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The Best of all Medical Hour-Long Series; a TV Landmark of Quality
Producer David Victor's tendency was to saddle his television scripts and programs with some neurotic character of the week; but the sheer narrative quality of the scripts , the direction and the acting of "Dr. Kildare" centering around the most attractive young Richard Chamberlain and the very able Raymond Massey surmounted all artistic obstacles. This very popular TV series debuted the same year as did "Ben Casey"; and while both shows' producers provided viewers with strong dramatic scripts and episodes, critics noted that "Dr. Kildare" looked clean, whereas "Ben Casey" seemed to be shot in tones of gray, in lower light, etc. For five years, the show remained relatively unchanged; in its last season, innovations of length and cast were tried, to save the series. A simple look at this 1960s transforming of the older MGM "Dr. Kildare" series reveals how immensely superior the television version was made to be. The list of directors who made "Dr. Kildare" a quality offering included Jack Arnold, John Brahm, Marc Daniels, Lawrence Dobkin, David Friedkin, Robert Gist, James Goldstone, Lamont Johnson, Alf Kjellin, James Komack, Robert Ellis Miller, John Newland, Boris Sagal, Richard Sarafian, Elliot Silverstein, Don Taylor, and Paul Wendkos--some of TV's best directors. Writers for the series included Theodore Apstein, William Bast, Douglas Benton, Jerry de Bono, Louis S. Peterson, Gene Rodenberry and Jim Thompson. In addition to young, untrained but promising Chamberlain and the veteran Massey the cast included at various times Ken Berry, Jud Taylor, Jean Inness, Robert Paget, Joan Patrick, Jo Helton, Lee Kurty, John Napier and Cynthia Stone among others. Fine talents such as Leslie Nielsen, Lee Meriwether, Hayden Rorke, Diane Baker and Donn Loren appeared numerous times. Guest stars were memorable from the series but the chief ornament of the show were its plots--a mysterious and dangerous virus, Massey's vacation, Dr. Kildare facing death for the first time, the results of a teenaged gang fight, and many more such episodes. Because Blair General was a big city hospital;, and because of the presence of an older practitioner, with a wealth of life and professional experience, the design of Dr. Kildare provided far more potential for interesting hour-long story lines than would any show's premise concerning any private medical practitioner. This was and is THE hour-long medical series for most Americans. It was a landmark series for many reasons, and has been much imitated.
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