Captain Newman, M.D. is a 1963 American comedy drama film directed by David Miller and starring Gregory Peck, Tony Curtis, Angie Dickinson, Robert Duvall, Eddie Albert and Bobby Darin.
In 1944, Captain Josiah Newman is head of the neuro-psychiatric Ward 7 at the Colfax Army Air Field (AAF) military hospital, located in the Arizona desert. As he explains to a visiting VIP who wanders in: “We’re short of beds, doctors, orderlies, nurses, everything … except patients.” He will use unconventional tactics to treat his patients and to recruit much needed personnel, as when he hijacks a new and very reluctant orderly, Corporal Jackson Leibowitz, a wheeler-dealer from New Jersey. Leibowitz promptly has the entire ward participating in a sing-along of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
Newman also takes great pains to court nurse Lieutenant Francie Corum on what she thinks is a date… until he asks her to transfer to Ward 7. Their ‘date/fight’ is cut short by a phone call: Colonel Bliss has forced his way into Ward 7 looking for Dr. Newman with a 6-inch knife, because Newman blocked his return to active duty after witnessing Bliss’ erratic behaviour. After watching Newman’s handling of this situation and other patients on the ward, Corum transfers in.
Newman treats shell-shocked, schizophrenic and catatonic patients, facing an especial challenge from the traumatized Corporal Jim Tompkins, an Eighth Air Force air gunner whose mind has been shattered by his war experiences. He is bedevilled by Colfax AAF’s “old-school” base commander, Colonel Pyser, who ultimately saddles him with a complement of injured Italian POWs because his is the only secure ward in the hospital. In addition, a flock of constantly straying sheep (kept for the medical lab) that find their way to the airfield and a set of feuding orderlies keeps life interesting right up to Christmas 1944.
- Gregory Peck as Captain Newman, M.D., MC, USAR.
- Tony Curtis as Corporal Jackson Leibowitz, USAAF, de facto boss of the orderlies.
- Angie Dickinson as 1st Lieutenant Francie Corum, NC, USAR.
- Eddie Albert as Colonel Norval Bliss, USAAF.
- Bobby Darin as Corporal Jim Tompkins, USAAF.
- Robert Duvall as Captain Winston.
- Bethel Leslie as Helene Winston.
- James Gregory as Colonel Pyser, USAAF.
- Dick Sargent as Lieutenant Alderson.
- Larry Storch as Corporal Gavoni.
- Jane Withers as 1st Lieutenant Blodgett.
- Vito Scotti as Major Alfredo Fortuno, Italian POW Senior Officer.
- Gregory Walcott as Captain Howard.
Awards and Nominations
The film was nominated for three Academy Awards.
- Best Supporting Actor (nomination) – Bobby Darin.
- Best Sound – Waldon O. Watson.
- Writing (Screenplay – based on material from another medium) – Richard L. Breen, Henry Ephron, Phoebe Ephron.
1972 TV Pilot
An attempt was made to turn the film into a TV sitcom by Thomas-Crenna Productions, the company of Danny Thomas and Richard Crenna. A pilot was shot in 1972, written by Frank Tarloff. It aired on 19 August 1972. The Los Angeles Times said “it was easy to see why it was never sold.”
- Jim Hutton as Captain Newman.
- Joan Van Ark as Lieutenant Francie Corwin.
- Bill Fiore as Captain Norval Bliss.
- The film is based on the 1961 novel by Leo Rosten.
- It was loosely based on the World War II experiences of Rosten’s close friend Ralph Greenson, M.D., while Greenson was a captain in the Army Medical Corps supporting the US Army Air Forces and stationed at Yuma Army Airfield in Yuma, Arizona.
- Greenson is well known for his work on “empathy” and was one of the first in his field to seriously associate posttraumatic stress disorder (years before that terminology was developed) with wartime experiences.
- He was a director of the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Institute and was a practicing Freudian.
- Greenson is perhaps best known for his patients, who included Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Vivien Leigh.
- Major filming took place at the US Army’s Fort Huachuca complex in southern Arizona, with the co-located Libby Army Airfield used to portray the fictional Colfax Army Air Field.
- The story was used as a 1972 television pilot of the same title produced by Danny Thomas Productions starring Jim Hutton in the title role and Joan Van Ark as Lieutenant Corum.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): David Miller.
- Producer(s): Robert Arthur.
- Writer(s): Richard L. Breen, Henry Ephron, and Phoebe Ephron.
- Music: Frank Skinner.
- Cinematography: Russell Metty.
- Editor(s): Alma Macrorie.
- Production: Brentwood Productions and Reynard Productions.
- Distributor(s): Universal Pictures.
- Release Date: 23 December 1963.
- Running Time: 126 minutes.
- Rating: A.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.