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Vince Edwards, TV’s ‘Ben Casey,’ Dies at 67

March 12, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Vince Edwards, who as ``Ben Casey″ in the 1960s launched a tradition of handsome, brooding TV doctors that continues today with stars like ``ER’s″ George Clooney, has died of cancer. He was 67.

Edwards died at 7:40 p.m. Monday at UCLA Medical Center. He was suffering from pancreatic cancer and had been hospitalized for about 10 days, manager T.J. Castronovo said Tuesday.

``He was saying he was going to beat it,″ Castronovo said.

Castronovo recalled his client and friend as ``a sweetheart.″

``He was really an easygoing guy.″

But it was as the serious and sometimes difficult Dr. Casey on the 1961-66 ABC series that Edwards gained fame. A rare TV antihero, Casey battled disease as well as the medical establishment.

Casey’s mentor at County General Hospital was respected neurosurgeon Dr. David Zorba, played by the late Sam Jaffe.

The series, one of ABC’s most popular, had the kind of hard-driving realism that has made NBC’s ``ER″ a major hit. A Time magazine review of ``Ben Casey″ said it accurately captured ``the feeling of sleepless intensity in a metropolitan hospital.″

Edwards also enjoyed the kind of fan adulation given to ``ER″ stars such as Clooney _ and then some.

Clooney has yet to score a hit pop song like that inspired by ``Ben Casey″ and NBC’s medical hit of the same season, ``Dr. Kildare,″ starring Richard Chamberlain: ``Dr. Kildare! Dr. Casey! You are wanted for consultation.″

In a 1988 interview, Edwards recalled how success came to the series _ and to him _ in a matter of weeks.

``My picture was on the cover of Look and Life magazines,″ he told The Associated Press. ``I went from obscurity to fame. What a cultural shock that was. It just exploded.″

Edwards, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., began his acting career on the stage in the 1940s and appeared in films and on television during the 1950s.

Among the TV productions in which he appeared were ``Fireside Theatre,″ ``The Untouchables″ and ``Alfred Hitchcock Presents.″

In the early 1960s, his pursuit of a musical career produced a best-selling album, ``Vince Edwards Sings.″

His post-``Casey″ work included another medical series, ``Matt Lincoln,″ in which he played a hip psychiatrist running an inner-city telephone hot line for troubled teen-agers. It lasted a single season, 1970-71.

Edwards also appeared in TV movies including ``Cover Girls,″ ``The Courage and the Passion″ and ``Firehouse.″

A syndicated movie, ``The Return of Ben Casey,″ aired in 1988. The mature Casey, according to the story line, had gone to Vietnam as a surgeon, married and divorced.

Edwards is survived by his wife, Janet Edwards. Survivors also include three daughters and his twin brother, Bob Zoin.

Funeral plans were not immediately announced.

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