Ben Casey is an American medical drama series that aired 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 uttered, "Man, woman, birth, death, infinity." Neurosurgeon Joseph Ransohoff served as a medical consultant for the show.
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|
Worldvision Enterprises (1973-1999)
Paramount Domestic Television
CBS Television Distribution
|Picture format||Black and white|
|Original release||October 2, 1961 –|
March 21, 1966
|Followed by||The Return of Ben Casey (TV movie, 1988)|
The series stars Vince Edwards as medical doctor Ben Casey, the young, intense but idealistic neurosurgeon at County General Hospital. His mentor is chief of neurosurgery Doctor David Zorba, played by Sam Jaffe, who, in the pilot episode, tells a colleague that Casey is "the best chief resident this place has known in 20 years." In its first season, the series and Vince Edwards were nominated for Emmy awards. Additional nominations at the 14th Primetime Emmy Awards on May 22, 1962, went to Sam Jaffe, Jeanne Cooper (for the episode "But Linda Only Smiled"), and Joan Hackett (for the episode "A Certain Time, A Certain Darkness"). The show began running multi-episode stories, starting with the first five episodes of season four; Casey developed a romantic relationship with Jane Hancock (Stella Stevens), who had just emerged from a coma after 15 years. At the beginning of season five (the last season), Jaffe left the show and Franchot Tone replaced Zorba as new chief of neurosurgery, Doctor Daniel Niles Freeland.
- Vince Edwards as Dr. Ben Casey
- Sam Jaffe as Dr. David Zorba (1961–1965)
- Harry Landers as Dr. Ted Hoffman
- Bettye Ackerman as Dr. Maggie Graham (In real life, Bettye Ackerman was married to Sam Jaffe.)
- Nick Dennis as Orderly Nick Kanavaras
- Jeanne Bates as Nurse Wills
- Franchot Tone as Dr. Daniel Niles Freeland (1965–1966)
Creator James E. Moser based the character of Ben Casey on Dr. Allan Max Warner, 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 music was written by David Raksin; a version performed by pianist Valjean was a top 40 hit in the United States.
Vince Edwards appeared on the television 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. Members of Breaking Point also had guest roles on Ben Casey.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||32||October 2, 1961||May 28, 1962|
|2||31||October 1, 1962||May 13, 1963|
|3||33||September 9, 1963||April 22, 1964|
|4||31||September 14, 1964||May 17, 1965|
|5||26||September 13, 1965||March 21, 1966|
- Original run
The most frequent time slot for the series is in bold text.
- Monday at 10–11 p.m. on ABC: October 2, 1961 — May 13, 1963; September 14, 1964 — March 21, 1966
- Wednesday at 9–10 p.m. on ABC: September 9, 1963 — April 22, 1964
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.
|2) 1962–1963||#7||28.7 (Tied with The Danny Thomas Show)|
|3) 1963–1964||Not in the top 30|
Television series tie-insEdit
Both a comic strip and a comic book were based on the television series. The strip was developed and written by Jerry Capp (née Caplin) and drawn by Neal Adams. The daily comic strip began on November 26, 1962, and the Sunday strip debuted on September 20, 1964. Both ended on July 31, 1966 (a Sunday). 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 photo covers, except for that of the final issue, which was drawn by John Tartaglione.
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. 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 CaseyEdit
In 1988, the made-for-TV-movie The Return of Ben Casey, with Vince Edwards reprising his role as Casey, 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. The pilot was not picked up by the major networks to bring the series back.
In popular cultureEdit
In 1962, the series inspired a semicomic 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 number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
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.
Dickie Goodman released a novelty song in 1962 titled "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 number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Flintstones episode "Monster Fred" (season five, episode two, 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.
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- Elkin, Sam (1963). The Strength of His Hands (Ben Casey: TV Tie-In) (Paperback ed.). New York City: Lancer Books. ASIN B000AQH6WY.
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