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The Flying Nun

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Title: The Flying Nun  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sally Field, Shelley Morrison, Susan Howard, Larry Vincent, Arthur Julian
Collection: 1960S American Comedy Television Series, 1960S American Television Series, 1967 American Television Series Debuts, 1970 American Television Series Endings, 1970S American Comedy Television Series, 1970S American Television Series, American Broadcasting Company Network Shows, American Television Sitcoms, English-Language Television Programming, Fantasy Television Series, Fictional Nuns, Nuns in Fiction, Television Programs Based on Novels, Television Series by Sony Pictures Television, Television Shows Set in Puerto Rico
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The Flying Nun

The Flying Nun
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)
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
Original channel ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original release September 7, 1967 (1967-09-07) – April 3, 1970 (1970-04-03)

The Flying Nun was an American situation comedy produced by Screen Gems for ABC based on the 1965 book The Fifteenth Pelican, written 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 1
  • Characters 2
  • Production 3
  • Broadcast history 4
    • Syndication 4.1
  • Awards 5
  • Novels 6
  • DVD releases 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


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 in San Juan from New York City after her arrest for having been 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, joining the Convento San Tanco, after being impressed by the missionary work of her aunt, and broke 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 pounds (41 kilograms), high winds at the Convent high on the ocean bluffs, and the large, heavily starched cornette that was the headpiece for her habit. (The cornette was based on one worn until the middle 1960s by the Daughters of Charity, although Sister Bertrille was never said to belong to that order.[1] Indeed, the order which included the Convento San Tanco was never specified in the series.) 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.; 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 distributed differently than that of the boy) that made her flying possible. The only time she was unable to take off was when heavy rains or storms occurred and caused her starched cornette to lose its shape or when she had to wear something that would keep her grounded at all times.


Redmond, Rey, Morrison, and Field. Missing from picture: Sherwood.
  • Sally Field as Sister Bertrille, real name 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 always misinterprets English slang.
  • 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 is an orphan raised by the nuns and maintains his gratitude to them, leading him to constantly get swept into Sister Bertrille's zany schemes, which she concocts 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.[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 dismissed 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 that she was embarrassed with The Flying Nun.[3]

Prior to 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, or NCORT, served as a series adviser with on-screen credit.[4] (The NCORT, like its motion-picture counterpart, the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures, or NCOMP, was ultimately absorbed into the United States Catholic Conference, or USCC, and both have since been merged into the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB.)

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 and the series opening and closing credits, however, were filmed on location in Puerto Rico.

A soundtrack LP featuring songs from the series sung by Sally Field, titled Star Of "The Flying Nun," 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 show's third (and final) season, changes were made to revert the series 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, Field starred in another situation comedy, The Girl with Something Extra. She later turned to doing drama and movies as she wanted to move from comic roles to serious ones.

Broadcast history

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 show's ratings never broke the Nielsen top thirty.


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]


Despite the show being unpopular with critics, Marge Redmond was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Sister Jacqueline during the 1967–68 season. She lost to Marion Lorne, who won posthumously for her role as "Aunt Clara" on Bewitched.[14]


A series of novels based on characters and dialog of the series was written by William Johnston and published by Ace Books in the 1960s.

DVD releases

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] They re-released the first and second seasons in a 2-season combo pack DVD on October 7, 2014.[18]

DVD name Ep # Release date
The Complete 1st Season 30 March 21, 2006
October 7, 2014 (re-release)
The Complete 2nd Season 26 August 15, 2006
October 7, 2014 (re-release)


  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".  
  3. ^ a b Sally Field (March 21, 2006). The Flying Nun - The Complete First Season: Interview featurette with Sally Field (DVD).  
  4. ^ Wolff, Richard (March 25, 2010). The Church on TV: Portrayals of Priests, Pastors and Nuns on American Television Series.  
  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".  
  8. ^ "Bun in the Oven: A Flying, Not to Mention Pregnant, Nun".  
  9. ^ "Complete Television Programs for Thursday".  
  10. ^ Laurent, Lawrence (September 12, 1968). "Marge Gets Bigger In 'Flying Nun' Role".  
  11. ^ Lowry, Cynthia (November 15, 1968). "Nielson Ratings Smashing Several Television Shows".  
  12. ^ "TV Listings – The Flying Nun".  
  13. ^ "iTunes – TV Shows – The Flying Nun".  
  14. ^ "The Flying Nun (1967) – Awards".  
  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

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

External links

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