Click here to read TV historian’s interesting interview with the nurses from the 1960s hit TV show Ben Casey starring Vince Edwards.

One nurse that Stephen missed was starlet Thordis Brandt. Not surprising since she came onto the show in its almost last season and quickly opted for acting though she kept nursing on the side. Below is an excerpt from my interview with her from my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood.

A strikingly beautiful statuesque blonde, Nordic beauty Thordis Brandt possessed acting talent but could never break free from larger-than-life Glamazon roles and was usually relegated to decorative supporting roles in spy spoofs and comedies.

Thordis Brandt was born in Germany and grew up in British Columbia, Canada.  After completing her degree in nursing, the
statuesque blonde relocated to Santa Monica with two classmates.  When her friends returned home, she began working at the UCLA Hospital where one of her patients was actor/director Jackie Cooper who was working on the hit series Ben Casey.  He hired her to be a consultant on Ben Casey, which led to an acting career as well.

While at UCLA I was assigned to be the private duty nurse for Jackie Cooper.  He was the sweetest man alive on this Earth.  He said to me once he recovered that I was going to go with him to Columbia Studios to work as a nurse advisor on Ben Casey.  I began working there and one day an actress who played a nurse didn’t show up.  They asked me to take her place.  I had lines to speak and got my Screen Actors Guild card from this.  I loved acting so much.  I still worked as a nurse to pay my bills but began taking acting classes on the Columbia lot and I also studied with the great Jeff Corey.

Brandt left Ben Casey after only one year as it led to a few other TV roles including Hogan’s Heroes, Run for Your Life and The Fugitive.  Bit roles in films followed starting with Nevada Smith (1966), The Oscar (1966), Way…Way Out (1966), the Elvis film Spinout (1966), and The Swinger (1966).  Her first role of note was that of spy Fred Johnson, a man disguised as a seductive buxom woman, in the spy spoof The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966) but her lines were dubbed by a male actor.

Television finally connected Brandt’s voluptuous body to her speaking voice beginning with five appearances on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. plus bigger roles on I Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Green Hornet where she began a romantic relationship with Bruce Lee.

I walked into the interview [for the Green Hornet] and the casting director asked me if I could breathe.  I replied, ‘Of course, I can.”  He said, ‘Okay, you’ve got the part.’  I played an older woman who was supposed to be a European actress about 35 years old and the girlfriend of Victor Jory.  I had long blonde hair but they tucked it in and put this God-awful wig on me so I would look older. My agent warned me that I was Van Williams’ type.  I walked onto the set and Van who was so handsome came over to say hello.  I saw Bruce Lee standing off very shyly in the shadows.  I walked over and introduced myself because I was really attracted to him.  He told me I looked like a goddess.  I was dumbstruck because Bruce was absolutely gorgeous!

Bruce Lee was very quiet and shy but could also be very aggressive if he wanted to be.  He was a show-off and always wanted to flaunt his body.  He had a magnetism that was indescribable.  We began dating but he was married, which I didn’t know.  Of course he didn’t tell me—why ruin a good thing—but when I found out I was heartbroken and stopped seeing him.  Apparently, he and his wife had an ‘understanding.’

Soon after came Thordis Brandt’s most memorable movie. She was cast as one of the Fabulous Face Amazons plotting to take over the world despite opposition from James Coburn’s debonair agent Derek Flint in In Like Flint (1967).  With her blonde tresses hidden under a powder blue cap with matching uniform it is difficult to distinguish Thordis from the rest of the gals.  Brandt’s Amazon is the one who discovers that their brainwashing technique hasn’t been working on Flint’s female assistants and tips off her boss Jean Hale who orders Brandt to freeze the girls in the crynology lab.  Later, when the bad girls turn good, she and Amazon Inga Neislen lead the ladies in Operation Smooch.  That same year the Nordic beauty was voted a Hollywood Deb Star and vied for its Star of Tomorrow award.  She lost to Swedish bombshell, Sivi Aberg.

Brandt ended the 1960s with minor roles as a police clerk in the Jim Brown heist flick The Split (1968); a fashion model in Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) starring Elvis Presley; Funny Girl (1968) as one of the stunning Ziegfeld Girls; and as a Las Vegas cocktail waitress in Where’s It At? (1969). Her final movie in the decade offered the chance to strut her stuff in a meaty role as Tasha a beautiful psychic who joins a team investigating a series of bizarre murders linked to a witch’s coven in the swamps of Louisiana in the low-budget horror film The Witchmaker (1969).

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Comments: 6

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  • Hey, Tom. Thanks for the plug! This is really interesting — I had no idea Thordis was a real-life nurse! But I wonder if she’s misremembering something, because BEN CASEY was shot at Desilu, not Columbia, and as far as I know Jackie Cooper had nothing to do with it. Could she have been thinking of Cooper’s doctor series HENNESSY (probably too early) or some show (or movie) at Screen Gems that needed a nurse during the period when Cooper was running their TV department? Or else Cooper just called in a favor to someone at BEN CASEY, and she left that part out.

    (Brandt also never had a screen credit on BEN CASEY, but that wouldn’t rule out the possibility that she had a small speaking role.)

    Interesting conundrum.

    • Hi Stephen wouldn’t be first time the starlets mixed up their shows. I will email her to see if we can set the record straight.

  • John Black

    Thank heavens THE WITCHMAKER is available in an excellent, widescreen DVD from Code Red. It co-stars one of my favorite young blondes, Seattle’s own Patricia Wymer, who had the title roles in THE BABYSITTER and THE YOUNG GRADUATES. There are a number of famous babes in the supporting cast of THE WITCHMAKER, and most of them were men’s magazine models of the period.

    • Not familiar with Patricia Wymer but will look her up.

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