Monday, June 29, 2020


Leo Rosten's 1961 novel Captain Newman, M.D. remained on the New York Times Best Seller List for 24 straight weeks. The film adaptation by Richard Breen (A Foreign Affair) and Phoebe Ephron and Henry Ephron (The Jackpot) was Oscar-nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

Leading man Gregory Peck is uncredited as a co-producer along with Robert Arthur (Operation Petticoat), and the movie was directed by David Miller (Lonely Are the Brave). Captain Newman, M.D. was nominated for the Golden Globe's Best Film Promoting International Understanding, a category they featured from 1945 to 1963.

Set in a military hospital in the American southwest during WW2 the episodic film focuses on Ward 7, the neuropsychiatric ward run by Captain Josiah Newman. Jo cares deeply for these troubled men and is relentless in working for their welfare.

Capt. Newman: "We're short of beds, doctors, orderlies, nurses, everything except patients."

Newman's devotion does not go unnoticed by Col. Pyser played by James Gregory.

Col. Pyser: "His Ward 7's got the lowest return-to-duty rate in the entire Area Command. Psychosis, he says. Neurosis!"

Tony Curtis, Gregory Peck

Whether it is supplies or personnel Newman finds a way to get what he needs and that is how a new orderly, Cpl. Jake Leibowitz played by Tony Curtis is misdirected away from his intended assignment.

Capt. Newman: "Leibowitz, this is a perfectly safe ward. There is no danger involved. Patients in my ward are not allowed to have matches or razors or sharp objects of any kind."

Leibowitz: "But teeth they got."

Angie Dickinson, Gregory Peck

It doesn't take long before Leibowitz adapts to Ward 7 and becomes as important to its running as Captain Newman himself. Angie Dickinson plays nurse Lt. Francie Corum who gives up fighting her attraction to Jo, and transfers to Ward 7 joining Jane Withers as Lt. Grace Blodgett.

The patients in the ward provide a cross-section of ranks and problems. If Captain Newman's methods do not always prove successful, he is resourceful enough to switch tactics, always with their protection and health in mind.

Eddie Albert

Eddie Albert gives a bravura performance as Col. Algate Norvel Bliss whose return to command is desired by the Pentagon. Col. Bliss's personality has splintered and Dr. Newman will not release the violent patient until they discover the basis for his illness.

Gregory Peck, Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin was Oscar-nominated as "Little" Jim Tompkins, an airman whose denial of his trauma could be disastrous. Robert Duvall is a soldier from a privileged background who is retreating into himself rather than face his actions during a crisis. Bethel Leslie is outstanding as his equally privileged and uptight wife.

The cast includes Dick Sergeant as a wry bureaucratic observer, Larry Storch as Gavoni, an apoplectic orderly (thanks to that rascally Leibowitz), and Vito Scotti as an Italian POW. Yes, a group of Italian POWs is assigned to Ward 7, the only ward that gets locked up. They arrive in time for Christmas. Such a Christmas party you have never seen!

Ward 7

Captain Newman, M.D. has memorable vignettes that run the gamut of emotions and features some excellent performances. Leibowitz is one of my favourite characterizations from Tony Curtis. I like to think that somewhere behind the intense young actor and the later over-the-top Hollywood facade, there was a kernel of Jake Leibowitz in his heart.

A 1972 TV movie of Captain Newman, M.D., produced by Richard Crenna and Danny Thomas starred Jim Hutton and Joan Van Ark in an unsold series pilot.

TCM is screening Captain Newman, M.D. on Monday, July 13th in primetime, following Some Like It Hot as part of the July salute to Tony Curtis as the Star of the Month. The remainder of the late night viewing is The Perfect Furlough, Who Was That Lady?, and The Great Race.

Of note:

This Monday night lineup on TCM can also be considered (I certainly consider it so) as a tribute to Larry Storch whose comedy performances enliven not only Captain Newman, M.D. but the fun spoof Who Was That Lady? and The Great Race. Three cheers and toast to Larry who turned 97 this past January 8th.


  1. How is Bobby Darin as an actor? I probably know more whim as a singer than an actor.

    1. Bobby is as versatile an actor as he was a vocalist. At home in comedy as in If a Man Answers and Come September, but I think he's even better in drama as in this movie, Pressure Point, and Too Late Blues.

      Aficionados will want to check out The John Gilman Story from season 8 of Wagon Train.

  2. Paddy Lee, I hope you are doing well on this last day of June. As always, I really enjoyed reading your fine write-up of what I think is a really good movie. I hadn't seen it in awhile, so your write-up prodded me to watch it again. We say this a lot when it comes to Classic Movies, but I'll say it once again, What a cast!

    CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D. is a drama with the right mixture of humor in the mix. Also, the movie makers, at this time-1963, still could make a military movie and show respect towards the actual military.

    I enjoyed myself observing some of the unknown actors, some of which became better known later on, that were in Patient Ward 7. Ted Bessell, Charlie Briggs, Paul Carr, Marc Cavell, Mike Farrell, and Cal Bolder.

    Keep writing these wonderful write-ups. Walter S.

    1. Walter, hope you are doing well.

      Captain Newman, M.D. is a great opportunity for actors working in an ensemble and those familiar faces are an extra special treat for old movie fans such as we.

      I first saw this movie in my teen years and then read Rosten's novel in my 20s. I used to haunt second-hand book stores. A recent watch prior to the write-up impressed as of old. I don't recall it screening on TCM in the past. I hope it pleases old fans and gets new ones.

  3. LARRY STORCH and VITO SCOTTI were in the same COLUMBO episode-the one with DICK VAN DYKE. They had no scenes together. Larry played a driving instructor. Vito played a man who had been drinking when he heard a gunshot. Vito did six eps of Columbo.

    1. I hadn't made that connection. Thanks for pointing it out.

  4. Paddy Lee, I first saw CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D. on the NBC SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES in 1968 and later I saw it again in the 1970's. I re-watched it yesterday on YouTube, which has a pretty good print. Another actor that I recognized portraying a patient in Ward 7 was Rex Holman. I know it is him, although he isn't listed in the credits, or the uncredited list, which is on IMDb. This movie should be added to his credits.

    I haven't read Leo Rosten's novel. I've read that the novel was loosely based on the experiences of Rosten's close friend Ralph Greenson M.D. Dr. Greenson later became the psychiatrist to the Hollywood stars. Tony Curtis was one of his patients.

    Yes, my wife Cheryl and I are glad to be home. Cheryl is now in remission from her B-Cell PLL Leukemia. This has been a trying time for us and we live one day at a time.

    Look forward to your next write-up. Walter S.

    1. "Remission" is a lovely word. I am so pleased to hear the news.

      Fortunately our daughter Janet can work from home (animator) my husband is smart enough to know how to occupy himself (guitar, walks) during the COVIC-19 lockdown. My lifestyle hasn't changed much due to dialysis 3x a week.

      Our autistic/developmentally delayed son hasn't been able to come home for his weekend visits in months. The group home says he has adapted except is a little "off" on Saturdays. We send him letters which he seems to enjoy, or maybe it is just the candy I slip inside.

    2. Paddy Lee, you and your family will get through these trying times, as we will. We'll persevere once again, just as our ancestors did, so that we could be here today.

      To you, your family, and all your readers take care and stay safe. Walter S.

    3. Thank you. All our best wishes are going out to you and yours. We have to do what is necessary during these days.

  5. I am going to name five western movies with GREGORY PECK and put them in the order that I liked them best-THE GUNFIGHTER, YELLOW SKY, THE BIG COUNTRY, HOW THE WEST WAS WON and DUEL IN THE SUN.

    1. Gregory Peck made some very interesting movies. I like your western choices and I'll put them in my order: The Big Country, Yellow Sky, The Gunfighter, How the West Was Won, and Duel in the Sun.



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