The Flying Nun
|The Flying Nun|
|Created by||Max Wylie
Tere Rios (novel)
|Developed by||Bernard Slade|
|Theme music composer||Dominic Frontiere|
|Opening theme||"Who Needs Wings to Fly?"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||82 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Harry Ackerman|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Screen Gems Television|
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Original run||September 7, 1967– April 3, 1970|
The Flying Nun is an American sitcom produced by Screen Gems for ABC based on the 1965 book The Fifteenth Pelican, by Tere Rios. It starred Sally Field as Sister Bertrille. The series originally ran on ABC from September 7, 1967, to April 3, 1970, producing 82 episodes, including a one-hour pilot episode.
Developed by Bernard Slade, the series centered on the adventures of a community of nuns in the Convent San Tanco in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The comic elements of the storyline were provided by the flying ability of a novice nun, Sister Bertrille.
In the hour-long series pilot, Chicago native Elsie Ethrington arrives from New York City after having been arrested for being involved in a protest; she then adopts the name of Sister Bertrille. It is also later learned in the episode "My Sister, the Sister" that Sister Bertrille comes from a family of physicians and is the only one who did not follow in their footsteps. She became a nun after being impressed by the missionary work of her aunt, and breaks up with her boyfriend of eight months, a toy salesman.
Sister Bertrille could be relied upon to solve any problem that came her way by her ability to catch a passing breeze and fly. This was generally attributed to her weighing under 90 lb., high winds at the Convent high on the ocean bluffs, and the large, heavily starched cornette (the headpiece for her habit; the cornette was based on one worn until the mid-1960s by the Daughters of Charity, although Sister Bertrille was never said to belong to that order). Her flying talents caused as many problems as they solved. She explains her ability to fly by stating, "When lift plus thrust is greater than load plus drag, anything can fly." The reason behind that statement was that Sister Bertrille weighed only 90 lbs., and in one episode she tries to gain weight so she could stay grounded, but the attempt failed. Additionally, in the first season episode "Young Man with a Cornette" she specifically tells a young boy who intended to use her cornette to fly that there were many factors other than her weight (which was more than that of the boy) that made her flying possible. The only time she couldn't take off is when heavy rains or storms occurred and caused her starched cornette to lose its shape (she found out the hard way when she tried to get help in one episode) or when she had to wear something that would keep her grounded at all times.
- Sally Field as Sister Bertrille (Elsie Ethrington), a nun who only weighs 90 pounds, allowing her to fly while wearing her cornette and when the wind is right. This was Field's second sitcom role, following Gidget.
- Madeleine Sherwood as Reverend Mother Placido, the sober but gentle woman who runs the convent.
- Marge Redmond as Sister Jacqueline, a wise nun with a sense of humor and Sister Bertrille's friend. Her voice is also heard as the narrator, who sets up each episode.
- Shelley Morrison as Sister Sixto, a Puerto Rican nun who struggles with speaking English.
- Linda Dangcil as Sister Ana, a younger nun who also attends to the convent.
- Vito Scotti as Captain Gaspar Fomento, the local police officer and the only character who never found out about Sister Bertrille's ability to fly.
- Alejandro Rey as Carlos Ramirez, a local casino owner and playboy. Ramirez had been an orphan raised by the nuns and maintains his gratitude to them at all times, despite constantly letting Sister Bertrille draft him into her schemes, something she does with alarming frequency.
After the cancellation of ABC's Gidget, in which Sally Field starred in the title role, producers sought a way to keep Field on the air. As a result, The Flying Nun was developed. However, Field refused the role at first only to resettle on it after her stepfather, Jock Mahoney, warned her that she might not work again in show business if she did not accept the role. Screen Gems fired its second choice, Ronne Troup, who had already begun filming the pilot. Field recalled hanging from a crane and being humiliated by a parade of episodic television directors, one of whom actually grabbed her shoulders and moved her into position as if she were a prop. She credits co-star Madeleine Sherwood for encouraging her to enroll in acting classes. Field has commented that she has great affection for her young Gidget persona and was proud of her work on that show, but was embarrassed with The Flying Nun.
Prior the production of The Flying Nun, producers were concerned with how the series would be received by Catholics. In an effort to prevent religious criticism, the National Catholic Office for Radio and Television (NCORT) served as a series adviser with on-screen credit.
The San Juan convent courtyard exterior was actually the rear area of a house facade at the Warner Brothers Ranch's suburban street/backlot in Burbank, California, along Hollywood Way north of West Oak Street. The pilot episode, its series opening credits and closing credits were filmed on location in Puerto Rico.
The series gradually shifted comedic gears in its second season, focusing more on slapstick and other forms of broad humor. Beginning in the series' third (and final) season, changes were made to alter the series back to a "warm and slightly saccharine" tone as seen in the first season. Another problem the show's producers had to contend with during its last season was the fact that at the beginning of the filming schedule, Field was noticeably pregnant with her first child. This was a logistical nightmare for a series in which Field's character was supposed to be a religious celibate, and skinny enough to fly away in the wind. The producers solved the problem by using props and scenery to block view of Field's body below the chest, and using long shots of Field's stunt double for the flying sequences. When the show ended, Sally Field turned to doing drama and movies: she wanted to move from comic roles to serious ones.
During its first two seasons, The Flying Nun aired on Thursday nights at 8:00pm EST, where the series rivaled with Daniel Boone. The show was an instant hit, with high ratings and being declared the "hit of the season;" however, its ratings later dropped as the season progressed. During its second year, the series was rivaled by Daniel Boone once more and Hawaii Five-O. During its final season, the series was moved to Wednesday nights at 7:30pm EST, and rivaled The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. All of its rival-shows ranked higher in the ratings than The Flying Nun, which eventually led to its cancellation. During its three-year-run, the series was a part of a three-show comedy block on ABC that also consisted of Bewitched and That Girl. Despite its early popularity, the series' ratings never broke the Nielsen top thirty.
Despite the show being unpopular with critics, Marge Redmond was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series as Sister Jacqueline role during the 1967–68 season. She lost to Marion Lorne, who won posthumously for her role as "Aunt Clara" on Bewitched.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the first season of The Flying Nun on March 21, 2006 on DVD in Region 1. This was followed by the release of the show's second season on DVD on August 15, 2006. The third and final season has yet to be released.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release date|
|The Complete 1st Season||31||March 21, 2006|
|The Complete 2nd Season||26||August 15, 2006|
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- Lambert, David (January 9, 2006). "The Flying Nun - Nun Spotted Flying Onto DVD At Last!". TV Shows on DVD. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
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- Brooks, Tiim; Marsh, Earl (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0345455428.
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