Toys of the 1960's
Gentle Ben was a family-adventure series from 1967-69 about a 650-pound black bear which has been adopted by the Wedloe family, specifically eight-year-old Mark (played by Clint Howard, Ron Howard's younger brother). Mark had helped to save the bear's life from a ruthless game hunter, and now the two were best friends. Mark's father Tom (played by Dennis Weaver) was a game warden, and the show's stories took place within the Florida everglades.
Not often brought up these days (except when a pop-culture show like The Simpsons or Family Guy needs a bear reference), Gentle Ben was the sort of kid-safe, family-friendly adventure series that was terribly popular during the 1960's, where jewel thieves and smugglers could be outwitted by a kid and his ginormous pet.
- Gentle Ben ran for two seasons, between September 1967 and August 1939. It came about after the mild success of Gentle Giant, a feature film which had also starred Howard and Weaver. Both of these were in turn adapted from the children's book Gentle Ben by Walt Morey.
- Dennis Weaver is known to TV audiences first as Chester from Gunsmoke (pre-Festus), and later as cowboy-detective-in-the-city title character of McCloud. He was also the star of the well-received Duel, a TV movie directed by a young Steven Spielberg.
- Clint Howard was a particularly popular child actor. He is probably best known to pop-culture lovers as the peanut-butter-pushing Leon from Andy Griffith ("No thanks, Leon!") and as Balok, a childlike alien on an episode of Star Trek who enjoys his tranya (a role he reprised during a celebrity roast of William Shatner).
- Producer Ivan Tors was also responsible for the kid-friendly animal shows Daktari (1966-69) and Flipper (1964-68).