The Flying Nun is an American sitcom produced by Screen Gems for ABC based on the 1965 book The Fifteenth Pelican, by Tere Rios, which starred Sally Field as Sister Bertrille. The series originally ran on ABC from September 7, 1967 to September 18, 1970, producing 83 episodes.
Cast of the show (clockwise from left): Marge Redmond, Alejandro Rey, Shelley Morrison, and Sally FieldDeveloped 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, played by Sally Field in her second sitcom role, after Gidget.
In the series pilot, Chicago native Elsie Ethrington arrived from New York City after having been arrested for being involved in a protest; she then adopts the name of Sister Bertrille. It was also later learned in the episode "My Sister, the Sister" that Sister Bertrille had come from a family of doctors 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.
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 attributed to her small stature and heavily starched cornette (the headpiece for her habit; the cornette was based on one worn until the mid-1960's 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 once explained 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 pounds, and in one episode tried to gain more weight so she could stay grounded, but those attempts proved to be a failure.
Madeleine Sherwood played the sober but gentle Reverend Mother Placido; Marge Redmond played jolly Sister Jacqueline, whose voice also served as set-up narration for the episodes; Shelley Morrison played Sister Sixto, whose first language was Spanish and who repeatedly mangled English idioms; Linda Dangcil played Sister Ana; Vito Scotti played Captain Gaspar Fomento, the local police officer around San Tanco. Alejandro Rey played local playboy and casino owner Carlos Ramirez. Ramirez had been an orphan raised by the nuns at San Tanco and maintained his gratitude to them at all times, despite constantly letting Sister Bertrille draft him into her schemes, something she did with alarming frequency.
The unusual premise caught the attention of the public and the program was a success, yet the story lines were limited, and by the end of the show's run, the writers were struggling to create new situations that would allow the heroine to take flight. Critics, with the notable exception of Cleveland Amory, never responded favorably to the show, and credited most of its success to the appeal of Sally Field.
The show was also commended by several Roman Catholic orders in the late 1960s for humanizing nuns and their work. It also offered a difficult typecasting obstacle for star Sally Field to overcome.
In 2002, The Flying Nun was ranked #42 on TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time.
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.
A soundtrack LP featuring songs from the series sung by Sally Field was released by Colgems in 1967.
Field spoke on a DVD featurette for season 1, and talked of taking the role after her stepfather Jock Mahoney scared her by saying she should not refuse the role as she might not work again in show business. She finally accepted the role and Screen Gems fired their second choice lead Ronne Troup who had begun filming the pilot. Field recalled hanging from a crane and being humiliated by a parade of episodic TV 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 mentoring her to enroll in acting classes during her evenings and weekends.
Another problem the show's producers had to contend with was the fact that at the beginning of the filming schedule of The Flying Nun's third (and final) season, Sally 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 show 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.
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.
Main article: List of The Flying Nun episodes
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first two seasons of The Flying Nun on DVD in Region 1. 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|
|The Complete 3rd Season||26||TBA|
As of January 2011 the show can be seen on weekends on Antenna TV.
- ^ "Today in Catholic History – The Last Episode of The Flying Nun". Catholic:Under The Hood. September 18, 2010.
- ^ "50 Worst Shows of All Time". TV Guide. 2002.
- ^ Emmy award
- Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earl. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003.