The Everett Collection

Frank Sutton used his real military experience on Gomer Pyle: USMC

Frank Sutton played the role of Sergeant Vince Carter on Gomer Pyle: USMC, The Andy Griffith Show spin-off, from 1964 to 1969. Sutton's character was tough, militant and sometimes even a bit cold-hearted. In real life, however, Sutton was more reserved, analytical and joyful.

Despite their differences, the actor and his character shared one thing in common: a deep love for the United States military.

According to a 1966 interview with the Democrat and Chronicle, Sutton said he was a lot different from Sgt. Carter and whereas Sgt. Carter was in the Marine Corps., Sutton was a Sergeant in the Army during WWII.

Sutton was almost in the Marine Corps in real life, too. Once out of high school, he volunteered for service in the Marine Corps., but was medically rejected due to his color blindness. (They must not have checked Sgt. Carter in Gomer Pyle, then!)

Sutton served from 1943-1946 in the 293rd Joint Assault Signal Company. 

During his time on Gomer Pyle: USMC, Sutton had no trouble finding his voice for whom he wanted Sgt. Carter to be. 

"This is just kinda me," Sutton said. "Although I was never a Marine, I have great admiration for them. It's a trite saying that the Marine Corps. makes a man out of you, but I have seen them do it in a lot of ways."

According to the interview, Sutton started to really believe in the Marine image through his time on Gomer Pyle: USMC and with all his spent as an Army veteran playing the role of a Marine Sergeant.

He would even participate in many recruiting tours at high schools nationwide. Sutton did this on his own time and was not sponsored by the show. He was just proud to be a fictional Marine.

Sutton said he had seen Marines work with many high school dropouts to provide them with a better future.

"I've actually seen a new platoon come in and they literally give those boys the first showers they ever had," Sutton said.

That part of the job was most rewarding for Sutton. While it may seem as though no preparation would be needed for someone like Sutton to play the role of a Sergeant, Sutton said he did a lot of research to get the part right. 

He said even with the show's light-hearted humor, he took the part seriously. 

"There is absolutely no difference to me in preparing for a comedy Marine show or if I was playing a dead serious Marine role," Sutton said. "You do all the method stuff... Of course, in a comedy part, you look for different hooks and curves in the character's mind."

Sutton said he decided at the beginning of filming what he wanted his character to be like. According to the interview, Sutton wanted his character to be a physical, good and stiff man. 

"A lot of things weren't in the scripts," Sutton said. "Of course, Gomer was already a developed character from The Andy Griffith Show, but a good actor will build the character in his mind and then you can tip the writers on what to write."

Sutton was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his time as a Sergeant in the Army. Sutton was proud of his military experience — both in the Army and in the Marines.

By using our site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy