There’s more sad news on the entertainment front today, as America has lost yet another reminder of a more decent Hollywood that existed generations ago.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Jim Nabors, best known for his role as dim-witted gas station worker Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show” before getting his own spin-off, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” has passed away in his Hawaii home at age 87.
An Alabama native, Nabors was also known for a remarkable baritone singing voice that provided a stark contrast to his dopey, awkward Gomer persona. Nabors put that talent to use for more than 30 years singing at the Indianapolis 500.
A cause of death has not been revealed, though Nabors did have a liver transplant in 1994 necessitated by a life-threatening bout of hepatitis B.
MeTV provides a rundown of Nabors’ rich career:
Nabors sang for his high school and church as a youth and later attended the University of Alabama, where he began dabbling in acting. His first job in the television industry was as a film cutter, first in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and later in Los Angeles, where he worked for NBC.
While working in Los Angeles, Nabors also was performing a cabaret act at a nightclub called The Horn. His act showcased both his talent for classical singing and a comedic character similar to what would later become Gomer Pyle […]
[After USMC’s 5-season run] Nabors then turned his attention to music, recording a variety of successful easy-listening albums. He also hosted variety show The Jim Nabors Hour (1969–71) and after its cancelation he embarked on a nationwide roadshow. Typecast for his longtime portrayal of Gomer Pyle, Nabors found himself cast mostly in comedic roles during the 1970s, although he did land his first serious performance in a 1973 episode of The Rookies, in which he played a man called on to be an assassin.
During the 1970s, Nabors appeared on several children’s shows, every season premiere of The Carol Burnett Show, and hosted another variety show from 1977–78, The Jim Nabors Show. He also toured, performing in nightclubs and concert halls. Nabors appeared in three feature films with friend Burt Reynolds in the early 1980s: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Stoker Ace (1983) and Cannonball Run II (1984).
In 2013, Nabors came out as gay and had a civil marriage with his partner of then-38 years Stan Cadwallader. Interestingly, however, he told People Magazine at the time that he had no interest in the political side of the matter: “I’m not a debater. And everybody has their own opinion about this, and actually I’m not an activist, so I’ve never gotten involved in any of this.”
The Hollywood Reporter adds a couple of Nabors’ reflections on his roles as Gomer Pyle:
Nabors admitted that he had trouble watching Pyle’s opening credits when the series was playing in syndication because many of the Marines with whom he marched were killed in Vietnam. (The Pollyanna sitcom never addressed the war.) […]
Asked in a 2000 interview with the Los Angeles Times about why The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle continued to be so popular, Nabors said, “Television has become very cynical, even the comedy shows, and the cynicism from the young people just boggles my mind.
“In Mayberry, there was no illness. There was no war. There was no violence. There was no graffiti. We all had a good time, and we laughed a lot.”
We here at TFPP send our thoughts and prayers to Nabors and his loved ones during this tragic time. Thanks for all the laughs and memories.