|Index||8 reviews in total|
PHILIP DORN steps in for LEW AYRES who had been the chief doctor at
Blair General Hospital in a series of Dr. Kildare movies. Here Dorn is
the new doctor assisting Dr. Gillepsie in a search for a serial killer
who is committing crimes within the confines of the hospital posing as
Definitely one of the better in MGM's series of B-movies with LIONEL BARRYMORE doing his gruff stuff as the blustery Dr. Gillespie and ably supported by the usual staff members at the hospital. The last half-hour moves swiftly toward a predictable but interesting climax. Comic relief is supplied by Nat Pendleton as a husky assistant prone to fainting spells.
DONNA REED does nicely as the girlfriend of the killer and if you look closely you'll spot AVA GARDNER getting some exposure in an early role. Sensitive looking Phil Brown makes an interesting homicidal maniac and in some scenes bears a startling resemblance to--of all people--Lew Ayres.
Summing up: Nice little B-melodrama from Metro.
Calling Dr. Gillespie, the first film made with Lionel Barrymore now in
the lead of the medical series that had previously featured Lew Ayres
as Dr. Kildare takes a really sharp turn into a film noir melodrama as
Barrymore becomes the target of a homicidal maniac.
The case comes to Barrymore's attention after a young man who Donna Reed was about to marry flips out and kills her dog. He brings in as a consultant a refugee doctor from Europe Phillip Dorn who is a surgeon, but wants to change his specialty to psychiatry. I guess there were no psychiatrists available.
But between them Dorn and Barrymore come to the conclusion that young Philip Brown is insane and belongs in a hospital. A conclusion that the family physician, stuffy Charles Dingle doesn't agree with.
This film is also unusual because there is a whole interlude where Brown takes center stage and the Blair General regulars completely disappear from the film for a while. Brown flees to Detroit where he proves Barrymore right and Dingle wrong when he commits a couple of murders for reasons that only would make sense to an insane man.
The dynamic of the series shifted with this film and not only because Lew Ayres departed. Ayres was the young protégé to Barrymore and it was a medical father/son dynamic then. Here Lionel Barrymore has a very professional assistant in Dorn and he's not quite the curmudgeon towards him as he was with Ayres.
The rest of the Blair General regulars were there, Walter Kingsford as the head of the hospital, Alma Kruger as head of the nurses, and Nat Pendleton as the loyal if slightly dim ambulance driver. He in the end actually proves most useful. I always liked Nell Craig as the eternally put upon Nurse Parker who Barrymore berates throughout the series. The relationship is obviously based on Monty Woolley and Mary Wickes from The Man Who Came To Dinner.
Phil Brown should come in for praise as well as the charming and psychotic young suitor. A character very much borrowed from Emlyn Williams's Night Must Fall and played on screen by MGM's own Robert Montgomery.
Calling Dr. Gillespie proved the Dr. Kildare series still had life even without Kildare.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an almost quaint film from the World War II era when
pseudo-psychology was all the rage. Alfred Hitchcock was to take it to
the limits and turn it into an art form in his fabulous "Spellbound."
Though this film has moments of hilarity there are also supposedly
serious parts that today are unintentionally funny, for example, when
Dr. Gillespie tells Roy Todwell's parents, "I'm sorry to say but your
son is a mental case." Other parts of the flick hold up well and it is
still worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of the series or if you
are unfamiliar with the Max Brand Dr. Kildare/Dr. Gillespie stories, so
popular in the late 30's and early 40's on both radio and the big
The stories ran almost like a big soap opera with each one connected to the others in characters and many times even in plot. The entry following this one, "Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case," is actually a continuation of "Calling Dr. Gillespie" with Roy Todwell now in prison but escaping and holding Dr. Gillespie and others hostage. As most readers know because of the hoopla it created in the media, Lew Ayres was dropped from the series as Dr. Kildare because he declared himself a conscientious objector and served as a medic in the war rather than as a soldier. Though "Calling Dr. Gillespie" ignores Lew Ayres, its sequel "Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case" spotlights a dismembered survivor of Pearl Harbor who is depressed about his condition and hesitates about trying out his new pair of legs. Dr. Gillespie gives the veteran preferred treatment and makes a patriotic statement against the Japanese, even quoting the Bible. It's as if MGM was slapping Lew Ayres in the face and calling him a traitor, even though Dr. Kildare's name is not mentioned.
In "Calling Dr. Gillespie," the blend of romance, humor, the fatherly figure of Lionel Barrymore in a wheelchair (like our President at the time), murder and mayhem, and corn pone philosophy all seem to mesh and make the film a success. This was not true of its successor, "Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case." So I recommend this film for those interested in the Dr. Kildare/Dr. Gillespie series. I do not recommend the sequel, though you may want to see it out of curiosity to learn how the story of Roy Todwell ends.
Did doctors really say such thing 60 years ago? Lionel Barrymore utters
this line to the naive parents of poor Donna Reed's indeed very
The first thing he does is kill a dog. This is glossed over by the characters but I can't imagine such a thing happening in a movie today. Certainly not after the famous National Lampoon cover.
This man is played very subtly and frighteningly by Phil Brown -- surely a greatly overlooked actor. Indeed, as his travels carry him farther from Reed and Barrymore, he becomes a killer. And the movie looks, for much of its duration, like a film noir.
It's very suspenseful. And with its hospital setting, it made me think of a movie decades later -- more slick, stylish, surely more expensive: "Dressed To Kill." The comic touches pretty much disqualify it is as a noir: Barrymore flirts with adoring female students; Nat Pendleton faints a couple times. And its being part of the Dr. Kildaire series, even sans Lew Ayres, sort of pulls it from the category too. But it's an interesting sidelight to the noir genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS** The film is mostly known for being the first Lew
Ayres-less entry in the Doctor Kildare series with Ayers
unceremoniously dumped by the studio for refusing to take up arms, by
declaring himself a conscious objector, against the German and Japanese
in WWII. The fact that Mr. Ayres served his country risking his life as
a combat medic and ambulance driver didn't seem to impress anyone in
gong-ho and super patriotic Hollywood. In the movie Ayres is replaced
by Dr. John Gerniede, Philip Dorn, who's a refugee from his native
Holland after the German overran and occupied it.
It's when clean cut collage graduate Roy Todwell, Phil Brown, was diagnosed by both Doctors Lenoard "Lenny" Gillespie and Ward Kenwood, Lionel Barrymore & Charles Dingle, as a dangerous psycho that he lost it all and became a homicidal maniac. It was just after the zombie-like Roy smashed his girlfriend's Marcia Bradburn's, Donna Reed, cute and lovable dog's skull in that people started questioning his mental stability. With Dr. Gillespie recommending that Roy get imitated psychiatric care he, in his very disturbed mind, felt the old guy was making fun of him, by declaring Roy to be a nut-case, and decided to murder him as an act of revenge!
As he was about to be committed to the Blair General Hospital mental ward for treatment Roy took off and ended up, for reasons known only to himself,in Detroit. It's there in "Motor City" were Roy murdered two innocent persons, a car dealer and his mechanic, just to prove to himself, but not anyone else watching the movie, that he's in fact normal! Meticulously planning to murder the person-Dr. Gillespie- he holds responsible for all his mental problems-by diagnosing them- Roy goes back to Blair General in order to do the crippled old guy in! Roy didn't expect that the hospital staff and NYPD were on to him by Roy sending threatening-and unsigned-letters to Dr. Gillespie's office. This not only showed that Roy, after already murdering a number of people, was not only a certified homicidal fruitcake but not, despite finishing collage, all that bright either.
The movie had a lot more violence then you would have expected in a Dr. Kildare film and I noticed that both actors Lionel Barrymore and Philip Dorn just didn't click that well in the scenes that they were in together. As for the sweet and caring, for her nutty boyfriend Roy, Donna Reed she came across even more ridicules then even he-Roy Todwell-did. Seeing at first hand just how both crazy and dangerous Roy was why in hell did she let him sneak into Blair General, under the noses of its security staff, knowing full well what he had in mind to do?
Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore) is asked by an old friend for help
with a young man named Roy Todwell (Phil Brown) who may be going crazy.
Along with psychiatrist Dr. Gerniede (Philip Dorn), Gillespie tries to
convince Roy's parents that he needs medical help before he hurts
someone. But they are resistant and soon Roy has gone on a full-blown
killing spree, with every intention of making Dr. Gillespie his next
The first of MGM's Dr. Gillespie series starring Lionel Barrymore. The series is a continuation of the Dr. Kildare series without star Lew Ayres. This movie attempts to set up a possible replacement for Ayres in thickly-accented Philip Dorn, but it doesn't click. Dorn is fine but the mentor/mentee relationship between Gillespie and Kildare isn't there. Phil Brown makes for a really creepy psychopath. The movie wastes no time showing us how nuts he is -- he kills a little dog in his first scene! Lovely Donna Reed appears as the object of the psycho's affections. Most of the regular supporting cast from the Kildare series is still around here and enjoyable as ever. This includes Alma Kruger, Nat Pendleton, Nell Craig, and Marie Blake. Ava Gardner has a bit part with a couple of lines near the end.
There's a lot of nitpicking of the Kildare/Gillespie movies by some modern viewers who are indignant that a movie made in the 1940s has outdated medical knowledge. This seems especially true whenever the movies addressed psychological cases, such as with this one. I, for one, find these parts of the film interesting as historical curiosities. It gives us a window into how such things were viewed in the past. Why hold it to a modern standard just to mock it is beyond me. This is my favorite of the Gillespie series. Possibly my favorite from both series. A later movie, Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case, would follow up on the events in this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even without Dr. Kildare and even with a bazillion plot holes, MGM
managed to make a very entertaining (but very stupid) film in CALLING
DR. GILLESPIE. On one hand, it has very sparkling dialog and wonderful
characters, but on the other, its treatment of mental illnesses was
crude and the film was chock full of plot holes.
When the film begins, you soon notice that there's no Dr. Kildare. That's because Lew Ayers was a conscientious objector and the fans turned on him, so the studio replaced him with a very strange choice--Philip Dorn and his thick Dutch accent. Now in Ayers defense, he did NOT sit the war out but served as a corpsman--one of the most dangerous and honorable of jobs in the service. He just wasn't willing to kill anyone because appearing in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT fundamentally changed him--making him an ardent pacifist.
So, without Kildare, the case was a bit different--with a tale about a mentally ill man. This time, Dorn played a young doctor who wanted to specialize in psychiatry, so such a case was right up his alley. The case involved a young man who acted normal one minute and was a homicidal maniac the next. First, he killed a dog with a huge rock for no particular reason. Second, he smashed up a store display window in a maniacal rage. Despite this, his idiot parents and family doctor were in denial. Well, when he ran away, suddenly they realized they had a problem on their hands.
While on the run, the patient's problems escalated. Now he was delusional, paranoid and very sociopathic--eventually murdering with little provocation. Additionally, he had the strange notion that Dr. Gillespie was at the root of his problems--kill Dr. Gillespie and the problems will vanish! So, much of the film is spent trying to stop this mad man before it was too late for the cantankerous Gillespie.
Now although this was a very thrilling plot, the way it was handled was often laughable. I loved with Gillespie and his young protégé talked to the mad man's parents. They broke it to them by saying "Your son is a mental case!"--talk about subtle and building up to the bad news! Additionally, there was a silly trigger for the man's murderous rages. Supposedly every time he hears a train whistle, he goes crazy--even though such mental illnesses are possible only in movies! Additionally, there are way too many "too stupid to live" moments--especially towards the end. They know he's murdered and yet when his fiancée (Donna Reed) finds him, she doesn't call for help and acts as if he'll be okay. In fact, after a dramatic attempt to stop the murderer, in the final scene, Gillespie tells the police to leave the room and let him talk to the psychopath--at which time, surprise, surprise, he tries to kill Gillespie! Duh!! That could be because he is CRAZY!!! So, we have a very dumb addition to the series that is fun to watch but dopey too many times to take seriously.
It's a decent time-passer but that is all. I actually gave the film a 5 (though in many ways it deserved less) because I absolutely loved the performance of Gillespie's receptionist, Parker. She had some of the greatest lines I ever heard in any of the films in the series--what a spitfire!!
Oh, and by the way, in the final scene, there are a couple nurses. The one on the left (unbilled) is a very, very young Ava Gardner.
This was the first of the Dr. Kildare films to omit Lew Ayres from the
cast due to Mr. Ayres declaring himself a conscientious objector at the
beginning of WWII. He served with distinction in the medical corps in
WWII. Mr. Ayres wasn't opposed to dying for his country, he just didn't
want to kill for any reason. Since hysteria can often be the close
companion to patriotism in times of national trial, MGM didn't want the
negative publicity so Lew Ayres was out. Philip Dorn, here playing
psychiatrist Dr. John Hunter Gerniede, seems to be filling in the part
of the younger doctor that would have normally been played by Lew Ayres
as Dr. Kildare.
Normally these abrupt cast changes in movie franchises lead to inferior films, at least for the first couple of post-transition entries, but here the outcome is quite satisfying and interesting. Dr. Gillespie is brought in to examine a wealthy young man, Roy Todwell, after he abruptly becomes violent after hearing a train whistle - any train whistle. After the violent act he says he remembers nothing. His first violent act is to kill a dog with a rock when his fiancée (Donna Reed as Marcia) refuses to elope with him. Later he smashes up a store. Roy is hospitalized for observation, but soon escapes, believing that Dr. Gillespie wants to commit him to a madhouse, thus he wants to kill Dr. Gillespie and sends him frequent postcards telling him so. Thus the police and Drs Gerneide and Gillespie are trying to locate and capture Roy before his acts rather than his threats turn homicidal.
This is a very good entry in the series with lots of suspense and elements of noir. The actor who plays Roy is particularly effective. He has almost a "howdy-doody" kind of physical presence, barely masculine and hardly menacing yet he has a very cold deliberate stare and facial expression as he goes about wreaking havoc. Nat Pendleton continues in his role as orderly Joe Wayman who has been tasked with guarding Dr. Gillespie without letting Dr. Gillespie know what's going on. In the case of Joe trying to be subtle, comical complications ensue. The case of Roy Todwell carries over into the next entry in the series as well, "Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case", also worth seeing even without the suave Dr. K.
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