No Time for Sergeants
by Laura Tucker
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No Time for Sergeants is a movie I couldn’t wait to watch again. It’s one I remember from when I was growing up. It was so long ago, that I couldn’t remember much of it at all. All I could remember was that it was fun, and starred Andy Griffith and Don Knotts in pre-Mayberry days. Having not watched it again, it’s a little different than I remembered, but still fun in a very innocent kind of way.
The movie is based on the story that was originally a novel, then turned into a Broadway play. Griffith stars as Will Stockdale, a country boy from Georgia. I use the term “boy” very loosely here. He was supposed to be a young man, but the worry lines on his forehead said he was at least in his 30s. A quick check of his age shows he would have been 32 at the time the film was initially released in 1958. He’s not the only one that looked older than his part was probably calling for.
Will receives a visit from an Army recruiter and is accused of being a draft dodger, than accused of not being able to read the letters that had been sent to him. It turns out his rough and gruff father was hiding the letters not wanting to lose his son from the farm, as he’s overprotective, and also assumably so that he wouldn’t be alone, as Will’s mom had died in childbirth. Will gets put on a bus with other draftees and is told to fill out a form, but doesn’t seem to have the intelligence required to do so properly. He gets some help from fellow draftee Ben (Nick Adams).
Will and Ben are sent to the same unit and both get quite a lot of ribbing from their fellow privates. The further we go through this it seems Will isn’t really that ignorant, he’s just very gullible and really simple. He gets punished to Latrine Duty, and relishes the task, literally spending the whole evening in there until the whole place sparkles. Sergeant King (Myron McCormick) sees this as a way to solve his problems. He wants desperately to get rid of Will, but doesn’t see how this guy could ever get classified, plus he wants the bathroom to pass the inspection of his superior. He gives Will the ultra secret position of “Permanent Latrine Orderly” for a week and tells him he’ll fix it so that he gets classified without having to do anything.
What Sgt. King doesn’t count on is that Will is so naive, he doesn’t know that he shouldn’t tell anyone about his “PLO” status and not having to go through the classification process because of it. Sgt. King gets ordered by his superior to make Will go through the classifying process, and he wants nothing more than to get him classified to get him out of his hair. Additionally, if Will fails, the Sergeant is told he’ll be reduced to Private again instead of Sergeant.
Much of this film reminded me of Stripes, with a few notable similarities and a few differences. For one Sgt. King is probably the only sergeant to be tortured more than the “Big Toe,” Sgt. Hulka. And just like in Stripes, Will, Ben, Sgt. King, and the rest all get sent on the same mission together after they get classified. The biggest difference, of course, is that Bill Murray’s character is not naive and simple, and is instead just a major smartass.
The only thing I was disappointed in while watching No time for Sergeants is that Don Knotts wasn’t in the film for nearly as long as I had remembered. I had remembered him being in the film for a good portion of it, but in reality it was just one scene. Yet that one scene is definitely worth waiting for, as it sets up the relationship Knotts and Griffith would have later on in The Andy Griffith Show.
No Time for Sergeants is available on DVD from Warner Video.
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.
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