Celebrity Deaths ›

Frank Sutton, At Ease

Getty Images / CBS / CBS Photo Archives

Frank Sutton, At Ease

Frank Sutton played one of the most famous fictional soldiers in television, Gunnery Sgt. Vincent Carter, for five seasons on Gomer Pyle – USMC. Sutton, who actually served in the U.S. Army, died 40 years ago this week. According to The Associated Press, Sutton took part in 14 assault landings in the Pacific during World War II. Sometime after the war, Sutton was honorably discharged and pursued an acting career. Sutton landed guest-starring roles in several popular series, like Route 66, The Fugitive, Gunsmoke and The Twilight Zone, but his most famous role would take him back to the military one more time.

As Sgt. Carter, Pyle's gruff but caring drill instructor, Sutton put a positive face on the Marine Corps from 1964 to 1969, during a time when thousands of young recruits and draftees were training and shipping out to fight in Vietnam. While it is unlikely that many Marines had a drill instructor like Sgt. Carter, Sutton's character helped to create a kinder, gentler version of the armed forces for American audiences. In this clip, Carter's hard-nosed kill-or-be-killed instruction runs headlong into Pvt. Pyle's good-natured naiveté, a conflict central to the show.

After Gomer Pyle – USMC finished its run, Sutton continued to act, appearing alongside former co-star Jim Nabors in sketches on The Jim Nabors Hour, as well as in various episodes of the anthology series Love American Style. He also turned up on celebrity game shows throughout his career.

Sutton died of a sudden heart attack in 1974 at age 50. His last role was in the television movie Hurricane, which aired in September 1974.

Written by Seth Joseph