Classic TV Revisited: Dr Kildare

Popular 1960’s medical drama Dr Kildare starred Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey.

Impetuous young Dr Kildare worked at Blair General Hospital, under the watchful eye of sage old hand, Dr Leonard Gillespie.

Leo was a father figure?
The craggy-faced stethoscope-wielder became a mentor to the young buck. But it wasn’t all one way traffic. Modern man Kildare helped the old boy to embrace new ideas.

And the patients?
He certainly didn’t embrace them — that would be unethical.

Kildare’s conception?
A union between two blond gods with a bent for medicine — judging by his Adonis appearance.

The dream doc was actually created by Max Brand, a wordsmith who as well as writing fiction, was a war correspondent for Harpers. He died covering the war in Italy in 1944.

Kildare began as a series of movies in the ’40s starring Lew Ayres, before being revived as a TV series almost 20 years later.

Kildare’s debut?
Star Trek’s William Shatner was originally cast to play the dishy young intern at Blair General. But the man who became Kirk jumped ship to star in show For The People.

Beamed up was he?
Steady. In stepped unknown Richard Chamberlain who was the 36th person to audition.

Richard Chamberlain, clean cut heart throb.

A star was born?
He became a massive heart-throb, with 35,000 fan letters a month and street mobbings. He even hit the charts with the theme song.

A hit?
At its peak the show, which ran for five series and 191 episodes, was drawing 15m in the US.

Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey. Guest stars included James Mason and Jack Nicholson.

And a decent story?
Kildare was regarded as being fairly true to life with its portrayal of the ethical and moral dilemmas facing docs. There were two to three tear-jerkers an episode.

Kildare’s demise?
Inevitably with so many episodes, the draw of the series began to ebb and US network NBC pulled the plug in the autumn of 1966.

A killer blow for Chamberlain?
A relieved Chamberlain admitted he was exhausted by the part. “I had worn out every facet,” he said.

A flash in the bedpan was he?
Far from it. He went on to movies such as Man In The Iron Mask and in the ’80s was a hit in TV mini-series The Thorn Birds.

Distinguishing features?
Golden hair that not even a nuclear explosion could dishevel, impeccable bedside manner, a black pencil tie, people being ill.

Do say?
You’re a miracle worker.

Don’t say?
Patient: “Doctor, doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.” Doctor: “Pull yourself together.”

Not to be confused with?
Carry On Doctor, Doctor Finlay’s Casebook, Dr Who and County Kildare.

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.