As Gomer Pyle, Jim Nabors Was A Hayseed With A Heart Of Gold
Left: Jim Nabors wearing a military uniform and cuddling a poodle, from his television series, 'Gomer Pyle, USMC,' circa 1964. Right: Nabors and Flip Wilson on Wilson's variety show. Sources: Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images; IMDB
On the TV show Gomer Pyle, USMC, Private First Class Gomer Pyle was portrayed by the talented 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. American audiences were first introduced to the lovable Gomer Pyle through the The Andy Griffith Show.
'Shazam!' And 'Surprise, Surprise, Surprise'
Gomer was well known for his catchphrases, including, "Shazam!," "Gawwww-leeee," and "Shame, shame, shame!" By the late 1960s, both The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, USMC had come to an end. Mayberry RFD picked up where The Andy Griffith Show left off but sadly, Gomer Pyle was not included.
The Country Charm Of Gomer Pyle
The popularity and charm of Nabors' Gomer Pyle made him a recurring character on The Andy Griffith Show, and eventually the show's creators decided to give Gomer his own spinoff. The Gomer character that audiences got to know in Gomer Pyle, USMC, which aired from 1964-69, was still a naive hayseed, but he also possessed a strong sense of right and wrong. Gomer's instinct was to do the right thing, though his understanding was sometimes limited and his execution could be inept. Though he meant well, his missteps ended up infuriating his commanding officer, Sergeant Carter.
A Relatable Character Who Tries To Do The Right Thing
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.
The Father-And-Son Dynamic In 'Gomer Pyle'
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 speaks in a twangy backwoods accent appropriate to his country-bumpkin character, he has a smooth baritone singing voice. As it turned out, he was an accomplished vocalist in real life. At times, his talent was showcased on, Gomer Pyle, USMC.
After 'Gomer Pyle'
Jim Nabors’ acting career is probably best remembered by his portrayal of Gomer -- and like many actors who play a well-known character for several years, Nabors was to some extent stuck in the role for life. The mostly-comedic TV acting he did after Gomer Pyle occurred on variety shows including The Carol Burnett Show and The Muppet Show. From 1969-71, he hosted his own variety show, The Jim Nabors Hour, and a decade later hosted another, called The Jim Nabors Show.
On the big screen, Nabors' most notable roles came in three films that starred Burt Reynolds: The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (1982), Stroker Ace (1983), and Cannonball Run II (1984). Nabors also contributed his vocal talents to Sid and Marty Krofft's serial The Lost Saucer in 1975-76.
Jim Nabors, Vocalist
Nabors recorded no fewer than 28 albums, almost all of them between 1965 and 1978, often releasing several albums in the same year. Nabors also released singles, although the slow or mid-tempo ballads that were his specialty didn't have success on the charts. His releases were always inspirational and soothing. He was quite an international musical sensation as well as a country gentleman.
Gomer Has Left The Building
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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