Family & Companions
Stiffly handsome leading man of some 50s features, but mostly remembered as Dr. Ben Casey, neurosurgeon, on "Ben Casey," an ABC series which aired from 1961-66, Vince Edwards spent his post-Casey career fighting off the image of the brooding, caring doctor who broke a minor TV taboo when he unbuttoned his frock and revealed a forest of chest hair. Edwards had originally dreamed of swimming in the Olympics, but when an appendectomy put a damper on those dreams he turned to acting. He made his Broadway debut in 1947 in "High Button Shoes." By 1951, he was under contract to Paramount in Hollywood and made his debut in a low-budget programmer, "Mr. Universe," playing a wrestler being groomed as the "new find." Hollywood casting practices put him in a version of the Native American legend "Hiawatha" (1952). But his subsequent film roles were of the supporting variety in the 50s, including a small one in "The Three Faces of Eve" (1957). Having begun appearing on TV dramas in the mid-50s, including "Ford Theatre" (1955), Edwards was ripe for a series when "Ben Casey" came his way in 1961. He had been picked by the show's executive producer and owner, Bing Crosby. The same year ABC premiered "Casey," NBC premiered the TV version of "Dr. Kildare" and viewers debated their preference for the five years both were on the air. "Ben Casey" was often grittier, dealing with the poignancy of life and death. Edwards also became one of the first TV stars to step behind the cameras, directing about 20 of the 154 "Ben Casey" episodes produced. And he used the show to launch a singing career, recording six albums, including "Vince Edwards Sings," and playing Las Vegas. But the demise of the series temporarily stymied his career, as if often the case as the audience searches for a new face. In 1964, Edwards appeared in the first 20 minutes of Carl Foreman's oddly-structured feature "The Victors," and in 1968, he was helping William Holden create a commando force in "The Devil's Brigade," but the period in between roles increased. Edwards turned back to TV in 1970 playing a hip psychiatrist working with teens in the one-season series "Matt Lincoln." He also made his TV movie debut in "Sole Survivor" for ABC. In 1973, he directed the CBS TV movie "Maneater" and he had strong roles in two TV movies of the decade, "The Rhinemann Exchange," in which he was a general gathering information from a spying Stephen Collins (NBC, 1977), and "Evening in Byzantium" (1978), one of the first syndicated TV movies. But Edwards found himself less in demand in the 80s. An old friend, manager-producer Jay Bernstein, hired Edwards to co-star in the 1986 TV movie "The Return of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" and Edwards went on to direct episodes of the "Mike Hammer" series for CBS as well as episodes of "Fantasy Island," "Police Story," and "In The Heat of the Night." In 1988, he made the syndicated TV movie "The Return of Ben Casey," playing the stalwart doctor as having been in Vietnam, married and divorced. He died of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles on March 13, 1996.
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Made Broadway acting debut in "High Button Shoes"
Signed to contract by Paramount; made film debut in "Mr. Universe"
Began working in TV with "Ford Theatre"
Starred as "Ben Casey"; also directed 20 episodes of series
Made TV movie debut in "Sole Survivor"
Starred in "The Rhinemann Exchange" (NBC)
Put stethoscope back on for "The Return of Ben Casey"