After being honourably discharged, hie began acting on stage again, graduating with a degree in dramatic arts from Columbia University in New York.
In the 1950w and early 1960s, Frank made guest appearances in episodes of such TV series as The Goldbergs (1955), I Spy - an anthology series hosted by Raymond Massey 1955, 1956), Have Gun-Will Travel (1962), The Twilight Zone (1962), Gunsmoke (1961, two 1962 episodes), Combat! (1963), The Fugitive (1963) and Death Valley Days (1963). In the early 1960s, Frank also had a stint as Joe Sullivan in the daytime drama The Secret Storm.
Frank's breakthrough role came in 1964, when he appeared the Gomer Pyle episode on The Andy Griffith Show, which led to his major role on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., as Gomer's nemesis, the gruff, cynical Sergeant Carter, From 1969 to 1970, Frank appeared regularly on The Jim Nabors Hour. From 1970 to 1971, he guest-starred in five episodes of The Love Boat. His last television role was as Bert Pearson in the 1974 TV movie Hurricane.
Frank married soap opera writer Toby M. Igler in 1946. They had two children, Joe and Amanda. Joe Sutton is a playwright.
Ronnie has been married to Janet Rodeberg since 1968. They have two children, Greg and Chris Schell. As of this writing, he is 90 years old.
ELIZABETH MacRAE (Lou-Ann Poovie): Elizabeth MacRae played Lou Ann Poovie, Gomer's girlfriend for most of the series. Lou-Ann, a nightclub singer from North Carolina, was sweet, but somewhat naive. She quickly became Gomer's girlfriend and her Southern charm reminded Gomer of home.. She was always a willing participant in Gomer's mishaps.
Prior to Gomer Pyle, Elizabeth guest-starred in episodes of Maverick (1961), Dr. Kildare (1962), 77 Sunset Strip (1962), Hawaiian Eye (1962), The Untouchables (1962), Death Valley Days (1963), Route 66 (four episodes (1960 - 2 episodes, 1962, 1964), Burke's Law (1964), Rawhide (1964), The Fugitive (1964), The Virginian (1965), Gunsmoke (four episodes 1962-1965), I Dream of Jeannie (1965), The Andy Griffith Show (1967) and Bonanza (1968).
Elizabeth made her debut as Lou-Ann in a 1966 episode of the show entitled 'Love's Old Sweet Song" (Season 3, Episode 15, Air Date: December 28, 1966). She remained with the show until it ended in 1969, appearing in 15 episodes. After Gomer Pyle, Elizabeth appeared in episodes of such series as Judd for the Defense (1969), Mannix (1972), Petrocelli (1975), Kojak (1975), Barnaby Jones (1976) and Rhoda (1977). She also appeared in four soap operas. She played Meg Bentley on General Hospital from 1969-1970 and from 1971-1973).. She played Phyllis Anderson on Days of Our Lives from 1976 to 1977. In 1984, she played Agatha Dobson on Guiding Light and in 1984, Jazie on Search for Tomorrow.
Elizabeth MacRae was born on February 22, 1936 in Columbia, South Carolina and was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She is 86 years old as of this writing.
ROY STUART (Corporal Charles "Chuck" Boyle): Roy Stuart played Corp. Chuck Boyle in 58 episodes of Gomer Pyle from 1965 to 1968, during the second, third and fourth seasons of the show. Cpl. Boyle was the enthusiastic aide to Frank Sutton's Sgt. Vince Carter. At the end of the fourth season, Boyle just vanished with no explanation and Roy Stuart left the show. After his departure, Duke Slater, played by Ronnie Schell, was promoted to corporal.
Roy Stuart was born in The Bronx, New York on July 27, 1927. The veteran character actor began his career performing in theatre and nightclubs. In the 1960s, he appeared in Broadway musicals such as Beg, Borrow or Steal and Cafe Crown.
Prior to his role on Gomer Pyle, Roy guess-starred on such TV series as Mister Ed (1965), Bewitched (1965) and Hazel (1966). After leaving Gomer Pyle, he made appearances in episodes of Room 222 (1969), The Carol Burnett Show (1972), Marcus Welby, M.D. (1973), Sanford and Son (3 episodes, 1975-1976), Laverne and Shirley (1977), CHiPS (1980), Hotel (1983), Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1985), The Golden Girls (1987) and Mama's Family (1989). HIs last TV role was as Frank Theasher in a 1990 episode of The Munsters Today. He also appeared in numerous television commercials through the years.
On December 25, 2005, Roy Stuart died of cancer at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. He was 78 years old. Roy was survived by his companion, Claude Hubert. On an online message board, there is speculation that Roy was fired from Gomer Pyle because of his homosexuality.
TED BESSELL (Private Frankie Lombardi): Ted Bessell is best known for his portrayal of Donald Hollinger, the boyfriend of aspiring actress Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) on the hit comedy, That Girl, from 1966 to 1971.
Howard Weston "Ted" Bessell Jr. was born in Flushing, New York on March 30, 1935. He began his television career in the late 1950s, appearing on Who Do You Trust?, a game show hosted by Johnny Carson, and The Dick Clark Show.
Prior to That Girl, Ted played Frankie Lombardi in 19 episodes of Gomer Pyle from 1965 to 1966. Lombardi was introduced in Season 2 of the show. He served as a recruit under Sergeant Vince Carter. He was best friends with Duke Snider and a confidant to Gomer.
Ted Bessell left Gomer Pyle, U.S.M,C. for a starring role on That Girl, alongside Marlo Thomas. When That Girl ended, Ted starred in another sitcom, Me and the Chimp, in which he portrayed Mike Reynolds, a dentist who is persuaded by his children to look after a runaway chimp. The show was created by Garry Marshall and it was not well received. It only ran ran for 19 episodes in 1972.
Ted played Mary Richards' boyfriend, Joe Warner, in two 1975 episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He eventually directed episodes of The Tracey Ullman Show and Sibs. In 1989, he was the co-winner of an Emmy as a producer for The Tracy Ullman Show.
Ted Bessell married Linnell Nobori in 1982 and the couple had two daughters, Sarah and Mary. On October 6, 1996, Ted died in Los Angeles at the age of 61, the result of a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
Barbara Stuart was born Barbara Ann in Paris, Illinois. Prior to her role on Gomer Pyle, Barbara guest-starred in numerous episodes of TV shows. In 1963 alone, she guest-starred on Sam Benedict, The Bill Dana Show, Arrest and Trial, Rawhide, The Danny Thomas Show and 77 Sunset Strip. Some of her most notable TV appearances are her roles in two episodes of Perry Mason in 1961. She played Violet Ryder in "The Case of the Guilty Clients" and Maizie Freitag in "The Case of the Barzen Request." She also guest-starred in a 1964 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show entitled "Dear Mrs Petrie, Your Husband is in Jail."
In the 1970s, Barbara made guest appearances on such shows as Barnaby Jones (1973), Kung Fu (1973), Cannon (1973), The Rookies (1975), Starsky and Hutch (1979) and Trapper John, M.D. In the 1980s, she had roles on Quincy M.E. (1982), Three's Company (1980, 1983), Mama's Family (1983), Highway to Heaven (1986) and Simon & Simon (1998).
In the early 1990s, Barbara performed in dinner theatres. In the '90s, she also appeared in episodes of l..A. Law (1993)and Nash Bridges (1999). Her final TV role was as Alice in five episodes of the comedy-drama Huff from 2004 to 2006.
In 1967, Barbara married entertainer Dick Gautier and she became stepmother to his children from a previous marriage.. Dick and Barbara divorced in 1979. Barbara died at a nursing home in St. George, Utah on May 15, 2011. She was 81 years old at the time of her death.
WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER (Private Lester Hummel): William "Bill" Christopher was born in Evanston, Illinois on October 20, 1932. Bill portrayed Private Lester Hammel in 16 episodes of Gomer Pyle from 1965 to 1968. Prior to his role on the series, he made guest appearances on such shows as 12 O'Clock High (1955), The Patty Duke Show (1966), The Andy Griffith Show (1965, 1966), Death Valley Days (1966). He also appeared in four episodes of Hogan's Heroes from 1965 to 1968, That Girl (1969, 1970), The Virginian (1971), Alias Smith and Jones (1971), The Carol Burnett Show (1971), Columbo (1971),, Movin' On (1974) and Lucas Tanner (1975).
In 1957, Bill married Barbara O'Connor and they adopted two sons, John and Ned. During his time on M*A*S*H, Bill was unable to appear in as many episodes as he wanted because he had to help his wife with the care of their autistic son, Ned. According to IMDb.com, during the Season 5 filming of the M*A*S*H, episode "Hepatitis," Bill actually contracted hepatitis and producers were ready to cancel his contract. It was Alan Alda who advocated on Bill's behalf. He argued that Bill's family relied on his income.
In the 1990s, Bill toured with his M*A*S*H co-star Jamie Farr in a production of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.
On December 31, 2016, William Christopher died at his home in Pasadena. His son, John Christopher, stated that the cause of his death was lung cancer. The actor was 84 years old at the time of his passing.
FORREST COMPTON (Colonel. Edward Gray): Forrest Compton appeared in 41 episodes of Gomer Pyle from 1964 to 1969. He played Captain Brinson in two 1964 episodes of the series. From 1965 to 1969, he portrayed Col. Edward Gray, a strict but fair-minded battalion commander.
Forrest Compton was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on September 15, 1925. After graduating from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama, where he became friends with Paul Newman.
From 1959 to 1969, Forest had a recurring role in the NBC series The Troubleshooters with Keenan Wynn and Bob Mathias. Some of his other television credits include The Twilight Zone (1963), 77 Sunset Strip,(1961, 1962, 1963), The Fugitive (1963), My Three Sons (1969), Mayberry RFD (1969), Mannix (1970), Hogan's Heroes ( 6 episodes 1965-1970) and That Girl (1969, 1970)..
Forest is best known for his portrayal of attorney Mike Karr on The Edge of Night, the soap opera on which he appeared from 1970 to 1984. He also appeared on other daytime dramas such as Another World, One Life to Live, As the World Turns, All My Children and Loving.
Forest Compton married Jeanne Sementini on September 28, 1975. His last acting role was in 2002 on three episodes of the TV comedy-drama Ed, after which he retired to Shelter Island, New York. On April 4. 2020, Forest died on Shelter Island of COVID-19. He was 94 years old at the time of his passing.
ALLAN MELVIN (Sgt. Charley Hacker): From 1965 to 1969, Allan Melvin had the recurring role of Sgt. Charley Hacker in 16 episodes of Gomer Pyle. Hacker was Sgt. Carter's rival.
Allan's role as Cpl. Steve Henshaw on The Phil Silvers Show was his first big break on TV. He appeared in all 142 episodes of the series from 1955 to 1959. From 1962 to 1967, Allan appeared in eight episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. From 1969 to 1974, he played Sam Franklin ("Sam the Butcher') in eight episodes of The Brady Bunch. Sam owned a local butcher shop and he dated Alice (Ann B. Davis), the Brady family's housekeeper.
In 1971, Allan had a guest spot as a Sgt, Pulaski, a policeman, in an episode of All in the Family entitled "Archie in the Lock-up" (Season 2, Episode 3, Air Date: October 2, 1971). From 1972 to 1979, he played the recurring role of Barney Hefner, Archie Bunker's neighbour and friend.
From 1979 to 1983, Allan continued his role as Barney Hefner on Archie Bunker's Place, a spin-off of All in the Family. When Archie Bunker's Place ended in 1983, Allan became a voice actor for cartoons until 1994. His final voice-over was as Magilla Gorilla in Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights, a made-for-television animated film.
Allan married Amalia Faustina Sestero in New York City in 1944 and they had two children. On January 17, 2008, Allan Melvin died of cancer. He was 84 years old at the time of his death in Brentwood, California.
TOMMY LEONETTI (Nick Cuccinello): Tommy Leonetti played Cpl. Nick Cuccinello from 1964 to 1965 on Gomer Pyle. His character served under Gunner Sergeant Vince Carter. Tommy later had guest roles on I Spy (1966), Hawaii Five-0 (1977), The Waltons (1978) and The Eddie Capra Mysteries (1978).
On September 15, 1979, Tommy died in a hospital in Houston, Texas after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was only 50 years old at the time of his passing.
LARRY HOVIS (Private Larry Gotschalk)): Larry Hovis played Private Larry Gotschalk on Gomer Pyle from 1964 to 1965. He was given the role by Andy Griffith's manager and he appeared in 11 episodes of the series.
From 1961, to 1962, Larry appeared in four episodes of The Jim Backus Show, In 1965, he guest-starred in two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. That same year, he was given a minor role in the pilot episode of Hogan's Heroes. When an actor withdrew from the series, Larry was given the regular role of Sgt. Andrew Carter, a POW in a World War II German prison camp and an expert on explosives. Carter was of Sioux ancestry.
Larry was a regular on Hogan's Heroes until the series of cancelled in 1971. In the mid-1970s, Larry appeared on the game show Match Game and on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-ii alongside Richard Dawson, his castmate on Hogan's Heroes. In the 1970s, Larry guest-starred in episodes of The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1972), The Doris Day Show (1972), McMillan and Wife (1972), Adam-12 (1973), Chico and the Man (1974) and Alice (1977, 1978).
From 1979 to 1981, Larry toured in the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He played Melvin P. Thorpe.
In the 1990s, Larry taught drama at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas (now Texas State University-San Marcos. His final TV role was as Wilhelm in two 2007 episodes of Heathens, a Western series. Larry Hovis died of esophageal cancer in Austin, Texas on September 9, 2003. He was 67 years of age.
Larry wed Carol Ann Corrigan in Houston on November 26, 1955. They remained married until her death of cancer in 1955. The couple had four children.
SOURCES: Closer Weekly, "Here's What Happened to Gomer Pyle from 'The Andy Griffith Show,'" by Ed Gross, March 1, 2022; '"The Complete Directory to Prime Network TV Shows 1946 - Present; Los Angeles Times, obituary for Roy Stuart, "Roy Stuart; 78; Veteran Character Actor Known for Role in "Gomer Pyle,'" December 31, 2005; Wikipedia; Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
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