R.I.P. Gomer Pyle… Thanks for the Laughs!
American actor, Jim Nabors (as Pvt. Gomer Pyle), smiles outside a Quonset hut during the filming of an episode of the television comedy series 'Gomer Pyle, USMC' entitled 'Corporal Duke,' California, June 26, 1968. (Getty Images)
Private 1st Class Gomer Pyle was portrayed by the talented, and very recently late, Jim Nabors. His character was nothing more than a regular guy who hailed from Mayberry, North Carolina. He was a good-natured, down-home country boy with little education, working with his cousin, Goober, at a filling station. That is how American audiences were first introduced to the lovable Gomer Pyle; through the “The Andy Griffith Show".
Depending on his emotional responses to different situations, Gomer was well known for his iconic catchphrases including, “Shazam!” Gawwww-leeee” and “shame, shame, shame!” By the late 1960’s, both The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. had come to an end. Mayberry RFD picked up where The Andy Griffith Show left off but sadly, Gomer Pyle was not included.
Following that notoriety, Nabors was recognized for his acting talent. He was then cast as the (at times) inept, Private 1st Class Gomer Pyle. Gomer was a good natured, naïve country boy who had left the small town of Mayberry to enlist in the Unites States Marine Corps. His only desire was to “do good” and ultimately please his commanding officer, Sergeant Carter…. A tall order, indeed.
According to Sergeant Carter, Gomer was extremely slow witted, inept and incompetent. Gomer had a keen sense of right and wrong and made no apologies about expressing his opinions in that regard. Sergeant Carter was daily exasperated by Gomer and let him know how he felt; at times being down right hard on him. As the series progressed, however, he came to (occasionally) ease up on him and recognized some of his efforts; at times relying on his help.
Gomer never took Sergeant Carter’s harshness to heart. In the moment, he would feel bad but always convinced himself that it was for his own good and that his superior was only looking out for him. Gomer had a strong, father like, respect for his Sergeant.
One of the twists of the show was that, although Gomer was thought to be country bumpkin with a "twangy" southern accent and being somewhat incompetent, he had a deep, alluring, distinctive, magical baritone voice. As it turned out, he was an accomplished vocalist in real life. At times, his talent was showcased on, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Jim Nabors’ acting career is probably best remembered by his portrayal of Gomer. For this reason, he may likely have fallen into the “typecast predicament.” At times, the fact that a character is so distinct and well known, becomes detrimental to an acting career. Nabors was the face and embodiment of Gomer Pyle. If, for some reason, he would have had to be replaced on the show, it just wouldn’t have gone well. Fortunately, we never had to find out.
After his acting career slowed down, Nabors concentrated on his music career. He recorded no less than 28 albums and countess singles. His releases were always inspirational and soothing. He was quite an international musical sensation as well as a country gentleman.
As a kid, I remember watching the antics of Gomer Pyle. I also remember being amazed the first time I heard his rich, soulful voice. I couldn’t believe that such a beautiful sound was coming from such an unlikely source. At one point, he may have had the world fooled into thinking he really was Gomer, but he was so much more.
Gomer Pyle came into our homes weekly to make us laugh with his naïve and lovable character. Nabors passed away on November 30, 2017 at the age of 87.
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