Can an actress get a job based on her accent? It happened with Elizabeth MacRae joining Jim Nabors on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
Show producers were looking for an actress to play the girlfriend of Pyle, portrayed by Jim Nabors. But they needed someone who could emulate a Carolina-area accent. Pyle, coming from Mayberry, N.C., would find a woman with an accent reflective of back home quite interesting, according to an article in ME.tv.
That’s especially true since Pyle was based at Camp Henderson, Calif. MacRae makes her debut in the third-season episode called “Love’s Old Sweet Song.” She plays nightclub singer Lou Ann Poovie and it’s actually a good match for the show.
‘Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.’ Needed Southern Girlfriend
What made MacRae a perfect fit? Well, she grew up around Fort Bragg, N.C., so she had that going for her. But an interesting twist happened as she was trying out for a role on the show. She actually was trying to get a different role and downplayed her Southern accent.
It took someone other than show creator Aaron Ruben to actually discover her Southern connection. As the story goes, director Lee Phillips passed by the office door and stopped in his steps. Now Phillips had North Carolina roots in his family, too, so hearing a familiar accent made him speak up.
He said something about MacRae’s accent and Ruben asked her, “Can you speak with a Southern accent?”
That answer not only locked up a job for MacRae on the spot. It led to far more than an initial three-episode role. Lou Ann Poovie would show up in 15 total episodes as Gomer’s girlfriend.
In this clip from “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”, the tables are turned a little bit. Lou Ann asks Gomer to sing her a song. If you’ve never heard Nabors sing, then you are in for a treat. Listen to him sing the classic song “500 Miles.”
Andy Griffith Made Role On Show For Jim Nabors
Nabors was an incredibly talented singer, actor, and comedian. He happened to be in one of those “right-place-at-the-right-time” moments.
Let me explain. Andy Griffith, who was starring in “The Andy Griffith Show” on CBS, happened to catch Nabors’ act at a Los Angeles club back in the early 1960s. Now Griffith watched and listened to Nabors’ act. It stirred memories within Griffith of his own act before getting roles in movies like “No Time For Sergeants” and Elia Kazan’s incredible “A Face in the Crowd.”
He went to his show’s writers and had them create the role of Gomer Pyle for Nabors.
It would be a role Nabors started playing on “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1962. The character teamed up with his cousin Goober Pyle, portrayed by George Lindsey, to run Mayberry’s gas station. He became so popular that it led to Nabors getting his own spinoff show.
So, Nabors, who died in 2017, always remembered Griffith’s kindness toward him and his career.