1 9 6 1 – 1 9 6 6 (USA)
132 x 60 minute episodes
58 x 30 minute episodes
This popular 1960s medical drama gave us a look at life in the (fictional) Blair General Hospital and the story of a young intern trying to learn his profession, deal with problems of the patients and win the respect of the senior doctor in his speciality, Internal Medicine.
Kildare (Richard Chamberlain) was the young intern (later resident physician) and senior staff physician Dr Leonard Gillespie (Raymond Massey) was his cantankerous but concerned mentor.
The show was originally a series of hour-long self-contained dramas and was based on a successful radio series and long-running series of 1940s films from MGM starring Lionel Barrymore as Dr Gillespie and Lew Ayres as Dr Kildare.
It did not flinch from realistic portrayals of hospital life and the life-and-death aspect of the work.
For the first two years, Kildare was one of a trio of interns, with Dr Simon Argurski (Eddie Ryder) and Dr Thomas Gerson (Jud Taylor).
Later the drama shifted to the ever warm-eyed James Kildare’s relationship with his patients at Blair Hospital, and – to compete with Peyton Place – producer Norman Felton changed it to a continuing serial.
Other regular characters included hospital receptionist Susan Deigh (Joan Patrick), Nurse Fain (Jean Innes), Dr Lowry (Steven Bell), and Head Nurse Zoe Lawton (Lee Kurty).
Previously only a bit-part actor, the series changed Richard Chamberlain’s life – he received over 35,000 letters a month and went on to success on stage, in films and, most spectacularly, on television in mini-series such as Shogun (1980) and The Thorn Birds (1983).
At the peak of the show’s success, over 2 million teenagers watched Chamberlain every week and he became the hottest TV idol in years. They even turned him into a recording star, and his vocal version of the show’s theme song (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight) was a Top 10 hit.
A 1972 revival of the show, entitled Young Dr Kildare, starred Mark Jenkins in the role of Dr James Kildare and focused on his years as an intern. This series ran for 24 episodes.
Dr James Kildare
Dr Leonard Gillespie
Head Nurse Zoe Lawton
Dr Thomas Gerson
Dr Simon Argurski
Receptionist Susan Deigh