Ben Casey

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Ben Casey
Kathy Nolan Vincent Edwards Ben Casey 1963.JPG
Vince Edwards as Ben Casey and guest star Kathleen Nolan, 1964.
Created by James Moser
Starring Vince Edwards
Sam Jaffe
Bettye Ackerman
Jeanne Bates
John Zaremba
Ben Piazza
Jim McMullan
Franchot Tone
Stella Stevens
Marlyn Mason
Harry Landers
Linda Lawson
Theme music composer David Raksin
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 153 (list of episodes)
Production
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Bing Crosby Productions
Distributor Worldvision Enterprises
Paramount Domestic Television
CBS Television Distribution
Release
Original network ABC
Picture format Black-and-white
Color
Audio format Monaural
Original release October 2, 1961 (1961-10-02) – March 21, 1966 (1966-03-21)
Chronology
Followed by The Return of Ben Casey (TV movie, 1988)

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."[1] Neurosurgeon Joseph Ransohoff was a medical consultant for the show and may have influenced the personality of the title character.

Plot[edit]

The series starred 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. The show began running multi-episode stories, starting with the first five episodes of Season 4; Casey developed a romantic relationship with Jane Hancock (Stella Stevens), who had just emerged from a coma after fifteen years. At the beginning of Season 5 (the last season), Jaffe left the show and Franchot Tone replaced Zorba as new Chief of Neurosurgery, Doctor Daniel Niles Freeland.

Production notes[edit]

Creator James E. Moser based the character of Ben Casey on Dr. Allan Max Warner,[1] a neurosurgeon whom Moser met while researching "Ben Casey." Warner served as the program's original technical advisor in 1961. He worked closely with the actors, showing them how to handle medical instruments, according to an article in TV Guide (September 30-October 6, 1961).

"Ben Casey" had several directors including Irvin Kershner and Sydney Pollack. Its theme song was written by David Raksin; a version performed by pianist Valjean was a Top 40 hit in the United States.

Filmed at the Desilu Studios, the series was produced by Bing Crosby Productions.

Spin-off[edit]

According to IMDb, Vince Edwards appeared on the TV series Breaking Point as Ben Casey. The episode was "Solo for B-Flat Clarinet" and debuted 16 September 1963. Both Ben Casey and Breaking Point were produced by Bing Crosby Productions.[2][3] Members of Breaking Point also had guest roles on Ben Casey.

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 32 October 2, 1961 (1961-10-02) May 28, 1962 (1962-05-28)
2 31 October 1, 1962 (1962-10-01) May 13, 1963 (1963-05-13)
3 33 September 9, 1963 (1963-09-09) April 22, 1964 (1964-04-22)
4 31 September 14, 1964 (1964-09-14) May 17, 1965 (1965-05-17)
5 26 September 13, 1965 (1965-09-13) March 21, 1966 (1966-03-21)


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

Reception[edit]

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.

Nielsen Ratings

NOTE: The highest average rating for the series is in bold text.

Season Rank Rating
1) 1961-1962 #18 23.7
2) 1962-1963 #7 28.7 (Tied with The Danny Thomas Show)
3) 1963-1964 Not in the Top 30
4) 1964-1965
5) 1965-1966

Television series tie-ins[edit]

Comics[edit]

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.[4][5][6] 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.

Novels[edit]

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,[7] A Rage for Justice by Norman Daniels,[8] The Strength of His Hands by Sam Elkin,[9] and The Fire Within, again by Daniels,[10] small-print standard mass-market size paperbacks of 128 or 144 pages each, typical of tie-ins of the period. The covers of the books featured photographs of Edwards as Casey or, in the case of the last novel, a drawing of a doctor with Edwards' appearance.

1988 television film The Return of Ben Casey[edit]

In 1988, the made-for-TV-movie The Return of Ben Casey, with Vince Edwards reprising his role as Casey,[11][12] aired in syndication. Harry Landers was the only other original cast member to reprise his role (as Dr. Ted Hoffman). The film was directed by Joseph L. Scanlan.[11][12] The pilot was not picked up by the major networks to bring the series back.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1962 the series inspired a semi-comic rock song, "Callin' Dr. Casey," written and performed by 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. The song reached #83 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[14]

During the Vietnam War, the term "Ben Casey" was used by American troops as slang for a medic.[15][16]

The term "Ben Casey" has also been used for many years in Australia to denote a type of side-buttoning uniform jacket for doctors, dentists and pharmacists, similar to the one worn by the main character on the TV show.

Parodies[edit]

The long-running Cleveland, Ohio late-night movie program The Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show and its successor program, The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show, regularly aired comedy skits under the title "Ben Crazy" that parodied Ben Casey. The skits opened with a spoof of the chalkboard sequence, adding one more symbol at the end — a dollar sign ($), accompanied by a laugh track. "Big Chuck" Schodowski, one of the hosts of the show, said that the skits continued to air for so many years after the 1966 cancellation of Ben Casey that younger viewers probably did not recognize the opening, and also that real-life doctors would send in ideas for skits, some of which were used on the show.[17][18]

Dickie Goodman released a novelty song in 1962 entitled "Ben Crazy" that parodied Ben Casey as "Ben Crazy", Dr. Zorba as "Dr. Smorba", and also parodied Dr. Kildare, the main character on another popular 1960s medical drama series. Goodman's recording used his "break-in" technique of sampling lines from then-popular songs to "answer" comedic questions; it also sampled the Ben Casey title sequence and theme. The record reached #44 on the Billboard Hot 100.[19] [20]

The Flintstones episode "Monster Fred" (Season 5, episode 2, 1964) featured a mad doctor character named "Len Frankenstone" (voiced by Allan Melvin) and his associate, "Dr. Zero" (voiced by Doug Young). These characters were parodies of Ben Casey and Dr. Zorba.[21]

The veterinarian in The Simpsons, first introduced in the episode "Dog of Death" performing surgery on Santa's Little Helper, was based on Ben Casey.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bowie, Stephen (August 5, 2013). "“Man. Woman. Birth. Death. Infinity.” The dark medical drama Ben Casey". The A.V. Club. Chicago: Onion, Inc. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  2. ^ Buhle 2005, p. 34.
  3. ^ Spigel & Curtin 1997, p. 144.
  4. ^ Lent 2006, p. 36.
  5. ^ Cooke 2000, pp. 50–55, 101–109.
  6. ^ Cooke 2002, pp. 50–55, 101–109.
  7. ^ Johnston, William (1962). Ben Casey (Paperback ed.). New York City: Lancer Books. ASIN B000BKINE4. 
  8. ^ Daniels, Norman (1962). Ben Casey:A Rage For Justice (1st ed.). New York City: Lancer Books. ASIN B002DGL6XE. 
  9. ^ Elkin, Sam (1963). The Strength of His Hands (Ben Casey: TV Tie-In) (Paperback ed.). New York City: Lancer Books. ASIN B000AQH6WY. 
  10. ^ Daniels, Norman (1963). Ben Casey: The Fire Within (1st ed.). New York City: Lancer Books. ASIN B000IZV4A2. 
  11. ^ a b "The Return of Ben Casey". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "The Return of Ben Casey". Hollywood.com. Boca Raton, Florida. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  13. ^ Grimes, William (March 16, 1996). "Vince Edwards, 67, the Doctor In the Hit TV Series 'Ben Casey'". The New York Times (New York City: The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 10, 2008. 
  14. ^ "'Callin' Dr. Casey' by John D. Loudermilk 1962". Song–database. Bristol, Virginia: Song://Database. Retrieved January 16, 2016. 
  15. ^ Wise 2004, p. 264.
  16. ^ Anonymous (November 5, 2013). "A Grunt's Glossary". How Goes the Battle. Blogger. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2016. 
  17. ^ Watson 1991, p. 81.
  18. ^ Schodowski & Feran 2008, p. 175.
  19. ^ "'Ben Crazy' by Dickie Goodman (Dickie Goodman and Dr. I.M. Ill) 1962". Song–database. Bristol, Virginia: Song://Database. Retrieved January 16, 2016. 
  20. ^ "'Crazy' Man Crazy". Billboard (Cincinnati, Ohio: Prometheus Global Media). June 16, 1962. p. 5. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  21. ^ Forry 1990, p. 127.
  22. ^ Groening 1997, p. 84.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]