Felicia Farr, Andy Griffith, and Erin O'Brien in Onionhead (1958)


(director: Norman Taurog; screenwriters: based on a novel by Weldon Hill/Nelson Gidding; cinematographer: Harold Rosson; editor: William H. Ziegler; music: David Buttolph; cast: Andy Griffith (Al Woods), Felicia Farr (Stella), Walter Matthau (“Red” Wildoe), Erin O’Brien (Jo Hill), Joe Mantell (“Doc” O’Neill), Ray Danton (Ensign Dennis Higgins), James Gregory (“Skipper”), Joey Bishop (Gutsell), Roscoe Karns (“Windy” Woods), Claude Akins (Poznicki), Ainslie Pryor (Chief Miller), Sean Garrison (Yeoman Kaffhamp); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jules Schermer; Warner Bros.; 1958)

Can only achieve sentimental drivel and very little comedy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Trying to take advantage of the new popularity of Andy Griffith from his 1958 comedy No Time For Sergeants, this is a follow-up vehicle for Andy to go bucolic on us again. The routine service comedy/romance/drama is much weaker than NTFS, as it can only achieve sentimental drivel and very little comedy. Director Norman Taurog (“Don’t Give Up The Ship”/”Speedway”/”G.I. Blues”)gives it the ol’ college try, but that’s not enough to even swab the deck for this bumpy sea ride. It’s based on a novel by Weldon Hill and is weakly written by Nelson Gidding.

Al Woods (Andy Griffith), in 1941, is an irresponsible college student in a college in Oklahoma, who prefers to party than to study. The lad has a problem that his girl friend Jo Hill (Erin O’Brien) treats him like a friend and not a lover. The frustrated student quits college and enlists in the Coast Guard just before World War II and becomes the ship’s assistant cook on the USS Periwinkle.

Crustyhead cook “Red” Wildoe (Walter Matthau) resentsWoods’ bad attitude and lack of seaman’s protocol, bringing on a conflict between the two. That conflict is intensified when Red’s hottie fiancee Stella (Felicia Farr) is attracted to Woods. The film chronicles the adventures Woods has in the mess hall and his resentment toward the crooked Ensign Higgins (Ray Danton), who is promoted to executive officer. The attack on Pearl Harbor brings the US into the war. Soon the Periwinkle is called into duty to rescue the Algonquin, which has been sunk by a German U-boat. Thereby Woods is shocked that he gets into the war, and by the third act he becomes a more mature and responsible person as he begins to perform his duties in a responsible way. The film’s theme is that the service makes a man out of him and Woods therefore becomes good marriage material to marry his hometown sweetheart Jo.

James Gregory plays the fair-minded skipper of the Periwinkle. Roscoe Karns plays Griffith’s likable home-spun barber father, from Oklahoma.

The title is derived from the balding Griffith character using an onion mixture to support hair growth.