Edward Paul Flanders
December 29, 1934
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||February 22, 1995 (aged 60)|
Denny, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide|
(m. 1954; div. 1959)
(m. 1963; div. 1968)
(m. 1985; div. 1992)
|Children||3 sons and 1 daughter|
Edward Paul Flanders (December 29, 1934 – February 22, 1995) was an American actor. He is best known for playing Dr. Donald Westphall in the medical drama series St. Elsewhere (1982–1988). Flanders was nominated for eight Primetime Emmys and won three times in 1976, 1977, and 1983.
He received a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his performance in the 1973 production of A Moon for the Misbegotten.
Flanders was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Bernice (née Brown) and Francis Michael Grey Flanders. His mother was killed in an automobile accident when he was 14. After graduating from Patrick Henry High School (where he played hockey) in 1952, he enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as an X-ray technician.
After his service with the United States Army ended, Flanders began his acting career on Broadway before moving on to guest parts in television series. From 1967 through 1975, Flanders appeared in more than a dozen American TV shows, including six appearances on Hawaii Five-O (as six different characters). During this time, he was also prolific in TV movies. He married actress Ellen Geer, with whom he had a son, Ian Flanders (born 1966) before they divorced.
In the late 1970s, Flanders moved away from small TV roles to take major credits in both TV and feature films, while continuing his stage career. In 1974, Flanders won a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Dramatic Presentation for A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neill on Broadway. He also won an Emmy award in 1976 for the TV movie adaptation of A Moon for the Misbegotten.
In 1982, he began his role in St. Elsewhere that earned him five Emmy Award nominations as Outstanding Lead Actor in a TV Series, winning the award in 1983. After a stormy departure from the series in 1987, he returned for two more episodes in 1988, including the series finale. During a scene in which Westphall addressed the staff, Flanders began speaking extemporaneously about the quality of art and had to be edited for broadcast. His exit on St. Elsewhere as a regular cast member was titled Moon for the Misbegotten after the play that won him a Tony Award. The episode gained much publicity as Westphall left the hospital after "mooning" his new boss, Dr. John Gideon (played by Ronny Cox). Flanders continued his working relationship with executive producer Bruce Paltrow in the short-lived 1994 CBS series The Road Home.
In addition to his six-year role as Dr. Donald Westphall, Flanders is noted as the actor who has played President Harry Truman more times, and in more separate productions, than any other. He portrayed Truman at the end of World War II and during the Korean War in Truman at Potsdam, Harry S. Truman: Plain Speaking, and MacArthur. In MacArthur, Flanders had second billing to Gregory Peck's lead as General Douglas MacArthur.
Along with Jason Robards, Robin Williams, and Anthony Hopkins, Flanders is on a short list of actors who have portrayed two U.S. presidents having also portrayed Calvin Coolidge in the television miniseries Backstairs at the White House.
In feature films, Flanders performed major roles in two dark movies based on novels by William Peter Blatty. In the first, The Ninth Configuration (1980), he plays Col. Richard Fell, a self-effacing medic at a secret U.S. Army psychiatric facility who assists Marine psychiatrist Col. Vincent Kane (Stacy Keach). The film was based on Blatty's 1978 novel of the same name, itself a reworking of his earlier, darkly satirical novel Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane (1966). In 1990, Flanders played Father Dyer alongside star George C. Scott in Blatty's The Exorcist III based on the novel Legion.
One of Flanders's best-remembered TV guest roles was in the first season M*A*S*H episode "Yankee Doodle Doctor", playing film director Lt. Duane William Bricker, who is making a documentary about M*A*S*H units and visits to the 4077th. After Hawkeye and Trapper sabotage his effort, Bricker abandons the project and leaves.
Flanders also played nationally known journalist William Allen White in the 1977 made-for-TV movie Mary White. This movie was based on the famous eulogy White wrote about his daughter after her death in 1922 due to a blow to the head while riding her horse. He also appeared in the 1979 made-for-TV-horror-miniseries Salem's Lot as Dr. Bill Norton. He also played news anchor John Woodley in the 1983 made-for-TV suspense drama Special Bulletin, about a group of environmentalists who threaten to detonate a nuclear weapon in Charleston, South Carolina.
After three divorces, chronic pain from a back injury sustained in automobile accident in 1989, and a lifelong battle with depression, Flanders died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on February 22, 1995, in Denny, California at the age of 60. No suicide note was found, and his remains were cremated.
Flanders won the 1974 Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Dramatic Presentation for his performance in A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neill, for which he also received the 1974 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance.