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Friday, February 7, 2014

'Dr. Kildare Movie Collection' DVD: Paging the Original Doctor McDreamy

Dr. Kildare Movie Collection
The nine films in Warner Archive's recent DVD release of "Dr. Kildare Movie Collection" are the perfect prescription for the frigid weather and nasty storms plaguing much of the United States; they have a perfect blend of drama, humor, and heart.

Throwing in the 1960 unaired pilot of the uber-awesome "Kildare" television series is merely a little extra sugar that makes this already sweet medicine go down.

This "nifty nine" additionally provide an excellent prelude to watching the recently released two-volume 34-episode set of the second season of the aforementioned "Kildare" series starring the dreamy Richard Chamberlain and featuring a "cast of 1,000s" of "The Love Boat" style guest stars including Gloria Swanson. A review of this set is scheduled for early March.

The "Kildare" film series and movie collection both start with "Young Dr. Kildare" from 1938. This flick  has awesome elements of both "Superman" lore and the 2000s sitcom "Scrubs."

We first meet James a.k.a. Jimmy Kildare, played by Lew Ayres throughout the "Kildare" series, returning to his small Connecticut hometown for a visit only to learn that his father, who is also a doctor, plans for his son to join the family business. This short-lived partnership ends when the younger Kildare, a.l.a. young Dr. John Dorian, returns to New York to serve an internship at Blair General Hospital.

One spoiler is that Kildare does not run afoul of a sadistic janitor who is initially intended to be a figment of his imagination but obtains full flesh-and-blood status. (Providing a virtual penny for this thought is very appropriate.)

The "Scrubs" theme continues in "Young" by having hospital administrator Dr. Lane-Porteus and crusty senior diagnostician Dr. Leonard Gillespie, played by true film legend Lionel Barrymore through the entire "Kildare" film series, compete for the heart and mind of Kildare; Gillespie wins and is plenty harsh on his protege but refrains from calling him woman's names.

The "Superman" elements include Jimmy Kildare being a small-town only child who has exceptional abilities and is very close to his parents; he additionally visits home a few times in the film and comes close to abandoning his big-city life on at least two occasions. Jimmy and Clark Kent additionally share the common trait of loving the girl next door.

More general elements of this film include Kildare's fellow interns discussing career paths that will maximize their income while minimizing their inconvenience and a veteran "Scrubs" like nurse, who does not call Kildare "Bambi,"who knows that she knows much more than each intern.

This charming and perfectly executed film ends with an amusing message in which Ayres and Barrymore slightly step out of character to announce that there will be future Kildare movies.


The next film is the series is 1939's "Calling Dr. Kildare." This one has Gillespie sending Kildare to an inner-city street clinic to learn the importance of patience when conversing with patients.

This assignment leads to Kildare facing a dilemma regarding whether to covertly treat a gunshot victim, rather than follow the required procedure of having that victim brought to the hospital; Kildare following his conscience creates the central conflict around which the film revolves.

"Calling" is a good film that is a nice entry in the Kildare series but does veer a little into silliness.

A scene in which Kildare predictably plays "Superman" by using his own blood for a transfusion in the course of treating the gunshot victim is a bit over-the-top and does not address many issues that include how Kildare even has enough of his blood to meet the needs of the patient and further remain alert enough for the delicate procedure of removing a bullet.

The additional element of Kildare having the inclination, time, and energy to actively investigate the circumstances of the shooting is equally silly. At the same time, suspension of disbelief often adds to film-related enjoyment.

The sampling of these films jumped ahead to the inaptly titled 1941 entry "The People vs. Dr. Kildare." Young Jimmy is a full-fledged doctor by now and finds himself at the wrong end of a medical malpractice suit based on a good Samaritan act that he performed on arriving at the scene of a car accident.

"People" has great elements of a "Perry Mason" style courtroom drama and raises issues of law vs. justice that are relevant more than 70 years later; the only flaw is that the title refers to a criminal, rather than civil, legal proceeding.

"Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day," which is also from 1941, involves the final preparations for the titular nuptials but focuses more on Gillespie than Kildare. The concerns of the elder doctor include determining the course, if any, of treatment for his cancer and separately determining the elusive cause of the deafness of an orchestra conductor.

The conclusion regarding the titular event will strongly impact anyone who has watched Kildare's professional progress and followed his courtship of his fiancee throughout the "Kildare" series. This alone entitles this film to classic status regarding these films.

"Dr. Kildare's Victory" is a very apt title for this 1942 film that winds up the movie collection and the "Kildare" films that feature that character. This one has Kildare assuming the role of mentor that Gillespie filled regarding him.

Tying in the best elements of former "Kildare" films, Kildare's protege runs afoul of the hospital administration regarding treating and admitting a patient who is found just inside a territory that Kildare's Blair General Hospital and another hospital agrees "belongs" to that other hospital. This leads to terminating the employment of said protege/intern.

This termination faces Kildare with the dilemma of helping the arguably wrongfully discharged intern recover his job without running afoul of the hospital board of directors. Kildare teaming up with the hospitalized party girl heiress Cynthia "Cookie" Charles regarding this effort include some of the most amusing scenes in the entire "Kildare" series.

The unaired 1960 "Kildare" pilot that the movie collection set includes depicts an awesomely bizarro universe version of the ensuing series. Rather than rebooting the franchise by having the titular character return as an intern, the pilot stars Ayres as Kildare.

As depicted in the pilot, Kildare has stepped into Gillespie's role in the 20 years since "Victory." This includes history repeating itself in having Kildare trying to steer a bright young protege away from choosing to be a small-town general practitioner over staying at Blair to become a resident.

The medical mystery this time is that Kildare has determined that a patient requires a medical procedure for which consent is being withheld. This story subsequently develops into a search for knowledge for relevant information regarding the past of the patient.

Online research confirms that dreamy Robert Redford, who guest-stars in a "very special" second-season "Kildare" episode, has an uncredited role as an intern in the "Kildare" pilot.

Although the pilot demonstrates that this incarnation of "Kildare" would have made an awesome series, a very recent conversation in which a friend in her '50s shared that she crushed on Richard Chamberlain as Kildare indicates the reason for choosing a reboot.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the "Kildare" movies is welcome to email me; please do hold off a few weeks regarding an such communication as to the series. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.