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No Time for Sergeants

(1958 b 111')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Based on a novel by Mac Hyman and the play by Ira Levin, a country hick is drafted and tries to help his new buddy get transferred to the infantry by cleaning the latrine and passing tests.

            In a poor old house in the country Pa (William Fawcett) calls his son Will Stockdale (Andy Griffith) and says someone is coming. Pa gets a shotgun, but Will tells him that is not a proper welcome. McKinney (Dub Taylor) from the government tells Will that he was drafted and has not reported. Pa has Will show him that he can read, one word at a time. Will asks to speak to his Pa privately and tells him he wants to go into the army. Pa says it means going farther away than Atlanta. Will says they want him, and Uncle Sam wants him. Will told them to wait until his Pa was no longer ailing. Pa admits he tore up the letters. Will goes in the house to get his shoes and puts them on without socks. Will shakes Pa’s hand and leaves with McKinney.

            In town young men are told to fill out a form. Irving S. Blanchard (Murray Hamilton) arrives and asks about the bus. McKinney brings Will in handcuffs and tells him to fill out the card. McKinney asks if any had ROTC, and Blanchard says he did. McKinney puts him in charge of the boys. Blanchard tells Will he does not want any trouble from him. McKinney tells them to be good or careful. He makes his daughter go home. Blanchard calls their names, and they get on the bus. He calls Ben Whitledge (Nick Adams) twice, and he comes running and says he has a letter for McKinney. Blanchard says he is in charge and pushes Ben onto the ground. Ben sees the handcuffs and writes the answers for Will. He says he did not have ROTC, but Blanchard had a touch of it. Ben explains that ROTC is training. Blanchard reads Ben’s letter asking to be put in the infantry like his brothers. Will tells Irving to give the letter to Ben. Will pulls loose from a post and persuades Irving to give the letter back to Ben. Will has him take off the handcuffs and gets on the bus.

            Will narrates what happened at the classification center. They are in uniforms at the barracks. Sergeant Orville C. King (Myron McCormick) comes in and gives them a lecture. He says the barracks will be kept spotlessly clean. He orders them to write a letter home that they arrived safely. He is there to help them, shows them his quarters, and says they must knock before entering. King goes in his room. Blanchard knocks and introduces himself to King. He warns the sergeant about Will, a draft dodger who gave him trouble. He shows him the handcuffs and says he hit one fellow with a gasoline pump. Blanchard says he should be reported. King says he has been in for eighteen years and says it is a quiet life if you mind your own business. King dismisses the private, and Blanchard goes out. The radio plays music for Sgt. King, and he lays down.

            Will asks Ben if he uses a big S on sergeant, Ben tries to climb on the top bunk, and Will stops him, saying he wants the top. Others tell Will to stop it, and Ben argues with them. Irving orders them both to go to bed. One says Will likes to sleep with the hogs. Will laughs, but Ben gets angry. The card game breaks up, and the five go over to Will to tuck him in. Will walks past four and tells Irving to take off his dark glasses because he intends to bust him up. Irving hits Will in the stomach, and they start fighting. King shouts, and they stop. He says he is tired, and he wants no more noise. He turns out the light and orders them to their bunks. Will says he is upset. Irving is out cold, and Will and Ben try to put him on his bed, but he falls on the floor. Ben tells Will they started a fight. Will says they will not tell because he will whomp him good. Ben says his great grandfather fought in the Civil War. Ben drops his letter on the floor. Will says this is not so bad. Ben says he does not want to be called an airman. Taps is heard.

            Will picks up the letter, puts on pants, and knocks on King’s door. King jumps up, and Will comes in. King says he is ready and sees it is midnight. Will explains that Ben does not want to be in the Air Force. Will asks King to transfer them both to the infantry. King asks why they send the bums and idiots to his barracks. King orders him to go to his bunk and sleep. Will says he is going to the captain, and King stops him. King says the captain will not understand. King says he has to do a favor for the captain. King takes Will to the latrine and tells him to clean it up so that the captain will like it. He tells Will to stay there and leaves. Will smiles and starts cleaning. Will says he cleaned all night and through breakfast too.

            In the morning King comes into the latrine and is amazed it is so clean. Will salutes and says it ain’t hard. King says the captain will be a new man. He asks Will if he wants to be the latrine orderly permanently. Will says he wants to get the transfers for Ben, and King says he will fix it up with his friends.

            In the dining hall Will tells Ben he has his duty to do, and they walk back to the barracks. Will says to wait until he sees what the captain says.

            King shows the captain (Bartlett Robinson) the clean latrine. Will says it took him a week and that he is the permanent latrine orderly. The captain tries to explain, and Will says what a good sergeant he is. The captain says King will be a sergeant for only one more week unless Will has completed his classification. If not, King will be the permanent latrine orderly. The captain leaves, and Will says King forgot to ask him about the transfers. King says he has to be classified right away. He has to take many tests. King promises him his watch if he gets shipped out by Satruday morning. Will agrees to work hard. King says he is going to borrow some tests.

            Will tells about the building where he was tested. Will finishes a written test. King asks how he did, and Will says they are like the ones he borrowed. King tells him to sit down and wait. King comes back and takes Will to Corporal John C. Brown who times him on putting two rings together. Brown tells King he should not be there, and they argue. Will bends one of the rings around the other. King says he put them together. Brown asks his superior how he is supposed to mark him. He asks who is going to pay the $16. King says he will pay and sends out Will.

            Outside Will and Ben both say they are going to gunnery school. Ben says he asked for help from the psychiatrist. Will says maybe the Air Force are the real fighters. Ben throws down his cap, and a WAF Captain (Jean Willes) orders him to pick it up. Will stares at her, and she asks about him. She salutes Will and walks off. Will asks about a woman being in the Air Force.  Ben says he sees only a captain. King calls them in and tells Will he will get classified. A corporal reads the psychiatric report for Ben and says he is recommended for the infantry. Will goes in to the psychiatrist. King tells him to keep his wits about him. Will talks to Ben and is told the psychiatrist is waiting. King tells Will to say he never dreams at all. Ben asks King if Will can be transferred too.

            Major Royal B. Demming (James Millhollin) sits at a desk, and Will says he has no dreams. He asks Will about Tobacco Road in Georgia and what he thinks about his comments. Will says he did not understand what the doctor has been saying. Demming calls his attitude resistance. Will says if he is not classified soon, he will not get King’s wristwatch. Demming asks if he gets along with his mother. Will says his mother is never there. Demming asks about her, and he says she died when he was born. Will asks Demming if his mother beats him. Will asks for a transfer to the infantry. Demming says they will talk about what he wants to talk about. He asks if his father is living, and Will admits his Pa beats him. Demming says he hates his father, but Will says no. Will says he hates his uncle. Demming asks how he likes girls, and Will says he does not just like any girls. Demming asks if his father talked to him about sex. Will sits close and tells him a joke about traveling salesmen. Demming says he is normal and is approved, handing him a paper. Will suggests Demming see some girls once in a while, and Demming tells him to get out. Will goes out and is told to take an eye test.

            In the dining hall King wonders what is taking so long. Ben asks King for his transfer and rips it up. He says he changed his mind. Ben leaves, and Will arrives with his tray of food. He shows the paper to King, who says he passed as normal. King says he will get him his eye test next, and Will says he already took the eye test. Will says it will come out on the bulletin board tomorrow. Will says he was angry most of the time. Will says the words made no sense. The WAF Captain comes in, and they notice she is stacked. King asks Will what he sees, and he says he sees only a captain. Will leaves, and King tells Blanchard that Will is not goiing to get classified. Blanchard offers to get Will drunk if he will get three passes.

            That evening Will drinks in the Grotto with Blanchard and King. They are all drunk, and Will says he has biggest glass. Will drinks scotch, bourbon, and gin. King says tomorrow is the real inspection. Will says they should head back; he wants to get the barracks cleaned up. King offers another toast and gives his watch to Will who proposes a toast to King who asks if he ever drank whiskey before. Will says he drank what his Pa made. Will mentions kerosene, and Blanchard gets some lighter fluid they add to the mix. Will sees a drunk infantry man, and he drinks Will’s glass. He sits down, and they argue who has the toughest sergeants. King and he bet who is the biggest louse. Will tries to prevent the fight. Blanchard hits King, and Will hits the infantry man. A general fight breaks out, and Will tells King they should go home. King chokes the infantry man, and Will says he is going back to the barracks as King is being choked. Will looks at his watch and walks out smiling. Two MPs go in.

            The next day Ben finds Will who is fixing up something after being in the carpentry shop. Ben say the Captain is coming. Ben says the barracks are ready for inspection. The Captain and a general look in the latrine. Will salutes and stamps his foot, causing the toilet seats to raise up. The general is impressed and goes out.

            Outside King hides from officers and comes in the barracks. King goes in the latrine. The inspector has the Captain note Ben’s name. They hear something in the latrine, and Will tries to keep them from going in. They find King sitting on the floor and ask him to explain. He says he went to a movie last night and got in to a fight with an infantry man. The Captain asks what the movie was, and King makes up titles. They reduce King to a private. Ben repeats his name, and the Captain tells him this is going on his record. Will says King is not a sergeant any more. King says Will is staying there, but he is going to gunnery school. Will says he is going to gunnery school too. King says he has had all he can take. King says he was drunk last night. He asks Ben to talk to Will. Ben tells him that cleaning the latrine is the worst job, a punishment job. Will gives the watch back to King, who says Ben is not so glad he tore up his transfer now. Will asks Ben about that. Will asks if he is sore, and Ben says he has been trouble from the start.

            Will says they went to gunnery school together out in the country with obsolete planes.  Will says he and Ben were the bottom of the class, but King came out on top. King arrives and tells Will to get on the plane. As the plane flies, the captains are sleeping until Will wakes them. They say it is an automatic pilot. Will says goodnight and goes back and tells Ben they are working real hard. The navigator tells them they are above the Gulf of Mexico. The number two engine goes out. The co-pilot calls the gunner, and Will says he saw nothing. He says the radio operator missed the plane. Will wakes up Ben to operate the radio to find out where they are. Ben tries to operate, and Will reads the instructions. Ben says he will read and tells Will to operate. Will asks what frequency they desire. Will spits on the tubes and whomps them, and they light up. They think they found an airport, and the captain says it is a drive-in movie. Ben tells Will to be careful talking because it might be the enemy.

            On the ground a radio operator has his officer listen to Will who says he talks like an American. A radar operator says they are headed for the tower. The officer says they are over the atomic proving ground. Will says he is under General Bush. This general tells them to call Bush. He orders them to turn the plane around.

            King gives the plane to General Bush, and General Vernon Pollard (Sydney Smith) tells him his plane is in the wrong place. Pollard asks Bush to tell the pilot to reverse course, and he does so. King says he will give him his watch. Will says that is good, and he tells the pilot to reverse course. He says they are over Yucca Flats, Nevada. The pilot tells Will not to bother him anymore. The radar says they are turning, but they are headed for the tower again. The generals argue. An atomic bomb is tested, and the plane is damaged. Ben and Will jump out. Will’s parachute opens, and Ben clings to him. Ben says he does not want to be a deserter.

            Will and Ben crawl under barb wire, and they hear a band. They are in a restricted area and from an empty building watch a ceremony. Ben says it is a funeral. Will says they will report to the general, and it will be all right.

            In an office General Bush gets ready for his speech, saying “Two did not return.” Ben and Will find him and salute. He asks why they are there. Ben says they had to walk a lot. He reprimands them and asks what squadron they are in. The General orders them to go back into the conference room because of their dirty uniforms. Will tells Ben they turned themselves in. King comes in the other office and turns on the radio. He sits down and reads a newspaper. Ben and Will hear the report about the airmen who braved the atomic test. They honor the two men who gave their lives—Stockdale and Whitledge. They realize they are heroes, and Will laughs. King goes in the other room and does not realize he saw them. They report to King and salute. King says no and asks why they are not dead. He identified their remains. They hear the speech by General Bush. King tells them to get back in the conference room. King runs out shouting, “Captain.” King points to the conference room, and the captain tells them not to move. Captain sends King to the reviewing stand. The captain tells them to say they are Jones and Smith. The captain tells another officer that the two men that are getting the posthumous medals are inside. King comes back and reports that the medals had been presented. Bush comes back and says he will court martial everyone in the Air Force. He sees Will and Ben and says, “You two.” Will says he figured it out and that they aren’t dead. Bush tells King that he will be known as “Old Dustpan.” King suggests he transfer them to another base. The general agrees and orders two men to go out to get a command car.

            Will says they were taken out to the woods. General Bush and King talk and tell Will to stand aside. They hear shooting, and General Vernon says he forgot the password. The generals meet, and Bush says the other dead hero is in a trunk. Bush tells Will to get him out. Bush is worried about their pensions and says they must sign the papers. Ben comes out and says they are in no man’s land. Ben forgives Will, and they shake hands. King orders Ben to sign everything. Will says he will be surprised. Will tells King he showed he was a good sergeant, and King gives him the watch again. He says they are square and do not owe each other anything. Will says Ben thought they were brought out there to be shot. Bush tells Will to sign the statement that he was never on his base. Will says Ben likes medals, and he won’t sign. Bush says he has no medals. He sees Vernon’s medals and asks him for one. Bush says he will give Vernon two of his medals. Vernon says they are sewn on, and Will hands him a knife. Wills calls the soldiers in for the ceremony, and they line up. Vernon says he has been robbed. Will signs the papers and gets Ben, who asks for one last request. Will tells him to salute the general. Ben expects to be executed and walks over and salutes. King reads the order of transfer to the infantry for Ben and Will. They are happy and shake hands with King. They ask if King can go with them, and General Bush says that is a good idea. Drums roll, and General Bush gives Ben a medal. The national anthem plays on the radio as the station signs off. They all salute.

            This farce plays upon an enthusiastic bumpkin who misunderstands most of what is going in the military and is paired up with a patriot who wants to be like his relatives who were veterans. The sergeant and other officers are satirized for their ways of coping with the military life.
Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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