6 details you never noticed in the Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. pilot episode
Take a closer look at this season-four finale of The Andy Griffith Show!
Of all the characters in Mayberry, Gomer Pyle was perhaps not the first to come to mind to get his own sitcom in 1964. In hindsight, it was inspired. We are glad Jim Nabors got his own spotlight.
Before the spinoff Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. kicked off, the series got a pilot episode in the spring of 1964 with "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," the final episode in season four of The Andy Griffith Show.
It was certainly an outlier of an episode, as Andy and Gomer are the only two regular characters from Mayberry in the story. Instead, we met a crop of new characters… some of which did not continue on to Gomer Pyle, surprisingly.
Let's take a look at this smashing, successful spinoff pilot.
1. This actor died before this episode aired.
At the end of the episode, Colonel Watson — or, as Carter calls him behind his back, the "old man" — shows up to inspect the raw recruits. He commends Gomer's tidy bed. You might wonder why this Col. Watson character never appears on the Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. series. Col. Edward Gray (Forrest Compton) was the superior on that show. Frank Albertson portrayed Watson in the pilot. He is perhaps most recognizable as Tom Cassidy in Psycho a few years early. The actor passed away on Leap Day in 1964. "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." aired in May of that year. Alas, Albertson passed away before he could see his work on The Andy Griffith Show.
2. Gomer sings an archaic version of the "Marines' Hymn."
In the opening scene and later at camp with a bucket on his head, Gomer belts out the "Marines' Hymn," that familiar song that begins, "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli!" Listen closely to his lyrics in the first verse. Gomer sings, "On the land and on the sea…" This would have been a quite dated version of the song, even in the 1960s. Back in 1942, the Marines officially changed the line "On the land as on the sea" to "In the air, on land, and sea" to reflect the addition of aviation to its arsenal. Would Carter really have tolerated a 22-year-old version of the song from a new recruit?
3. It is the only time Vince Carter's correct rank is used.
Throughout the show Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., characters and fans referred to Vince Carter as "Sergeant Carter." This is not correct, as anyone can see by the insignia on his arm. The patch on his uniform features three chevrons and two rockers, denoting the rank of Gunnery Sergeant, E-7, two rankings higher than a mere "Sergeant," or E-5. In the pilot episode, however, Carter correctly announced himself as "Gunnery Sergeant Carter" and gets his due rank. Really, we should have called him "Gunny Carter" for authenticity sake.
4. This is series producer Sheldon Leonard's real office up the stairs.
"Camp Wilson" was, of course, not a real military base. The episode was filmed on the Desilu Productions lot. Behind the new recruits you can see a staircase. Those stairs, in reality, led to the office of Sheldon Leonard, the producer of The Andy Griffith Show.
5. Andy and Gomer mispronounce "Marine Corps."
When Gomer tells Andy that he has joined the Marines, he calls them the "Corps," pronouncing the word "Korrs." Andy then repeats "Korrs." Of course, Gomer being Gomer, it fits his character, and perhaps Andy is subtly ribbing him, but it should be noted that the word is correctly pronounced "Korr."
6. Gomer arrives at a different camp.
Did something seem different when we mentioned Camp Wilson a couple of items above? Most fans of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. associate the private with being stationed at Camp Henderson, a fictionalized version of Camp Pendleton in California. However, that is a long drive for Sheriff Andy. In the pilot, Andy drives Gomer to camp in North Carolina, somewhere between Mayberry and Wilmington. This Camp Wilson was a brief location for Gomer, as the comedy shifted to Camp Henderson early in season one of the spin-off.