Warner Archive continues honoring the awesomeness of the Dr. Kildare franchise with a six-film 3-disc DVD release titled "Dr. Gillespie Movie Collection." Fans of the original Doctor McDreamy know that Gillespie is the entertainingly cranky expert diagnostician who mentors the attractive and charming Kildare.
The Wikipedia entry for "Gillespie" reports that these movies lack Kildare because movie-era Kildare portrayor Lew Ayres was dropped from films in the franchise after declaring himself a conscientious objector regarding the WWII draft. An Unreal TV review of the Archive nine-film collection of Kildare movies shares thoughts regarding these offerings. Unreal TV also has posts on the '60s "KIldare" television series starring uber-dreamy Richard Chamberlain.
The following clip, courtesy of Archive and YouTube, from a "Gillespie" film perfectly conveys the wit and wisdom that screen legend Lionel Barrymore contributes to that character.
"Gillespie" starts with the 1942 melodrama "Calling Dr. Gillespie." This one stars Donna Reed as a finishing school student whose serious boyfriend Roy suddenly turns psychotic. Gillespie is called in and ultimately finds himself the object of the rage of said "excitable boy." The wonderfully campy '40s style depiction of the rampage and stalking by the young man is as entertaining as watching the girls at the finishing school fawn all over grandfather-figure Gillespie.
Roy returns in the aptly titled 1943 film "Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case." This socially conscious movie has Gillespie advocating transferring Roy from the prison where he is serving time for the offenses that he commits in "Calling" to a psychiatric facility. The main obstacles that Gillespie faces relate to convincing the powers-that-be that the bad acts that land Roy in the slammer are manifestations of said illness.
"Criminal" includes a terrific sequence involving prisoners capturing hostages and going on the lam. This contributes great cops-and-robbers fun to the film.
The 1942 film "Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant," which is sandwiched between "Calling" and "Criminal," introduces a concept that runs throughout the remaining titles in the collection. The professional demands on Gillespie prompt him to begin the process of selecting a young doctor with whom to work. Two of the three candidates are Dr. Randall Adams, played by future matinee idol Van Johnson, and the very Brooklynesque Dr. Lee Wong How. Number One Son Keye Luke from the Charlie Chan films plays Lee.
Like "Calling" and "Criminal," "Assistant" centers around a disease of the mind (rather than of the body.) In this case, a truly newlywed woman suddenly asserts a strong case of amnesia. This provides the candidates for the coveted position of closely working with Kildare to compete to determine the cause of the condition.
"3 Men in White" has Lee and Adams competing in the final stage of the selection process for the job with Gillespie. This contest requires that each diagnose the baffling case that Gillespie assigns him. The ensuing friendly rivalry and collaboration are nicely entertaining.
The post-war film "Dark Delusion" is the final entry in Gillespie series and has little to do with him or his aforementioned potential assistants. Gillespie sets the action in motion by recruiting young Dr. Tommy Cobalt to fill in for a absent small-town doctor.
Similar to underlying issues in "Calling," Cobalt soon becomes involved in the puzzling case of wealthy young Cynthia Grace. In contrast to the parents of Roy in "Calling" denying that their son has serious psychological problems, the father of Cynthia wants his daughter treated at a psychiatric facility. However, Cobalt is not convinced that that course of action is best.
The dramatic battle of wills between professionally vulnerable Cobalt and stereotypical wealthy and powerful Wyndham Grace contributes wonderful conflict to "Dark." Lee literally wrestling a reluctant patient provides some of the best humor in the entire "Gillespie" series.
The diagnosis regarding "Gillespie" is that it is a good group of films, and the eccentric group of medical professionals at Blair General Hospital from which the titlular physician operates (no pun intended) keep things interesting. Gillespie regularly wrangling with nursing supervisor Molly Byrd and browbeating and otherwise tormenting rookie physicians for their own good alone make the films worth watching. The wonderfully nostalgic war-era patriotism is simply a nice bonus.
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