Family & Companions
Sturdy character actor and character lead of American stage, TV and film, Ed Flanders is best recalled as Dr. Westphall, the doctor who cared too diligently for his patients in the NBC series "St. Elsewhere." Fans of the show will forever recall that when Flanders decided to leave the series after five seasons, the producers eliminated his character by having Dr. Westphall moon the money-grubbing hospital executive, a move that caused one NBC affiliate to decline to air the episode. Flanders began as a stage actor, toiling amidst the footlights in Manitoba, Milwaukee, San Diego, and even the prestigious Guthrie in his hometown of Minneapolis before making his Broadway debut as Goldberg in the 1967 production of Harold Pinter's "The Birthday Party." He later played on Broadway in a revival of "A Moon for the Misbegotten" as the crusty Phil Hogan, for which he won and Tony and which he repeated to Emmy-winning results in the ABC version of the play in 1976. Flanders also played New York as crusading anti-war Father Daniel Berrigan in "Trial of the Catonsville Nine," a role he reprised in the 1972 film based on the stage drama. Flanders made his film debut in "The Grasshopper," a 1970 Jacqueline Bisset vehicle, and played Harry Truman in "MacArthur" in 1977. But it was on TV that Flanders had his greatest successes. He first made it to TV in a 1967 episode of the TV series "Cimarron Strip," and the 1971 TV movie "Goodbye Raggedy Andy." After the ABC production of "A Moon for the Misbegotten," the roles increased in size. He played the title role in "Harry S Truman: Plain Speaking" on PBS in 1977, and in 1979, he played Calvin Coolidge in the miniseries "Backstairs at the White House," which followed the 20th Century at the presidential residence from the perspective of the household staff. He was in the presidential arena again in 1989 when he portrayed Leonard Garment, advisor to Richard Nixon, in the ABC presentation of "The Final Days." In 1982, Flanders was cast as Dr. Westphall, the caring doctor with the warm bedside manner in contrast to William Daniels' arrogant heart specialist. Dr. Westphall also contended with an autistic son. Although Flanders left the series before the final season, he was brought back for the final episode to say a farewell to St. Eligius Hospital, and, to reveal to the audience that the entire series had been a figment of the imagination of Westphall's autistic son, and, in fact, Westphall was not a doctor at all, but a working stiff. After the demise of the series, Flanders did an occasional TV longform or feature film, but spent most of his time at his home in Northern California. He returned to series TV briefly in the short-lived "Road Home," as shrimp boater Walter Babineaux, but returned to his home when it was cancelled. It was there, at home, that he committed suicide in 1995.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Began professional career with Manitoba Theatre Centre, Canada, and with Milwaukee Repertory Company, WI
With Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, CA
With Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
Broadway debut, "The Birthday Party"; TV debut, episode of "Cimarron Strip"
Film debut, "The Grasshopper"
Starred as Father Daniel Berrigan in "Trial of the Cantonsville Nine" in N.Y. and L.A.; TV movie debut, "Goodbye, Raggedy Ann"
Reprised role of Father Berrigan in film version of "The Trial of the Cantonsville Nine"
Phil Hogan in "A Moon for the Misbegotten" On Broadway
Reprised Hogan in ABC-TV version of "A Moon for the Misbegotten"
Portrayed President Calvin Coolidge in "Backstairs at the White House" miniseries
Joseph Welch in "Citizen Cohn" (HBO)
Walter Babineaux in "The Road Home" series