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A Landmark Medical Series That Set The Tone For What Was To Follow...Remembering the Dr. Kildare television series on its 55th anniversary
Premiering on NBC's prime-time schedule on September 28,1961, "Dr. Kildare" became a widely successful television series that was based on the theatrical MGM "Dr. Kildare" movies starring Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore that were released in theaters during the 1930's and 1940's. There was also a successful radio version of "Dr. Kildare" that became a household name within itself even before it made the transition to television by the early-1960's. The television series quickly achieved success and made a star of Richard Chamberlain,who played the title role(along with an ABC medical drama "Ben Casey" that premiered at the same time but premiered a week after "Dr. Kildare" on October 2,1961)that inspired many television series dealing with the medical field.
Produced with the American Medical Association along with the Physicians Advisory Committee and the Hospital of the Good Samaritan of Greater Los Angeles for their valuable assistance the television series "Dr. Kildare" became one of the biggest prime-time successes at NBC produced a total of 191 episodes airing from September 28,1961 until August 30,1966. Out of the 191 episodes that were produced a total of 135 hour long episodes were in black and white for Seasons 1 thru 4 from September 28,1961 until May 11,1965(with the exception of "The Burning Sky" in Season 2 that was in color). Then on September 13,1965 for it's fifth and final season,the show went from it's hour long format to an half-hour weekly format and the series was now in color for 56 episodes airing from September 13,1965 until April 5,1966. Repeated episodes of it's fifth and final season continued in constant airings until August 30,1966. Seasons 1 thru 4 of "Dr. Kildare" were on Thursday nights in prime-time for NBC. The fifth and final season saw the series moved from Thursday nights to Tuesday nights for the remainder of it's run.
Under the creation of James Komack and producers Norman Felton and David Victor(who served as executive producers of this series under there production company Arena Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television and NBC),the series like the MGM film series of the same title(1938-1942) centered around the young intern Dr. Kildare(Richard Chamberlain) working at the fictional metropolitan "Blair General Hospital" to learn his profession,and dealing with not only the problems of the patients,but confronting medical issues while winning the respect of the Senior Dr. Leonard Gillespie(Raymond Massey) while surrounded by all artistic obstacles both personal and professional. The results of this series was riveting drama with big name guest stars to boot along with the superior writing. The result gave the series three Prime Time Emmy Nominations for Best New Series and Best Actor in a Television Series and won Richard Chamberlain the Golden Globe in 1963 for Best Outstanding Actor in a Television Series.
The list of big time writers for this series consisted of Gene Roddenberry, Douglas Benton, Don Brinkley, Sy Salkowitz, E. Jack Neuman, Arthur Weiss, Al C. Ward, Christopher Knopf, Edward J. Lakso, Chester Krumholz, Phillip Saltzman, William Bast, to Theodore Apstein, Louis S. Peterson, Jerry De Bono, and Jim Thompson. The big time list of directors who made "Dr. Kildare" a standard quality of great entertainment included Jack Arnold, Alvin Ganzer, Don Medford, Marc Daniels, Alf Kjellin, Leo Penn, Ida Lupino, Lawrence Dobkin, to John Brahm, John Newland, Herschel Daugherty, Sydney Pollack, James Goldstone, Alexander Singer, Boris Sagel, Paul Wendkos and David Friedkin along with James Komack, Richard C. Sarafian, Don Taylor and Elliott Silverstein.
In addition to the recurring characters including Ken Berry, Jud Taylor, Jean Inness, Robert Paget, Joan Patrick, John Napier and Cynthia Stone among others big name guest stars ranging from Leslie Nielsen, Lee Meriwether, Hayden Rourke, Diane Baker, William Shatner, Robert Redford, James Mason, Boris Karloff, Suzanne Pleshette, Robert Culp, Yvette Mimieux, Ricardo Montalban, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Vaughn, Ed Asner, to Sorrell Booke, James Best, Dick York, James Franciscus, Richard Beymer, Ross Martin, Donna Douglas, Fred Astaire, Barbara Parkins, William Schallert, Dean Jagger, James Earl Jones, Diana Sands, Gene Hackman, Greg Morris, Angie Dickinson, Kim Hunter, Carroll O'Connor, Basil Rathbone, Edgar Buchanan, Steven Hill, Anne Francis, Joanne Linville, Charles Bronson, Jack Lord, James Coburn, Burgess Meredith, Yvonne Craig, and George Kennedy.
Several great episodes of "Dr. Kildare" do stand out as brilliant and I will start the show's pilot episode "Twenty Four-Hours". Other great episodes "An Island Like A Peacock", "The Administrator", "An Ungodly Act", "One for the Road", "For The Living", "The Chemistry of Anger", the two-part "Tyger,Tyger", to "To Each His Own Prison", "The Good Luck Charm","Whoever Heard Of A Two-Headed Doll?","A Miracle For Margaret" just to name a few. The phenomenal success of "Dr. Kildare" was a landmark series for many reasons largely because it let audiences see for the first time a show that combined high drama and medical information that was unheard of when this series premiered in 1961. And it has been much imitated.
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