No Time For Sergeants (TV Play)

INTRODUCTION: The impact of rollicking military comedy No Time For Sergeants' success cannot be overstated. Levin's initial one-hour TV adaptation of Mac Hyman's novel begat a full-length Levin-scribed Broadway adaptation, followed by a movie, a TV series, and more. Sergeants' collective impact helped 'bring Country to the masses', engendering all manner of subsequent countrified fare from The Andy Griffith Show to The Beverly Hillbillies. To say nothing of the phalanx of military comedies that also followed in its wake. [“...television’s Gomer Pyle was based on [Sergeants’ lead] Will Stockdale, and even the latter day Forrest Gump borrows from Will’s childlike worldview.” —MoMA Blog]

The very first adaptation of Mac Hyman's comedic novel No Time For Sergeants was this legendary, live one-hour 1955 production scripted by Levin, which introduced Andy Griffith to the nation. (Levin would also write the later, full-length Broadway stage adaptation.)

Levin was a shoo-in to write this U.S. Steel Hour adaptation, having previously scripted the original, military-themed Notebook Warrior for the storied series, and being himself – just like lead character Will Stockdale – a private in the armed forces at the time.

Both Levin's script – and Andy Griffith – were deemed so uproariously funny that the show's producers incorporated a live audience into the broadcast – a first for the Steel Hour (and possibly for any dramatized television production) – adding bleachers to the set's periphery, to accommodate some 150 attendees.

“That was [Griffith's] first big role; it was the start for both of us, and that [experience] was certainly a pleasure.”
    —Levin (New York Public Library Interview, 1992)

(Admission Ticket)

Unlike Notebook Warrior, the Army had no formal involvement with Sergeants, so Levin wrote his TV adaptation during three weeks of accumulated leave time. (LA Times)

The production was broadcast live from at ABC's studios on West 66th Street in New York, at 9:30pm on Tuesday March 15, 1955.

The TV production was a walloping success, and Levin was straightaway hired by actor/producer Maurice Evans to pen a full-length Broadway adaptation. (Evans had purchased the stage rights prior to the television production's coming into being.)

  • While the film adaptation of Sergeants was based primarily on Levin's stage adaptation, the TV production brought to six the number of U.S. Steel Hour premieres that ultimately resulted in full-length movie adaptations.


(Above) Production script

(Above) TV Ad