Archive for the ‘"Dr. Kildare"’ Category

Remembering Producer Norman Felton

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Noted producer Norman Felton died Monday, July 2nd, at the age of 99 in Woodland Hills, CA. Best known for producing the hit series Dr. Kildare and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Felton began his television career in Chicago — during the medium’s first commercial years and worked on such groundbreaking series as Garroway at Large, and These are My Children. He then went to Hollywood where he worked on Robert Montgomery Presents, Playhouse 90, and Studio One and others, before starting his own Arena Productions company. He was interviewed for 4-1/2 hours by Lee Goldberg for the Archive of American Television in 1997. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On being executive producer of the landmark dramatic anthology series Playhouse 90 in 1959, when the sponsor censored the word “gas” in “Judgement at Nuremberg”

The producer was Martin Manulis, Herb Brodkin, a couple of others. The network [CBS] did want me to have somebody overall in charge, and so I’d make comments to the producer and I would follow through with it. On the “Judgement at Nuremberg” teleplay,  the gas company was a principle sponsor and they said they said they would pull out if we used the word “gas” on the show. Because  how you told the story of Judgment at Nuremberg and Holocaust without using the word seems– Herb Brodkin, who was the producer — ridiculous, and I felt the same way.  The network tried to get me to do something about it.  I said, “there’s nothing that can be done about it.” They said, when they got close to air time,  “we can’t give up the gas company. We promised them that we will take out the word.” It was all live. Herb Brodkin believed that we were going to do it, and I said, “Herb, I’ve got to tell you that that’s what they’re going to do  and I can’t do anything about it. If it’s going through where we are, I might be able to get to the guys who are supposed to bleep that word out, but they tricked me, II don’t know if I could have done anything and they’re sending an engineer over here with someone and if the word is used we’ll bleep it.” And that’s what happened. And he was furious.  I said, “I warned you that that was going to happen.” There was nothing that I could possibly do.  It was the worse thing for the gas company.  It got the worse publicity it could possibly have when it came out that the word was bleeped out…. We didn’t have people telling us what to do until the advertisers came along.

On the creation of television’s Dr. Kildare

I wanted to do a medical show.  I hadn’t been able to do it because at CBS they said, as the other networks did, who wants to go to a hospital?  That’s the last place –  a person comes home from their job and they’re going to turn on television and see sick people?  But in radio, I did plenty of them. I did a series of a medical nature, and I did in Chicago, while I was in radio  for the AMA. I didn’t latch onto any property. [Another company had done a failed pilot featuring Dr. Kildare.] The reason it was called Dr. Kildare was after-the-fact they turned me down.  They didn’t want to do another one. They didn’t want to do anything medical.  I said, “well, I want to do one, and I did.  It was a very successful pilot. E. Jack Neuman was a fine writer. I said I want to do a medical show, and we had two or three discussions and one, he said, “I got a good idea, this is the story. I know it has to be set in a hospital. There are two gangsters who had a fight between them, and but one is on one floor and another is another floor of the hospital and they still are enemies.” I said, “Jack, before we do anything, why don’t you take a week off, go to a hospital, go around there.  That’s what I want you to do for the next week. I don’t want to see you around here.  Don’t come on the lot.  Go to a hospital.”  So he did.  And when he came back, I never heard about those gangsters again. He said, “it’s terrific! I followed an intern and what they go through, and how they operate is just terrific with patients, and themselves and– so I said  go ahead, and write it. It was a half hour script.  Because that’s what my contract at that time, was, we expected a half hour. I went over to NBC with it and they liked it to much they said, “we’ll make you a deal.”  When the word got out that I sold this, then I think somebody in the board in New York said,” is it going to be Dr. Kildare?”  Bob [Whiteman] said, “no, it’s not like those old movies at all.  It’s the story of an intern.” And they said, “can’t he be called Dr. Kildare?” He pointed out, as did the network, that it was a valuable title to get started with, the people would opt to tune it in.  So, that’s how it got its name, is after-the-fact.

Video: On the genesis of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

On the appeal of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

In the sixties, there were a lot of  just unrest in the family. It was an escape.  It was good against evil.  And also, the thing that they liked was it was different nationalities.  At I cast two men in the leads who were short and not big husky men because, on business on Dr. Kildare, I was in London for a meeting, and when I was leaving, a lady, who was a comptroller, came to me and said, “why is it in America that you always have leading men who are big tall, sexy– so called– looking fellow, and why are they always American?”  I said, “I don’t know. I guess because that’s what people seem to like when they see them.”  But the more I thought about it, as time went on, when it came to do the Man From U.N.C.L.E, I’m not going to do it.  And that’s what made me like David McCallum and Robert Vaughn. They were slim and they were not big, as they used to say, ballsy men. That’s the expression that was used.  So it worked. I think today, some of the kids say that’s something that they really can identify more with, because they’re younger than most of the heroes were in the western shows.


Richard Chamberlain On Stage in “The Heiress”

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Richard Chamberlain fans: Dr. Kildare himself will be starring as Dr. Austin Sloper in a production of “The Heiress” starting today at the Pasadena Playhouse. Heather Tom and Julia Duffy star alongside Chamberlain in the show, which runs from April 24 – May 20, 2012.

Here’s a description of the play from the Pasadena Playhouse website:

“Catherine Sloper, who stands to inherit a fortune from her ailing physician father, is a plain-looking young woman living under his malevolent scrutiny, as well as his well-meaning but cold-hearted demeanor. Dr. Sloper disapproves of Catherine’s passionate suitor Morris Townsend, certain that the penniless young man has proposed marriage to win Catherine’s inheritance. Catherine’s too much in love to consider this potential betrayal, and when circumstances lead her to misinterpret Morris’s intentions, THE HEIRESS reaches an unforgettable conclusion that brilliantly supports the richly psychological nuance brought to the preceding romance.”

Chamberlain talks about playing Dr. Kildare in his 2012 Archive interview. Let us know how Dr. Sloper compares!

For more info and to purchase tickets, click here.

Watch Richard Chamberlain’s full Archive interview here.

Dr. Kildare Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Fifty years ago today, on September 28, 1961, long before McDreamy and McSteamy, the strikingly handsome Dr. Kildare first graced our television sets. Swoon.

One of television’s first medical dramas, alongside ABC’s Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare followed a young intern, Dr. James Kildare (played by Richard Chamberlain) as he learned the tricks of his trade. The program highlighted teachable moments from Kildare’s mentor, Dr. Leonard Gillespie, portrayed by veteran actor Raymond Massey. Executive producer Norman Felton had long hoped to create a medical series, but never intended to make a television show based on the 1930’s and 1940’s MGM films starring the character of Dr. Kildare. Once Felton sold his pilot about a medical intern to NBC, a suggestion trickled down from the network and MGM representatives (where Felton had a production deal) to call the series Dr. Kildare, to lend it an air of familiarity. Chamberlain’s character was dubbed Kildare, and the rest is TV history.

Below, Archive Interviewee Richard Chamberlain discusses the character of Dr. Kildare:

Archive Interviewee Lamont Johnson, who directed several episodes of Dr. Kildare, shares why he was drawn to the medical aspect of the show:

Not that you’d ever want to get sick, but from 1961-1966, if you happened to fall ill, you would have been in good hands with Blair General Hospital’s Drs. Kildare and Gillespie.

A Conversation with Richard Chamberlain – Now Online

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Actor Richard Chamberlain sat down with the Archive of American Television for three hours and detailed his television work. The entire interview is now online. Below are some excerpts from this extensive interview:

Richard Chamberlain on the wild popularity of Dr. Kildare.

I think people are fascinated by the medical profession.  They’re fascinated by situations of life and death. Everybody knows that someday you’ll get sick or break something, or have a problem and need a doctor and people find doctors like Gillespie and Kildare wonderful because they care about you, they listen to you, they help you.  I think all of those things made the show very, very attractive.  Also it was very well-produced and very well-written for its time. We had amazing guest stars, and amazing guest directors. But mostly I think it’s in the human realm, it’s a situation which people would die to be in, if they were gonna die or close to it, with getting the best possible care from people who really cared about them.

VIDEO CLIP: Richard Chamberlain on the character of Dr. Kildare.

Richard Chamberlain on playing John Blackthorne in the Shogun miniseries.

I read a lot about him, because he was a real person.  I read a lot about that history, what Japan was like.  Japan was an unbelievably cohesive society at the time.  I mean, whatever your station in life, that’s where you were, you were allowed to eat certain things, you were allowed to dress certain ways,  you were allowed to be certain places.  And that was it.  There was no social mobility whatsoever.  You were stuck for your life, and so was your family, forever.  It was a really tough culture.  Fascinating, absolutely fascinating. And Blackthorne, of course, had to cope with all that, and even take a bath, which was unheard of in Europe at the time.  It was wonderful being in Japan, and having the Japanese crew, and the Japanese wardrobe people, and make up people and all that.  It was really good.

Richard Chamberlain on The Thorn Birds.

The basic premise of “The Thornbirds” was ‘let’s make the best most high-class tragedy driven soap opera of all time.’ I don’t mean to denigrate it.  It was brilliantly done, and brilliantly cast, and a wonderful story, but the absolute top of the heap of pure soap opera I think.   I often am surprised when I think about it that it was, and remains so successful because it was one tragedy after another, after another, after another, after another, after another. Nobody came out on top in that show.  Everybody — it was so sad, one thing after another.  And these wonderful people, wonderful characters, and Father Ralph was an extraordinary character.  He was so driven and so torn three ways. I mean, it’s one thing to have your heart ripped apart in two directions, but his was in three directions.  First of all, he loved God, and had a genuine vocation. Secondly, he was enthralled by the power and glamor of the church, and thirdly he really loved Meggie.  It was soul-mate love.  It was real, real love.

Richard Chamberlain on his decision to reveal his homosexuality in his autobiography.

Judith Regan, who was ReganBooks, and a very hot publisher had asked ‘what would you like to write about? ‘ And I said, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately, I’ll write about life.’  I thought I had some ideas about how we could live our lives better.  So I wrote five pages and sent them to her, and she liked it and said we were on.  So I was writing basically a philosophical treatise, but they kept saying ‘you’ve got to make it more personal  so people know where these ideas came from.’ So I made it more and more personal. I didn’t want to write about being gay in it because I knew that during the publicity campaign for the book that’s all anybody would want to talk about, and of course that’s what happened.  But it was during the course of writing the book that suddenly all the self-dislike, all the misconceptions I had about being gay vanished, absolutely vanished.  It was a kind of miracle, I think in fact, and then suddenly I was on national television talking about being gay because that’s all they wanted to talk about.

See the full interview, where he discusses these and many other topics in-depth at

Full Interview Description

In his Archive Interview, actor Richard Chamberlain talks about his life-long interest in acting. He discusses his first television role on Gunsmoke and describes at length his experience on Dr. Kildare, one of TV’s first medical dramas. He goes on to recount his roles on two of television’s most memorable miniseries: playing John Blackthorne on Shogun, and portraying the unforgettable Father Ralph on  The Thorn Birds. He also speaks of his stage and television work in London as well as his ventures into feature films, where he socialized with the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Federico Fellini on set. He touches on his forays into music recording and on what it’s like to be an actor who also happens to be gay. And be sure to watch for his tale on how he was mistaken for a serial killer in Colorado while filming the NBC miniseries, Centennial. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the one-hour interview on February 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA.