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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.
This series was based on the movies about the same characters starring Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore. I truly loved those old movies. If I am not mistaken I think Lew Ayres even appeared in one of the episodes. The series was my introduction to Richard Chamberlain. As I have followed his career - I have never been disappointed by the roles he has taken on. But it was as Dr. Kildare that I shall always remember him first. I must add though that he had a great singing voice as well - I used to own the only record he ever released - Dr. Kildare Sings - I believe was the title of the LP. I concur with other fans about wondering if any copies of the show still exist for release in a DVD format for us diehard fans. I would buy them in a heartbeat!!!
Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare were exact contemporaries, both doctor shows
began and ended in the same season and were the most talked about shows on
TV when they debuted in 1961. People were always making comparisons between
them and here is mine.
One difference is that Casey was a resident, a full fledged doctor on staff at a hospital and a very prominent neurosurgeon. Kildare was an intern, a beginning doctor still learning the profession. If Kildare had been at the same hospital as Casey, Ben would have been bossing him around and making his life miserable.
A bigger difference was what they represented. Kildare was a symbol of the early 1960's. We were a very proud and optimistic country at that time. We'd survived the depression, won the war, had the communists on the defensive and were beginning to explore space. Social changes were taking place as well. if we were going to be the Greatest Country in the World, how could we have poverty and injustice? We tended to look at our government and institutions as benevolent servants of the people. There were several shows from this period, (Naked City, The Defenders, Mr. Novak were others), where handsome young idealistic novices entered a profession to be guided by their wise, patient but firm elders in becoming instruments of the system. The big challenge was getting people to trust the system by not committing crimes, studying hard and taking their pills. And of course, it's hard to look at the young men in these shows, (Richard Chamberlain, James Franciscus, Paul Burke, Robert Reed), and not see our youthful, idealistic president of the time, John Kennedy.
Casey was a precursor of the late 1960's. To him, the system was a monolith that existed for its own purposes and on its own momentum. You had to wrestle with it and with the mediocrity around you to get things done. Casey had a mentor as well, but Dr. Zorba often appeared to be more of a matador than a mentor, trying to tame Ben Casey, as he always called him, with a red cape and a sharp needle to puncture his ego from time to time.
I'd rather wake up from surgery and see Dr. Kildare's smiling face. But I'd be more likely to survive if it was Ben Casey who had done the surgery.
I just stumbled onto these comments, and it's great to see so many people who remember "Dr. Kildare." The show was one of the first that was socially aware, and its episodes included many touching topics: a man dealing with amputation of a leg (tremendous performance by comic Jack Carter); restoring hearing to a little deaf boy; Harry Guardino learning to speak again and calling his wife; and of course the classic "Tyger, Tyger," the surfer saga with then-heartthrob/epileptic surfer Yvette Mimieaux, complete with cheesy rear-screen footage of Yvette "surfing." I ask you fans out there: Is there any way we can get these shows onto DVD? I would love to own some of these episodes! Do we know who owns the rights to these shows? Can we get a write-in campaign going? I would like to hear some ideas out there; perhaps there are folks out there who are more experience than I have in such matters.
The two part Episode of Dr. Kildare that featured Yvette Mimieux was called
"Tiger,Tiger." (The title of a famous poem) It was one of the highest rated
shows of the year, which I believe was 1963.
Miss Mimieux played a beautiful epileptic and she died having a seizure
while surfing, which her doctor had warned her not to do.
Oh, the heartbreak! Oh the teenage hormones! Oh, how the ratings soared!
I used to watch this show (along with Ben Casey show) which was on around
the same era, and loved them. This was in the 1960's. I watched
Dr. Kildare every week starring Richard Chamberlain. It was a must for me. And Raymond Massey, as Dr. Gillespie was really the best actor in the series. I always thought Richard Chamberlain was a good actor and his career has gone well through the years. But as far as I am concerned, I liked him best as Dr Kildare. Why did they never bring out some episodes of Dr. Kildare on DVD or VHS?There must be lots of us still around who were young in the 60's who would buy them.
I used to watch this series and would not leave the house "for anything"
night the show was on. I remember my older sister asking me if I wanted
to go bowling with a bunch of friends, I declined. I had this teenager's
fanaticism for the series and a crush in a good way on Dr. Kildare,
Chamberlain (The Thorn Birds). I guess Dr. James Kildare was a big
throb those days. I remember his boss Dr. Leonard Gillespie, Raymond
(All my Darling Daughters) calling him Jim. That was a nice
I clearly remember when they did a love story where Yvette Mimieux was his
girl friend and Richard Chamberlain sang: "True Love!" I bought his
and sang along like a crazy teen. I think she died of cancer, I guess, in
that episode. I have no recollection of Mimieux being nurse Zoe Lawton
(1965-66). My guess is because I was raised abroad and by the time I
watched the series it was ending in the States. The last of the series
probably never got translated. The series was about this intern and his
relationship with his boss and his patients. It was today's ER with fewer
interns. Just one! Dr. Kildare! He was enough! It was my favorite doctor
series and I remember it, fondly!
Before St. Elsewhere and ER, even before Marcus Welby, M.D., there was Dr.
Kildare, the series that brought fame to Richard Chamberlain. During the
early 1960's, Dr. Kildare dramatized the ramification of medical issues of
the day. I believe that if not for Dr. Kildare, there might not have been
Truly outstanding television series with Richard Chamberlain and
Raymond Massey in the lead roles. This was based on the motion picture
with Lew Ayres, a conscientious objector during World War 11 and Lionel
Each week we were treated to new episodes. The show depicted that doctors are real people as well with emotional feelings.
I remember how each show would start off and then there would be that gorgeous music played. I can still hum it like it was yesterday, and we're talking about 45 years!
One of my favorite episodes was when a retarded man (Sorrell Booke) came into the emergency room with his brother. Both were of the Orthodox faith and after careful testing, it was revealed that the brother was terminal. When Booke was told of this by Kildare, the latter told him to be a mensch. (Person)
Raymond Massey was excellent as Kildare's mentor. Too bad that as a lead doctor, he was continuously smoking on the show. Chamberlain, as we all know, went on to become the king of the mini-series.
I absolutely loved this show growing up. Richard Chamberlain was not
only a fine actor, but I had all his records and they were terrific as
well. The stories were exactly the basis for every medical drama that
followed. I would love to see this on DVD! Richard, thanks for the
memories. The show had a wonderful ensemble cast and featured many
great actors and actresses in guest roles. NBC did mess with it's
scheduling later on and this hastened the show's demise. Most dramas of
this period were not as full-dimensional.
Richard had other series but none reached the fans as much as this. He was literally in EVERY fan magazine and I bought them all.
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