Written by Hombre Divertido
Based on the novel by Mac Hyman, No Time for Sergeants was a production that could not be stopped; until it became a situation comedy that is.
In 1955 the successful novel became a television episode of the United States Steel Hour starring the virtually unknown Andy Griffith as the country bumpkin turned soldier Will Stockdale. Seven months later the play debuted in New York, ran for 796 performances, and garnered Griffith a Tony Award nomination for best actor in 1956. He would go on to reprise the role in the 1958 motion picture.
Griffith did not play the part of Stockdale in the television situation comedy which may be one of many reasons why the series ran for only 34 episodes from September of 1964 to September of 1965. By that time Griffith had cemented himself in the history of American television with the highly successful Andy Griffith Show.
Nonetheless, it was No Time for Sergeants that launched the career of Griffith, and this classic film has finally been released on DVD. From Warner Home Video, this 119-minute, fish-out-of-water military farce landed on shelves May 4th.
Griffith plays the wide-eyed and grinning Will Stockdale to perfection as he innocently tries to fit in to the world of the military after being drafted off the backwoods farm where he was raised. On the first day of his induction Will befriends the nebbish Ben Whitledge (Nick Adams) and the two form a brains-and-brawn team that helps them navigate the rough waters ahead. Griffith and Adams play well off each other and display excellent comedic chemistry.
Though this is clearly Griffith’s film, he is surrounded by amazing talent. Myron McCormick takes the film version of a normally overbearing drill sergeant and turns the character of Sgt. Orville C. King into a loveable foil for the comedic happenstance. Also in the cast are Murray Hamilton as the antagonist Irving Blanchard, and Don Knotts in the all too small, but extremely enjoyable to watch role of Corporal John C. Brown.
The cast and performances are wonderful in this film, unfortunately, like most military comedies, the script let’s the actors down. The fish-out-of-water premise works wonderfully here, but once the training is over; the characters need something to do. As in other comedies where characters don’t quite fit into military life, the training is funny, the mission is not. See Stripes.
In the novel and play, Will and Ben are drafted into the army, and strive to be transferred into the Air Force. In the film that scenario is reversed, and far too much time is spent trying to justify why the two want out of the Air Force and into the infantry.
Our story plays out with necessary narration from Griffith to fill obvious holes and explain a poorly written slapstick ending that makes little sense as the actors pour more and more energy into situations that simply don’t work.
The new digitally premastered release looks and sounds great. Unfortunately there is no bonus material in this release. Considering the time Griffith spent in this role, an interview on the subject would have been a nice addition.
Recommendation: There are enough engaging performances and solid laughs here to make this acquisition worth your while. It is good fun for the whole family. For those revisiting this classic for the first time in many years, you may have forgotten just how ridiculous the story becomes, and thus could be disappointed.