Classic Film Guide

No Time for Sergeants (1958)

After his stunning film debut as Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes in Budd Schulberg's A Face in the Crowd (1957), Andy Griffith played Private Will Stockdale in this comedy produced (with Alex Segal) and directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The film followed the Broadway play (of the same name) which was based on a novel by Mac Hyman, adapted by Ira Levin for the stage and John Lee Mahin (Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)) for the screen. The role earned Griffith a Tony nomination. Two years later, Griffith would adopt elements of his Stockdale character, an aw-shucks Georgia-backwoods country bumpkin that drawls “Golly”, for his popular television show, playing Mayberry’s Sheriff Andy Taylor.

The story follows the exploits of the big brawny naïve but good-hearted hillbilly Will Stockdale (Griffith) when he’s drafted into the Army Air Corps. Nick Adams plays Will’s fast (and only) friend, the smaller Pvt. 'Ben' Whitledge - in lieu of the play's Roddy McDowell (a kind of George to Griffith’s Lennie, or at least Squiggy to Lenny), who only wants to carry on his family’s legacy in the infantry. Reprising his Broadway role, Myron McCormick is Stockdale’s boot camp career sergeant Orville C. King who, prior to taking on Stockdale et al, wants nothing more than to coast his way quietly into retirement. Murray Hamilton plays Irving S. Blanchard, another draftee and troublemaker that has it in for Will. Also appearing, a host of other comedic character actors, including: the always amusing ‘straight man’ James Millholin as a psychiatrist, Don Knotts (in his film debut) as a dexterity tester, Western genre regular Dub Taylor, future (TV) “M*A*S*H” cross-dresser Jamie Farr as a pilot, Raymond Bailey, four years before he would play TV banker Mr. Drysdale on “The Beverly Hillbillies”, and Dick Wessel (uncredited) as a drunken infantryman. Howard and Sydney Smith (no relation?) play former West Point rivals now Generals at cross purposes with each other until they must collaborate in the end to save embarrassment (and possibly their pensions).

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