Friday, November 07, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Young Dr. Kildare (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

YOUNG DR. KILDARE (1938) is the very first film in the long-running movie series, available as part of the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection from the Warner Archive.

The Dr. Kildare character, created by Max Brand, was first played onscreen by Joel McCrea in the Paramount film INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY (1937).

In 1938 the character moved over to MGM, debuting in YOUNG DR. KILDARE, and the series was such a success that it continued for nearly a decade. Lew Ayres left the series after DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY (1942), but the series kept going for several more films, with Lionel Barrymore continuing to star as crochety Dr. Gillespie. The series finally concluded with DARK DELUSION in 1947.

In YOUNG DR. KILDARE Jimmy Kildare (Ayres) is fresh out of medical school. His parents (Samuel S. Hinds and Emma Dunn) hope he'll join his father's small-town medical practice, as does his old girlfriend Alice (Lynne Carver), but Jimmy decides to accept an internship at Blair General Hospital in New York.

Dr. Kildare works hard, learning while earning the princely sum of $20 a month plus a room in the hospital. Blair's brilliant but eccentrically cranky Dr. Leonard Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore) terrorizes the interns as much as he teaches them.

Dr. Kildare becomes involved in the case of a suicidal young woman (Jo Ann Sayers) diagnosed by an eminent psychiatrist (Monty Woolley) as mentally ill; Dr. Kildare believes she's perfectly healthy, other than dealing with a problem she won't discuss, and he attempts to learn the truth.

It appears that Dr. Kildare will lose his position after bucking senior doctors on the case, but Dr. Gillespie has noticed things he admires in the young doctor and asks him to become his assistant.

YOUNG DR. KILDARE was quite an entertaining film, although there are a couple of odd things plotwise, such as Kildare not reporting a fatal mistake by ambulance driver Joe (Nat Pendleton). It's hard to imagine such unethical behavior in this day and age, yet it was breezed right over, seeming to instead illustrate that the young doctor is a nice guy.

Similarly the premise of the mental illness case struck me as strange, but if you put those issues aside you're still left with a good cast in a fast-moving and entertaining story. And although it was a "B" picture, the huge lobby of Blair General Hospital is quite impressive.

Many of the actors mentioned above remained with the series long term.  Other long-running characters introduced here are Marie Blake as Sally, the switchboard operator, and Walter Kingsford as Dr. Carew, head of the hospital. Blake, the sister of Jeanette MacDonald, later appeared as Grandmama Addams on THE ADDAMS FAMILY, acting under her real married name, Blossom Rock.

The interns in this initial film include Don "Red" Barry, Don Castle, and Phillip Terry. Bess Flowers appears as a nurse.

YOUNG DR. KILDARE was directed by Harold S. Bucquet and filmed by John F. Seitz. It runs 82 minutes.

There's a cute tag after "The End" in which Lionel Barrymore and Lew Ayres announce to audiences that there are more Dr. Kildare films on the way. I'll be reviewing additional Dr. Kildare films from this set in the future.

The Dr. Kildare Movie Collection is a nine-film, five-disc set. The set also contains trailers and an unaired early '60s Dr. Kildare TV pilot, also with Lew Ayres.

A Dr. Gillespie Movie Collection, featuring the films released in the series after Ayres' departure, is due out from the Warner Archive soon; I noticed the cover recently in my Twitter feed! The young doctors in the post-Ayres era include Van Johnson and Keye Luke.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the Warner Archive site are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.


Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I recently watched what was I think the second in the series, Calling Dr. Kildare, because I'd read the original novel by Max Brand. Aside from a few tweaks to plot, what kept me from liking it quite as much as the book was the much lighter tone—it wasn't really extra comedy added; events were just treated more lightly than in the novel. But the casting was excellent—Lionel Barrymore was so good as Dr. Gillespie, it's easy to see why he got a spin-off of his own.

11:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older