The Flying Nun

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This article is about the TV show. For the record label, see Flying Nun Records.
The Flying Nun
FlyingNunTitleCard67.jpeg
Genre Sitcom
Created by Max Wylie
Harry Ackerman
Tere Rios (novel)
Developed by Bernard Slade
Starring Sally Field
Madeleine Sherwood
Marge Redmond
Shelley Morrison
Alejandro Rey
Linda Dangcil
Vito Scotti
Theme music composer Dominic Frontiere
Opening theme "Who Needs Wings to Fly?"
Composer(s) Dominic Frontiere
Warren Barker
Gerald Fried
Harry Geller
Hugo Montenegro
Will Schaefer
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 82 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Harry Ackerman
Producer(s) Jon Epstein
Ed Jurist
William Sackheim
Running time 25 minutes
Production company(s) Screen Gems Television
Distributor Sony Pictures Television
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 7, 1967 (1967-09-07)  – April 3, 1970 (1970-04-03)

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.

Overview[edit]

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).[1] 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.

Characters[edit]

  • 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.

Production[edit]

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.[2] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] The pilot episode, its series opening credits and closing credits were filmed on location in Puerto Rico.

A soundtrack LP featuring songs from the series sung by Sally Field was released by Colgems in 1967.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] When the show ended, Sally Field turned to doing drama and movies: she wanted to move from comic roles to serious ones.

Broadcast history[edit]

During its first two seasons, The Flying Nun aired on Thursday nights at 8:00pm EST, where the series competed in the ratings with Daniel Boone.[9] The show was an instant hit, with high ratings and was declared the "hit of the season;" however, the ratings dropped as the season progressed.[10] During its second year, the series was scheduled against Daniel Boone and Hawaii Five-O. During its final season, the series was moved to Wednesday nights at 7:30pm EST, scheduled opposite The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. All of the competing 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.[11] Despite its early popularity, the series' ratings never broke the Nielsen top thirty.

Syndication[edit]

Since the summer of 2011, the show has aired on weekends on Antenna TV.[12] The complete first season is also available on iTunes.[13]

Awards[edit]

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.[14]

DVD releases[edit]

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the first season of The Flying Nun on March 21, 2006 on DVD in Region 1.[15] This was followed by the release of the show's second season on DVD on August 15, 2006.[16] The third and final season has yet to be released.

On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including The Flying Nun.[17] On August 27, 2014, it was announced that they will re-release the first and second seasons on DVD on October 7, 2014.[18]

DVD name Ep # Release date
The Complete 1st Season 31 March 21, 2006
The Complete 2nd Season 26 August 15, 2006

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Today in Catholic History – The Last Episode of The Flying Nun". Catholic:Under The Hood. September 18, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Winfrey, Oprah (March 2008). "Oprah Talks to Sally Field". O, The Oprah Magazine. p. 4. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Sally Field (March 21, 2006). The Flying Nun - The Complete First Season: Interview featurette with Sally Field (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. ASIN B000E3L7EQ. 
  4. ^ Wolff, Richard (March 25, 2010). The Church on TV: Portrayals of Priests, Pastors and Nuns on American Television Series. Continuum. pp. 39–40. ISBN 1441157972. 
  5. ^ "The PF Ranch Tour". C'mon, Get Happy. February 2000. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ "The Flying Nun – Soundtrack Details". Soundtrack Collector. Retrieved February 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Lowry, Cynthia (August 11, 1969). "Many TV Series Being Overhauled". The Register-Guard. Associated Press. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Bun in the Oven: A Flying, Not to Mention Pregnant, Nun". TIME. February 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Complete Television Programs for Thursday". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 6, 1969. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ Laurent, Lawrence (September 12, 1968). "Marge Gets Bigger In 'Flying Nun' Role". St. Petersburg Times. The Washington Post. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  11. ^ Lowry, Cynthia (November 15, 1968). "Nielson Ratings Smashing Several Television Shows". The Sumter Daily Item. Associated Press. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  12. ^ "TV Listings – The Flying Nun". Antenna TV. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  13. ^ "iTunes – TV Shows – The Flying Nun". Apple Inc. iTunes. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Flying Nun (1967) – Awards". Amazon.com. IMDB. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  15. ^ Lambert, David (January 9, 2006). "The Flying Nun - Nun Spotted Flying Onto DVD At Last!". TV Shows on DVD. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  16. ^ Lacey, Gord (June 5, 2006). "The Flying Nun - It's a bird, it's a plane, it's The Flying Nun Season 2!". TV Shows on DVD. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  17. ^ Mill Creek Entertainment Signs Deals With Sony Pictures Home Entertainment To Expand Their Distribution Partnership
  18. ^ Packaging Art and New Info for Mill Creek's 'Seasons 1 & 2'

Further reading[edit]

  • Brooks, Tiim; Marsh, Earl (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0345455428. 

External links[edit]