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Gentle Ben - Large American black bear on the animal adventure GENTLE BEN/CBS/1967-69.

Dell Comic - GENTLE BEN

 Ben stood over eight feet tall on his hind legs and weighed over 630 pounds. Born in the Everglades in Florida, Ben was the family pet and constant companion of Mark Wedloe (Clint Howard), whose father, Tom (Dennis Weaver) was game warden at the local Coral Key Park. The Ben character was based on the novel by Walt Morey about a boy and his bear. The television series, a spin-off of the movie Gentle Giant (1967) transposed the novels northern setting to the Florida Everglades where a boy befriended a bear cub after its mother was shot by a drunken hunter.

The real bear who played Ben (originally called Bruno) has led a charmed life. As a bear cub, Ben and his brother, Smokey were orphaned in White Lake, Wisconsin and were sent to live at the original AFRICA, USA, a wild animal "affection training ranch" in Soledad Canyon near Los Angeles.

In 1969, a flood destroyed the ranch. Ben was found alive and safe two miles down the canyon but covered with mud and weighing a few pounds less. Another time, a runaway locomotive fell off its track and crushed Ben's cage. Luckily, the bear had vacated the cage to go walking with his trainer. Ben's chief trainer was Monty Cox. Ben's main stand-in was a bear named Buck (used for the running scenes).

Dennis Weaver told TV Guide in 1970 "I liked him (Ben), but it was a cold relationship. Bears aren't like dogs and horses. Ben didn't know me from a bag of doughnuts."

In 2002, Animal Planet cable channel in association with Hallmark Entertainment sponsored remakes of the original series entitled Gentle Ben a.k.a. Terror On the Mountain starring Dean Cain as Jack Wedloe and Reiley McClendon as his son, Mark; and the sequel Gentle Ben 2: Danger on the Mountain, a.k.a. Black Gold (2003).

A company called 'Bear With Us' provided animals for both TV movies which were filmed in Placer County in Northern California. Bonkers the Bear played the role of Gentle Ben.

TRIVIA NOTE: The adventure novel "Gentle Ben" by Walt Morey tells the tale of lonely boy named Mark Andersen who befriends a Ben, a huge Alaskan brown bear.

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