No Time For Sergeants

1964 | United States

This weekly half-hour comedy series was derived from the smash hit Broadway success and Hollywood movie version, both of which had shot Andy Griffith to screen fame. It's star, Sammy Jackson, who played a simpleminded but resourceful hillbilly, Will Stockdale, who is enlisted into the US Airforce, was completely unknown when he was chosen for the coveted lead role. Like Stockdale, Sammy was a hillbilly born in a small cotton-textile and tobacco town in North Carolina. As a kid his dream was to be a movie star, so one day he simply quit his job in a cotton mill and packed his bags for California. "I landed a shipping clerk job to start with," recalled Sammy in a 1965 interview. "Not at all what I was looking for but I did a little acting on the side, playing bit parts in a series called Colt 45 and Maverick. I also landed a one-line part in the movie version of "No Time for Sergeants". I didn't know then I'd be playing the star part in a TV series a few years later." 

But between those years things didn't go well for Sammy, so he returned home depressed and disillusioned. He formed a small band and worked as a radio disc-jockey and in a weekly TV show. "One day I read in a paper that Warner Bros. Were toying with the idea of doing a television series based on "No Time for Sergeants". I wrote a letter to the top man - the head of the studio. I begged Jack Warner to take a look at me in the Maverick programme in which I played the tiny part of a hillbilly. I added that if he saw me in this he need not look for another actor. I was pretty sure of myself. Well, sure enough, ten days later I received instructions from the studio to return to Hollywood to be tested for the part in "Sergeants. I couldn't believe it." 

Unfortunately for Jackson TV fame was short lived: No Time for Sergeants only ran for one season (1964-1965) before being cancelled. However, the star went on to enjoy a successful broadcasting career on US radio. In 1980 he was voted the CMA Country personality of the year. An LA Times critic noted in 1981 that Sammy "has quietly and efficiently established a reputation as one of the finest radio personalities in the country." He went to Las Vegas in the late 1980s to work for KUDA. Sammy died of heart failure on April 24th, 1995. He was 58.

Published on January 14th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.