Ronnie Schell was one of those entertainers that had multiple entertainment skills: actor, stand-up comedian, voice actor, and commercial advertising talent. He had intended to be a professional baseball player but only got as far as semi-pro. He served in the Air Force in the 1950’s and then started his career as an opening standup comedian. His first TV appearance was on NBC’s You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx where he mentioned on the show that he wanted to be on TV!
Born in Richmond CA, Schell was probably known best as Marine Private Duke Slater, the buddy of Jim Nabors in Gomer Pyle USMC on CBS. His shtick was that of fast talking wise guy with a quick comeback to anything or anyone. Schell appeared in episodes of Gomer Pyle from 1964-1967, then left for a year to appear in the CBS sitcom Good Morning World about two morning drive disc jockeys on a small Los Angeles radio station. Billy DeWolf played the owner of the station and a very young Goldie Hawn starred as their gossiping neighbor. Hawn was about to become famous shortly when she was cast on the hit NBC show Rowan And Martin’s Laugh In. CBS cancelled Good Morning World after one year. Schell then returned to the Pyle show but as Corporal Duke Slater who spent most of his time as a mediator between Private Pyle and Sgt. Carter, Gomer’s platoon leader and nemesis. Gomer Pyle USMC was a spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show and ran from 1964-1970. Andy Griffith, Sheldon Leonard, and Danny Thomas were the creators and producers, and the show was shot on the Desilu Productions lot in Los Angeles.
After the Gomer show, Schell did a lot of commercial advertising work, cartoon voice work, and a lot of guest star appearances which kept him busy. He is currently the honorary mayor of Encino, California.
Mr. Schell, thank you for the laughs! See you next time.
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