No Time for Sergeants
Cast & Crew
Will Stockdale, an affable, guileless hillbilly, is living with his Pa on a remote farm in Georgia when draft officer McKinney arrives, accusing Will of dodging the draft. Will immediately deduces that his crotchety but loving father has been tearing up the draft board notices, and explains that he considers the fact that Uncle Sam wants him, as the posters in town declare, to be a personal honor. At the bus station, as they await the bus taking them to the air force base where the new inductees will be classified, McKinney handcuffs the burly Will to a gas pump and assigns cocky Irvin S. Blanchard in charge of the boys. Just before the bus pulls out, recruit Benjamin B. Whitledge races up, and as Will befriends the bespectacled bundle of nerves, Irvin confiscates a letter that Ben's mother has written requesting that Ben be transferred to join his six brothers in the infantry. While defending his new friend, Will pulls the handcuff free of its metal bar, a feat of strength that leaves Irvin quaking in fear. At the base, barracks commander Sgt. Orville C. King delivers a speech containing a sardonic offer of friendship, which Will takes literally. When Irvin leads the other boys in calling Will "plough boy," Ben, ever the pessimist, convinces Will that he must "whomp" them. Will challenges Irvin to a fight, and after King chastises them all, Ben fears that they have now lost their chance to obtain a transfer to the infantry. Will lays awake considering how to help Ben, and decides to talk to the sergeant immediately, despite the late hour. King, whose professional philosophy values "coasting" over "making waves," distracts Will, who wants to bring Ben's letter directly to the captain, by appointing him "in charge" of cleaning the latrine. Will, thrilled with his new responsibility, stays up all night cleaning, and beams with pride when King, hoping to keep Will quiet and out of trouble, names him PLO, or permanent latrine orderly. King's plan works until the captain arrives for his customary inspection, at which point Will innocently praises King to the captain as helpful and kind, and repeats every negative phrase about the captain that King has uttered. In retaliation, the captain threatens to fire King unless Will is classified and shipped out within a week. To assure that Will passes his classes despite the expedited schedule, King finagles all the exams ahead of time and promises Will his watch if he succeeds. On the day of the final tests, after flummoxing manual dexterity tester Corp. John C. Brown by using brute strength to link two iron bars, Will gapes at a W.A.F. officer, and takes to heart Ben's advice to see only her rank rather than her gender. Soon after, Will takes his psychiatric test with Maj. Royal B. Demming, who becomes increasingly agitated as Will eludes all of his simplistic diagnoses. As King waits nervously in the mess hall, Ben is at first overjoyed to learn that his psychiatric diagnoses¿delusional with an inferiority complex and secondary anxiety¿has secured him a transfer to the infantry, but later tears it up to avoid having to leave Will. When Will arrives at the mess hall, King happily assumes he has passed all of his tests until the female captain enters and Will declares that he cannot see that she is a woman, prompting King to believe that Will must have failed his eye test. Irvin, noting King's dismay, suggests that they get Will drunk that evening so he will fail the next day's inspection and be thrown out of the regiment. They bring him to a nightclub, but Will, used to his father's rotgut whiskey, stomachs the liquor easily, while Irvin and King get steadily inebriated. King picks a fight with an equally drunk infantryman, after which the entire bar erupts into a brawl, and only Will, blithely striding back to the base, avoids the M.P.s. The next morning, King is still missing when the captain and colonel arrive for inspection, which Ben leads. The officers are pleased with the barracks, despite the fact that Will has rigged the latrine so each toilet lid lifts in unison as a special salute to the colonel. Before they leave, however, a disheveled King sneaks into the latrine and accidentally exposes his hiding place by setting off the toilet lids. The captain strips King of his stripes and orders him to go to gunnery school, to which, King is appalled to discover, Will and Ben have also been assigned. The three are sent to an obsolete airfield for training, where King soon regains the rank of sergeant. On their first flight, Will and Ben serve as rear gunners while the pilots sleep in the cockpit. When an engine fails, the pilots order Will to take over radio communications. He and Ben manage to contact the nearest radio tower, which resides in an atomic proving ground command post run by Gen. Vernon Pollard. Pollard, realizing that the plane is headed straight for his tower, demands that they turn around, and when Will and Ben question his authority, calls air force general Eugene Bush to complain. King is serving as Bush's aide, and upon hearing Will's name, instructs the general to tell Will that if he turns the plane around, King will give him his watch. Thrilled, Will complies, but after he informs the pilots of their error and declares that Ben should be awarded a medal, the pilots order Will not to bother them further. Therefore, when the plane flies too near the atomic plant and catches fire, Will grabs Ben and parachutes out of the plane rather than notify the pilots. The two land safely and travel for days back to the air force base. Once there, they come upon a funeral, not realizing that they are presumed dead and the ceremony is for them, an attempt by Bush and Pollard to reposition the debacle into an heroic atomic test flight. They approach Bush, but in his hurry to preside over the ceremony, he brushes them aside without learning their names. King spots them, but is too late to stop the general from awarding posthumous medals to the soldiers, who are still alive. Upon discovering Will and Ben's existence, Bush, fearing that public humiliation will befall him if the news gets out, arranges for them to be transferred to Pollard's branch. To maintain complete secrecy of this illegal act, the generals transport Will and Ben to the woods and keep them under armed guard. Will, however, refuses to sign the transfer unless Ben is awarded a medal, and in desperation, Bush orders Pollard to give the boy one of his own decorations. Ben, who has assumed that he will be shot, is thrilled instead to receive a commendation and be transferred, finally, to the infantry. Even King is pleased finally to be rid of Will, until Bush informs him that he will join the privates at their new command.
Francis De Sales
Tom Brown Henry
Robert R. Benton
John Lee Mahin
M/sgt. Albert "ace" Williams Usaf, Ret.
No Time for Sergeants
The story first appeared as a best-selling comic novel by Georgia native Mac Hyman. Drawing on his World War II service as a photo navigator, Hyman worked on his novel for several years, narrating it through the Southern dialect of his country bumpkin hero, Will Stockdale, a young man drafted into the service from his hometown of Callville, which bore strong resemblances to Hyman's own Cordele. Several publishers rejected it before Random House picked it up and put it out in 1954. Its story of Stockdale's misadventures in the service and his continual run-ins with a crusty and increasingly frustrated sergeant was an immediate hit.
Within no time, the book was adapted for the stage by Ira Levin (future author of Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives), but before it hit Broadway it was aired on an episode of The United States Steel Hour in March 1955. The TV production starred up-and-coming young comic Andy Griffith as Will and veteran character actor Harry Clark as his nemesis Sgt. King. Griffith recreated his role when the play opened in New York the following October, and the part of King was taken by Myron McCormick, an actor known primarily for his theater work, including a long run as the rough military man Luther Billis in the musical South Pacific. The cast also included former child star Roddy McDowall as Will's sidekick Pvt. Ben Whitledge and, making his Broadway debut, Don Knotts as the flustered corporal driven mad by the manual dexterity test he's supposed to administer. The play ran a total of 796 performances and earned Griffith a Tony nomination as Best Featured Actor.
By the time the story was adapted for the screen, Griffith had made a memorable film debut as "Lonesome" Rhodes, a nobody catapulted to stardom only to become an abusive, power-mad celebrity, in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957). The actor brought his new critical and commercial success to the film version of No Time for Sergeants, along with most of his supporting stage cast. McDowall, however, elected not to do the movie, and he was replaced by Nick Adams, who had appeared in supporting roles in such films as Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Picnic (1955). He gained fame shortly after this movie as the star of the popular Western TV series The Rebel but died tragically young in 1968 at the age of 36 from what was determined to be an accidental overdose of medications he had been taking.
No Time for Sergeants was also Don Knotts' big screen debut. A few years later, he would partner with co-star and now friend Griffith in a long-running down-home sitcom set in a small Southern town, The Andy Griffith Show. That show spawned a spin-off, placing local character Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) in the Marines. Other than the switch in service branch, Pyle's bumbling bumpkin's misadventures and run-ins with his gruff sergeant bore a close resemblance to No Time for Sergeants. Meanwhile, the original story was used directly as the basis for another television comedy, with Sammy Jackson taking on the role of Will Stockdale. Jackson had appeared in a bit part in the film and lobbied the show's producers heavily for the lead. Ironically, the series was scheduled opposite Griffith's, which trounced it in the ratings. It was canceled after only three episodes.
The story even appeared in four comic books. The first, published in 1958, followed the movie's story line closely. Three more were produced in the 1960s as a tie-in to the TV series.
One person who didn't need any boost to his career at this point was producer-director Mervyn LeRoy. The man responsible for such classics as Little Caesar (1931), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Mister Roberts (1955) once bragged that he never had a real flop. "I've had a few that I didn't particularly like, and that didn't make too much money, and quite a few that the critics didn't like," he wrote in his autobiography. "There has never been one, however, that the public hated enough so that it lost money."
Unlike many others involved with No Time for Sergeants, the originator of the story, Mac Hyman, was never able to turn his initial success into lasting fame and fortune. He published just three short stories after the book, and he was living in Cordele, struggling to complete his second novel, when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1963, just one month before his 40th birthday. That second novel, Take Now Thy Son, published posthumously, was also set in fictional Callville, but its tone was far from the antic humor of its famous forebear.
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Producers: Mervyn LeRoy, Alex Segal
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, Ira Levin, based on the novel by Mac Hyman
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Editing: William H. Ziegler
Art Direction: Malcolm Brown
Original Music: Ray Heindorf
Cast: Andy Griffith (Will Stockdale), Myron McCormick (Sgt. King), Nick Adams (Ben Whitledge), Don Knotts (Cpl. John C. Brown), Murray Hamilton (Irving S. Blanchard).
by Rob Nixon
No Time for Sergeants
No Time for Sergeants - Andy Griffith in NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS on DVD
No Time for Sergeants allows Griffith to reprise the role he originated in the famous 1955 live television show, which was immediately adapted as a Broadway play. All three versions of No Time for Sergeants celebrate Griffith's exuberant personality as channeled through the fresh-faced Private Will Stockdale. A Georgia country boy, Will has no experience with life outside the mountains. His ignorance of slick everyday chicanery causes him to be branded a hick and presumed to be stupid. But Stockdale has a kind heart and good moral judgment. Like Al Capp's Li'l Abner, he's honest to a fault.
Mac Hyman's original book placed Will's Army Air Corps service during WW2. The movie readjusts for the 1950s, opening the story up slightly. The television play bridged scenes by having Will deliver monologues to the audience, narrating his own story. Only one of these "third wall" monologues is used in the movie.
Arriving at camp, Will befriends fellow inductee Ben Whitledge (Nick Adams), a meek and excitable fellow who nevertheless wishes he could transfer to the infantry. But ROTC college boy Irv Blanchard (Murray Hamilton) targets Will for hillbilly jokes and general harassment, and barracks Sergeant Orville King misjudges Will as an idiot. Because Will cleans the barracks bathroom to a high polish, the opportunistic King unfairly assigns him the job of PLO: Permanent Latrine Orderly. Sgt. King and Private Blanchard's attempts to hoodwink Stockdale backfire when superior officers recognize that the honest soldier is being cheated; King is ordered to put Will through the normal placement process. Will's interest in women gets him a 'pass' from the psychiatrist. To King's surprise, Will passes the tests, although King must bribe a nervous officer (Don Knotts, repeating the role from Broadway) to get Will through a manual dexterity exam.
Most of the humor comes from Will's inability to understand military ways. Having been taught to salute a WAC (Jean Gilles) as a superior officer and ignore the fact that she is a woman, Will obediently takes the reference as literal. Sgt. King repeatedly gets into trouble by ordering Will to lie to cover up King's own deceit. The lie invariably bounces back, revealing King's trickery. King foolishly attempts to discredit Stockdale by getting him drunk, not realizing that the moonshine-raised mountain boy is all but impervious to the effects of alcohol. Seeing that the officers are impressed by his clean latrine, Will rigs all of the toilet seats to "stand to attention" during inspection. The inspecting officers can't understand that Will is just trying to get into the military spirit.
As befits the farcical mood, all the performances are broad. Alternately shy and panicked, Nick Adams' Whitledge seems totally unfit for duty. Don Knotts whines like a ninny when Will bends his dexterity test tools into a pretzel. The ranking officers mostly provide shocked expressions, while Myron McCormick steals the show as the owlish Sgt. King. The sergeant never learns that the irrepressible Will Stockdale won't be kept in line by his business-as-usual military schemes. King ends up being busted to Private for his trouble.
The story opens up for the last act, to put Will and Ben on a B-25 heading into an atomic test area. Parachuting from the stricken plane in the dark, the two airmen wander back to the Air Base just in time to hear themselves being eulogized as national heroes, like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The film's cost cutting really shows at the conclusion, when the big awards ceremony is glimpsed only as a rear projection from a storeroom. Director Mervyn LeRoy doesn't try to impose any particular visual scheme onto this character comedy, although he plays several dialogue scenes in very smooth trucking shots. Andy Griffith's bright personality is the whole show, a fact that the filmmakers clearly recognize.
Dub Taylor has a funny role as a Georgia Draft Board official, and future M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr has a bit as a sleepy pilot.
Andy Griffith returned almost immediately in the somewhat similar comedy Onionhead, as a cook aboard a Coast Guard vessel. A few years later, Griffith starred in the successful TV show Mayberry RFD, playing a folksy Southern sheriff without the exaggerated clowning; supporting actors like Don Knotts provided the big laughs. A bucolic garage mechanic played by singer-actor Jim Nabors became so popular that he was 'spun off' into a new series. The long running Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was acknowledged as a carbon copy of Griffith's earlier success.
Warner's DVD of No Time for Sergeants is an excellent transfer with an enhanced B&W image and very clear audio. Viewers who remember endless television broadcasts will be surprised to see the movie spread out in a widescreen image; older TV prints left acres of head and foot room on screen, marooning the actors in the center of the frame. The disc comes with subtitles in English, French and Spanish but carries no extras. Criterion's The Golden Age of Television DVD set from 2009 includes a Kinescope of the original 1955 live TV broadcast of No Time for Sergeants, on the The United States Steel Hour.
For more information about No Time for Sergeants, visit Warner Video. To order No Time for Sergeants, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
No Time for Sergeants - Andy Griffith in NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS on DVD
Why ain't you dead?- Sergeant King
No excuse, sir!- Will Stockdale
I think that I would rather live in the rottenest pigsty in Tennessee or Alabama than the fanciest mansion in all of Georgia. How about that?- Maj. Demming
Well, sir...I think where you wanna live is your business.- Will Stockdale
Our post was the tail of the plane and nobody told us to quit it!- Benjamin B. Whitledge
But the tail was on fire, Ben! Out post was a-quittin' us!- Will Stockdale
You ever had R.O.T.C.?- Benjamin B. Whitledge
No...., but Irvin did! Close to a year of it. He's so 'ornary I think he still might have a touch of it.- Will Stockdale
No, Will. R.O.T.C. ain't a disease, it's trainin'...Reserve, Officer's, Training...,uh,..Corporation!- Benjamin B. Whitledge
The film includes an intermittent voice-over by Andy Griffith as "Will Stockdale." When Will and "Benjamin B. Whitledge" are sent to their first airfield, Griffith faces the camera and speaks directly to the audience, describing their incompetence at gunnery training.
No Time for Sergeants was based on the Mac Hyman novel of the same name, which was a bestseller upon its publication in 1954. The novel was subsequently adapted into a teleplay broadcast on ABC's U.S. Steel Hour on March 15, 1955 and a play by Ira Levin that had its debut on Broadway in October 1955. On July 25, 1955, Hollywood Reporter reported that Warner Bros. had acquired the film rights to the novel for around $200,000. Griffith originated the role of Will in both the teleplay and the Broadway play, which became a huge hit. All of the principal actors from the play appeared in the film except for Roddy McDowall, who portrayed "Ben Whitledge." Director Mervyn LeRoy stated in his autobiography that, although he asked McDowell to appear in the movie, the actor refused. Nick Adams played Ben in the film and received rave reviews, as did Griffith.
Warner Bros. borrowed art director Malcolm Brown from M-G-M for the film. No Time for Sergeants marked the debuts of James Milhollan, Henry McCann, Peggy Hallack and Don Knotts. Knotts (1924-2006) went on to star with Griffith in the long-running TV series The Andy Griffith Show (CBS, October 1960-September 1968). Modern sources add Robert F. Hoy to the cast. No Time for Sergeants was also adapted into a television series that ran on ABC from September 1964-September 1965.
Released in United States Summer July 1958
Screen debut for Don Knotts.
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Summer July 1958