Ed Flanders

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Ed Flanders
Flanders in The Ninth Configuration (1980)
Edward Paul Flanders

(1934-12-29)December 29, 1934
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedFebruary 22, 1995(1995-02-22) (aged 60)
Years active1967–1995
Bennye Kelly
(m. 1954; div. 1959)
(m. 1963; div. 1968)
Cody Lambert
(m. 1985; div. 1992)

Edward Paul Flanders (December 29, 1934 – February 22, 1995)[1] was an American actor. He is best known for playing Dr. Donald Westphall in the medical drama series St. Elsewhere (1982–1988). Flanders was nominated for eight Primetime Emmys and won three times in 1976, 1977, and 1983.

He received a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his performance in the 1973 production of A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Early life[edit]

Flanders was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Bernice (née Brown) and Francis Michael Grey Flanders.[2] His mother was killed in an automobile crash when he was 14. After graduating from Patrick Henry High School (where he played hockey) in 1952, he enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as an X-ray technician.[citation needed]

Early career[edit]

After his service with the United States Army ended, Flanders began his acting career on Broadway before moving on to guest parts in television series. From 1967 through 1975, Flanders appeared in more than a dozen American TV shows, including six appearances on Hawaii Five-O (as five different characters). During this time, he was also prolific in TV movies. He married actress Ellen Geer, with whom he had a son, Ian Flanders (born 1966) before they divorced.

In the late 1970s, Flanders moved away from small TV roles to take major credits in both TV and feature films, while continuing his stage career. In 1974, Flanders won a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Dramatic Presentation for A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neill on Broadway. He also won an Emmy award in 1976 for the TV movie adaptation of A Moon for the Misbegotten.[3]

St. Elsewhere[edit]

In 1982, he began his role in St. Elsewhere that earned him five Emmy Award nominations as Outstanding Lead Actor in a TV Series, winning the award in 1983. After a stormy departure from the series in 1987, he returned for two more episodes in 1988, including the series finale. During a scene in which Westphall addressed the staff, Flanders began speaking extemporaneously about the quality of art and had to be edited for broadcast. Although he later returned for guest appearances, his exit on St. Elsewhere as a regular cast member was titled Moon for the Misbegotten after the play that won him a Tony Award. The episode gained much publicity as Westphall left the hospital after "mooning" his new boss, Dr. John Gideon (played by Ronny Cox). Flanders continued his working relationship with executive producer Bruce Paltrow in the short-lived 1994 CBS series The Road Home.[4]

Notable roles[edit]

In addition to his six-year role as Dr. Donald Westphall, Flanders is noted as the actor who has played President Harry Truman more times, and in more separate productions, than any other. He portrayed Truman at the end of World War II and during the Korean War in Truman at Potsdam, Harry S. Truman: Plain Speaking, and MacArthur. In MacArthur, Flanders had second billing to Gregory Peck's lead as General Douglas MacArthur.[4]

In feature films, Flanders performed major roles in two dark movies based on novels by William Peter Blatty. In the first, The Ninth Configuration (1980), he plays Col. Richard Fell, a self-effacing medic at a secret U.S. Army psychiatric facility who assists Marine psychiatrist Col. Vincent Kane (Stacy Keach). The film was based on Blatty's 1978 novel of the same name, itself a reworking of his earlier, darkly satirical novel Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane (1966). In 1990, Flanders played Father Dyer alongside star George C. Scott in Blatty's The Exorcist III based on the novel Legion.

Flanders was in the first season M*A*S*H episode "Yankee Doodle Doctor", playing film director Lt. Duane William Bricker, who is making a documentary about M*A*S*H units and visits the 4077th. After Hawkeye and Trapper sabotage his effort, Bricker abandons the project and leaves.

Flanders also played nationally known journalist William Allen White in the 1977 made-for-TV movie Mary White. This movie was based on the famous eulogy White wrote about his daughter following her death in 1922 due to a blow to the head while riding her horse. He also appeared in the 1979 made-for-TV-horror-miniseries Salem's Lot as Dr. Bill Norton. He also played news anchor John Woodley in the 1983 made-for-TV suspense drama Special Bulletin, about a group of environmentalists who threaten to detonate a nuclear weapon in Charleston, South Carolina.

Later life and death[edit]

After three divorces, chronic pain from a back injury sustained in an automobile crash in 1989, and a lifelong battle with depression, Flanders died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on February 22, 1995, in Denny, California at the age of 60. No suicide note was found, and his remains were cremated.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

Ed Flanders was referenced in "Marge in Chains", the twenty-first episode of the fourth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons (1993). When Ned Flanders assures Marge Simpson "We've all had our brushes with the law," Ned recalls the time a policeman knocked at his door, mistaking him for Ed Flanders. This led to Ned adopting a "Howdy! My name is NED" badge so he would "never have that problem again."




Awards and honors[edit]

Emmy nominations[edit]

  • 1979 – Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special, for: Backstairs at the White House
  • 1984 – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for: St. Elsewhere
  • 1985 – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for: St. Elsewhere
  • 1986 – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for: St. Elsewhere
  • 1987 – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for: St. Elsewhere

Emmy Awards (won)[edit]

  • 1976 – Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in Comedy or Drama Special, for: A Moon for the Misbegotten
  • 1977 – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama or Comedy Special, for: Harry S. Truman: Plain Speaking
  • 1983 – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for: St. Elsewhere[4]

Theatrical awards[edit]

Flanders won the 1974 Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Dramatic Presentation for his performance in A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neill, for which he also received the 1974 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance.[6]



  1. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 19, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). McFarland. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  2. ^ "Ed Flanders Biography (1934–1995)". Film Reference Library. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present. Random House. p. 1646. ISBN 978-0-3074-8320-1.
  4. ^ a b c "Ed Flanders, 60, Actor Known For His Work in 'St. Elsewhere'". The New York Times. March 2, 1995. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  5. ^ Gliatto, Tom (March 20, 1995). "From Elsewhere to Nowhere". People. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  6. ^ "Ed Flanders: Awards". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved February 8, 2018.

External links[edit]