Vince Edwards as Ben Casey and guest star Kathleen Nolan, 1964.
|Created by||James Moser|
|Theme music composer||David Raksin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||153 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Bing Crosby Productions|
CBS Television Distribution (current)
|Original release||October 2, 1961– March 21, 1966|
|Followed by||The Return of Ben Casey|
Ben Casey is an American medical drama series which ran on ABC from 1961 to 1966. The show was known for its opening titles, which consisted of a hand drawing the symbols "♂, ♀, ✳, †, ∞" on a chalkboard, as cast member Sam Jaffe intoned, "Man, woman, birth, death, infinity." Neurosurgeon Joseph Ransohoff was a medical consultant for the show and may have influenced the personality of the title character.
The series stars Vince Edwards as medical doctor Ben Casey, a young, intense but idealistic surgeon at County General Hospital. His mentor was Doctor David Zorba, played by Sam Jaffe. At the beginning of the 1965 season, Jaffe left the show and Franchot Tone replaced Zorba as new Chief of Surgery, Doctor Daniel Niles Freeland. The show began running multi-episode stories and Casey developed a romantic relationship with Jane Hancock (Stella Stevens), who had just emerged from a coma after thirteen years.
Reception and broadcast history
In its early run, Ben Casey dominated its time slot. In the 1962-1963 season, it swamped Loretta Young's return to weekly television in her family sitcom The New Loretta Young Show on CBS. In 1963, it moved to Wednesdays as the preceding program for ABC's drama about college life, Channing.
However, due to the combination of CBS' The Beverly Hillbillies and The Dick Van Dyke Show, Ben Casey returned to its original Monday night time slot in the fall of 1964, remaining there until its cancellation in March 1966. Daytime repeats of the series also aired on ABC's weekday schedule from 1965 through 1967.
- Original Run
NOTE: The most frequent time slot for the series is in bold text.
- Monday at 10:00-11:00 PM on ABC: October 2, 1961—May 13, 1963; September 14, 1964—March 21, 1966
- Wednesday at 9:00-10:00 PM on ABC: September 9, 1963—April 22, 1964
- Nielsen Ratings
NOTE: The highest average rating for the series is in bold text.
|2) 1962-1963||#7||28.7 (Tied with The Danny Thomas Show)|
|3) 1963-1964||Not in the Top 30|
According to IMDb, Vince Edwards appeared on the TV series Breaking Point as Ben Casey. The episode was "Solo for B-Flat Clarinet" and debut 16 September 1963. Both Ben Casey and Breaking Point were produced by Bing Crosby Productions. Members of Breaking Point also had guest roles on Ben Casey.
There was both a comic strip and a comic book based on the television series. The strip was developed and written by Jerry Capp (née Caplin) and drawn by Neal Adams. The daily strip began on November 26, 1962 and the Sunday strip debuted on September 20, 1964. Both ended on July 31, 1966 (a Sunday). The half page format was regarded as the best Sunday format, and one effect by Adams can only be appreciated in the half page—a globe in one panel is a continuation of Ben Casey's head in a lower panel. The daily strip was reprinted in the Menomonee Falls Gazette. The comic book was published by Dell Comics for 10 issues from 1962 to 1964. All had photocovers, except for the final issue which was drawn by John Tartaglione.
In 1962 the series inspired a semi-comic rock song, "Callin' Dr. Casey," written and performed by soon-to-be-renowned songwriter John D. Loudermilk. In the song, Loudermilk refers to the TV doctor's wide-ranging medical abilities and asks whether Casey has any cure for heartbreak.
From 1962 through 1963, the paperback publisher Lancer Books also issued four original novels based on the series. They were Ben Casey by William Johnston, A Rage for Justice by Norman Daniels, The Strength of His Hands by Sam Elkin and The Fire Within, again by Daniels, small-print standard mass-market size paperbacks of 128 or 144 pages each, typical of tie-ins of the period. Though Elkin was, even at the time, a relatively obscure author, Johnston and Daniels were unusually prolific even for career pulpsmiths, Johnston being unusually artful as well, and all four books are accurate and entertaining pastiches of the show, given their authorship in that pre-VCR era when tie-in accuracy was not always the rule. But then, there were not many regular characters to juggle and the personae of the leads were a study in strong personalities and stark contrast. Johnston's novel is notable in particular for never internalizing Casey's thoughts; he is absolutely the lead character, yet he is only seen in action or through the eyes of others. This allows Johnston to maintain the literary equivalent of Casey's essential dichotomy: a balance of passionate, sometimes furious devotion with an emotionally impenetrable demeanor—a "romantic lead" who is still an enigma. Though the first three novels feature photos of Vince Edwards on their covers (the second book even offering a "free" 7X10" black and white, "autographed" pin-up headshot of him as Casey), the final book features a drawn rendering (artist unknown) of Edwards as Casey in scrubs, glancing up from his clipboard toward the direction over his shoulder—where behind him an interested looking nurse looks at him, seemingly distracted from the operation being performed by two masked doctors just behind her.
In 1988, the television movie The Return of Ben Casey, with Vince Edwards reprising his role as Casey, aired in syndication. The pilot was not picked up by the major networks to bring the series back.
One result of the show's popularity in the 1960s was in Vietnam where American army medics were often referred to as "Ben Casey" in radio communications.
As part of the long running late night movie program The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show, a number of comedy skits titled Ben Crazy were produced. One notable feature was during the chalkboard sequence; using × as the symbol for death, adding $ after ∞, and having a laughtrack in between each symbol drawn.
Dickie Goodman did an audio spoof in 1962 entitled "BEN CRAZY", where Dr Zorba was Cr. Schmorba, and Dr.Jim Kildare was HUJO KILLDEER. It used excerpts from the popular songs of 1962, plus the Ben Casey themes.
The Flintstones featured a character named "Len Frankenstone," voiced by Allan Melvin, as a mad scientist with a personality-switching machine in the episode "Monster Fred". Doug Young portrayed "Dr. Zero".
- Jon B. Cooke, "Neal Adams: An Illustrator and His Tools", COMIC BOOK ARTIST, Vol. II, #1
- Grimes, William (1996-03-16). "Vince Edwards, 67, the Doctor In the Hit TV Series 'Ben Casey'". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. New York: HarperPerennial. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
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