[“...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]
Having just scripted 1955's one-hour live television adaptation of No Time for Sergeants, Levin was approached by actor/producer Maurice Evans to adapt Mac Hyman's novel anew, as a full-length Broadway play – Evans having purchased the Broadway rights prior to the TV production's inception. Levin, still a draftee in the US army, humorously recounted Evans' overture in a New York Times piece of the day:
There was just one hitch: Evan's option to adapt the book required its mounting by no later than November 1955. Mere months remained, and Levin was still three months shy of the end of his two-year draft service. Evans took the unusual step of petitioning the army for an early discharge, on the grounds of seasonal employment. The Army consented. (It was now peacetime, the Korean War having ended while Levin was still in basic training.) Levin was granted an honorable discharge, and was able to go straight to work on his stage adaptation.
The Broadway production proved a howling success – the later film's trailer termed it "the best-loved play of our day" – and it ran for two solid years (1955-1957), with almost one million theatergoers stopping by the Alvin theater to see it during that time. (New York Herald Tribune) Multiple national tours followed, along with productions in London, Austria, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, and beyond.
Sergeants' producer Maurice Evans had originally contracted the two-man writing team that created "Stalag 17" to adapt Sergeant's Broadway incarnation, but wound up replacing them with Levin. (Not uncommon – Levin was himself replaced as screenwriter on Bunny Lake Is Missing).
We note an interesting parallel: in Rosemary's Baby, Guy's big Broadway break comes when a rival actor – Donald Baumgart – is mysteriously stricken blind. Sergeants was Levin's own entrée to Broadway... and one of the two writers he was replacing (as above) was named Donald Bevan. As Guy says, "It’s a hell of a way to get it."
Donald Bevan was, as it happens, a skilled illustrator, who ended up drawing the caricatures on Sardi's famed theatrical who's-who walls from about 1954 to 1974. While we hope there's no connection with the above, we've always found it strange that Levin's caricature was never added.