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.