Posts Tagged ‘Laraine Day’

The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon: Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie, in MGM’s Dr. Kildare Movies

Modern day film fans are probably familiar with Drew Barrymore but are they aware she is descended from a family of actors that began their stagecraft in the 1840’s?!  My post today is  for The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon, hosted this weekend by classic film fan Crystal.   Be sure to click here, to read more great pieces written by other classic film fans, about the three Barrymores that classic film fans know best: Lionel, Ethel, and John.

Lionel Ethel John

I decided to focus on Drew’s late, Great-Uncle, Lionel.  Specifically, his role as the grumpy Dr. Gillespie in MGM’s long running film series about a young doctor, Dr. Kildare.   Frederick Schiller Faust, under the pen name Max Brand, wrote for pulp fiction magazines.  He created a character, a young doctor, James Kildare, and wrote a story about the young doctor in a nationally read magazine.  That story caught Paramount Studio’s attention.  They bought the rights of the  story  to make the 1937 movie, Interns Can’t Take Money, which starred Joel McCrea.  Next came Metro Goldwyn Mayer and they bought the rights to the character concept of Dr. Kildare(the studio put Lew Ayres in the title role) and then made 9 successful films all about the young doctor.  To me, though,   topping all of these films off, like the cherry on the sundae, is Lionel Barrymore.

Dr. Gillespie

 

Barrymore began acting on the stage in 1899(!), and after a successful stage career, he began to appear in silent movies; 1911 he began to appear in some D.W. Griffith films.  By the time that the Dr. Kildare series began to be filmed in 1938, Barrymore was in his 60s and confined to a wheelchair due to arthritis and a broken hip(broken twice!) that never healed properly.   His character, Dr.  Leonard Gillespie, is the wisest doctor and the grumpiest,  at Blair General Hospital.  He rolls around the halls as fast as he can, has his own clinic in the building with a large contingent of loyal patients, and his own apartment to live in too!   There’s a  head nurse, Molly Byrd(Alma Kruger), who Dr. Gillespie likes to bark at but we can tell that  he has a fondness for this no-nonsense nurse.

Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie giving a chewing out to young Dr. Kildare, played by Lew Ayres

Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie giving a chewing out to young Dr. Kildare, played by Lew Ayres

The plots of the 9 Dr. Kildare films aren’t too difficult to follow, and they do present some clever medical mysteries that the young doctor has to resolve, often asking Dr. Gillespie for advice.  Turner Classic Movies began airing the Dr. Kildare films on Saturday mornings, and I began to record and watch them.  There’s something endearing about all of the films in this series.  Dr. James Kildare is young, smart, and has ideas as to how he wants to help patients.  Dr. Kildare’s parents(Samuel S. Hinds and Emma Dunn) are two loving parents who did a good job raising their only child. Of course, the senior Kildare is also a doctor in a small town and the parents hope that one day, Jimmy, will come back to it and practice medicine and give up the big city hospital.  There’s Nurse Lamont(Laraine Day), who falls in love with young Dr. Kildare, and he with her.  There’s Wayman(Nat Pendleton) as a big lug of an ambulance driver who wants to date Sally(Marie Blake) the wise-cracking dame who runs the hospital’s switchboard.  Dr. Carew, the hospital’s administrator(Walter Kingsford), has some clashes from time to time with Dr. Gillespie and Dr. Kildare, but he usually will give the A-OK to a new treatment  they want to try.   An orderly, Conover(Clinton Rosemond) who is Dr. Gillespie’s butler for all intents and purposes, and Nurse Parker(Nell Craig)-nicknamed Nosey by Dr. Gillespie, rounds out the rest of the cast.

Dr. Gillespie, Laraine Day as Nurse Lamont, and Dr. Kildare

Dr. Gillespie, Laraine Day as Nurse Lamont, and Dr. Kildare

Dr. Gillespie and Nurse Molly Bird

Dr. Gillespie and Nurse Molly Byrd

After the 9th Dr. Kildare was shown at the box office,  the 10th film was about to begin shooting when the American public learned that it’s lead star, Lew Ayres, had declared himself a conscientious objector to WWII, when he had recently been drafted.  (Ayers did serve as a non-combat medic and chaplain’s assistant during the war which toned down the public’s outcry against Ayers.)  MGM, not wanting bad publicity for this 10th film, decided to cut Dr. Kildare from the film completely and just focus the film on Dr. Gillespie.  The new story line worked and 6 Dr. Gillespie films were made.  There were four actors who played new,  young doctors needing  Dr. Gillespie’s mentoring: Philip Dorn played Dr. Gerniede, Van Johnson played Dr. Adams, Keye Luke played Dr. Wong Howe, and James Craig played Dr. Coalt.

Calling Dr. Kildare sees the young doctor get mixed up with Lana Turner! (Before she was a star)

Calling Dr. Kildare sees the young doctor get mixed up with Lana Turner! (Before she was a star)

Wayman and Sally- a date is about to be requested

Wayman and Sally- a date is about to be requested

Dr. Kildare with administrator Dr. Carew

Dr. Kildare with administrator Dr. Carew

TCM will be airing the first Dr. Kildare movie, Young Dr. Kildare, on Thursday, August 27th, 12:30 pm ET/11:30 am CT.  It’s also available to buy through TCM’s shop, as well as the Dr. Gillespie films.  There are also dvds to buy of the American tv show, Dr. Kildare, for sale on the same site, so don’t let that confuse you!   Amazon also has some of the Dr. Kildare films for sale, too.

Before I sign off, the names Dr. Kildare and Dr. Gillespie had become commonplace in American pop culture in the 1940s-1950s, and even Bugs Bunny had a chance to have a bit of fun.  In this cartoon, Hot Cross Bunny, watch for the waskily wabbit to impersonate Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie.

 

 

My Classic Movie Pick: Mr. Lucky

I was discussing classic films with a friend this week and we both agreed, any movie that stars Cary Grant is an automatic favorite film and a  must-see.  That bit of discussion set my brain to thinking about Cary Grant films  and I  decided that  I should write about  one of his more obscure films, but one  that is still a good movie to view.  Plus it features  the hobby of knitting!  Yes, Cary has to learn to knit in this film!  It is 1943’s Mr. Lucky, produced by RKO studios and directed by H.C. Potter.  It was bought by RKO from Milton Holmes’s story, “Bundles for Freedom” and he,  along with Adrian Scott, wrote the screenplay.  Grant’s co-stars in the film are Laraine Day, Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper, Alan Carney, Paul Stewart, Kay Johnson, and Florence Bates.Mr. Lucky

This comedy-romance-drama, is set in New York City as World War II is raging.    Grant plays Joe “The Greek” Adams, a gambler with a couple of problems.  He and his gambling partner, Zepp(Paul Stewart),  have received draft notices and neither of them wants to serve.  They have to come up with a plan to get out of the draft.  One of their gambling employees, Joe Bascopolous, has died and his draft  status was 4F.  Either Joe or Zepp can use Bascopolous’s identity so they decide to gamble for it.  Zepp cheats but Joe wins and decides to now go by the name of Joe Bascopolous.  The second problem for Joe is the lack of money to pay for his gambling ship.  He wants to raise enough dough to take his ship down to Cuba.  How will Joe find that bankroll of dough?

Joe(Grant) and Zepp(Paul Stewart) discussing their two problems.

Joe(Grant) and Zepp(Paul Stewart) discussing their two problems.

He finds it through a local War Relief organization, run by society ladies, and the head lady is Veronica Steadman, played by Gladys Cooper.   Joe has to gain Mrs. Steadman’s trust, the trust of the other ladies at the organization, and the trust of wealthy society lady Dorothy Bryant, played by Laraine Day.  Miss Bryant is beautiful, single, rich, and second-in-command at the War Relief organization, and Joe knows he has to have a positive influence on her if he is to gain Mrs. Steadman’s approval and money.  To prove his trustworthiness, after he has pledged that he wants to join the group of ladies, he agrees to learn to knit!  One of the daily tasks for the ladies  is to knit socks and scarves for the soldiers overseas, and it is a very comical scene as Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) takes on the task with joy and energy of teaching Joe how to knit one and purl two!  Seeing a handsome man in their midst is also quite an event for the ladies of the organization!

It's a delight to find out that Cary Grant has joined your group!

It’s a delight to find out that Cary Grant has joined your group!

Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) who gets to teach Cary Grant how to knit!

Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) who gets to teach Cary Grant how to knit!

Learning to knit can be frustrating!

Learning to knit can be frustrating!

Mrs. Veronica Steadman(Gladys Cooper), head of the War Relief organization

Mrs. Veronica Steadman(Gladys Cooper), head of the War Relief organization

With all of the knitting going on, and Joe’s punctuality and  his well-dressed and polite persona, he  wins  Mrs. Steadman and Miss Bryant over and soon they agree to a fundraising idea he has for the organization: a charity gambling night.  Joe promises the ladies that they’ll raise enough money to outfit a relief ship.  What Joe is really planning to do is supply the charity gambling event with cashboxes with false bottoms in them so Joe and his gambling outfit can steal the winnings and with that money, he can take his gang and his ship south to Cuba.  However, a letter Joe receives that morning changes everything.  Joe  receives a letter from the real Joe Bascopolous’s mother in Greece.  The letter is written in Greek and Joe is curious about it’s contents so he visits a nearby Greek Orthodox Church and asks the priest there to translate it for him.  The letter informs Joe that the Nazis overran their village and how all of the Greek men died trying to protect their village.  Joe thanks the priest for translating the letter and then heads to the nearest park bench, to sit and think about his life, in comparison to the brave Greek men’s lives.

When Joe arrives at the War Relief organization for the start of the Charity Casino Night, he tells his co-hort, Crunk,(Alan Carney), that he has decided to put all of the winnings towards the ladies’ goal for  war relief.  Zepp overhears this change in plans and decides to stop this from happening.  At the end of the evening, Zepp pulls a gun on Joe and forces him to gather up the winnings.  Dorothy accidentally enters the room and sees Joe collecting the money and assumes the worst about Joe, that he is really just a no-good gambler and crook.  To protect Dorothy so she can’t be one of Zepp’s victims, Joe knocks her out,and  then Joe manages to attack Zepp and kills him in self-defense, but also gets shot in the altarcation.  Joe then  escapes from the War Relief organization’s building.

Some days go by and  Dorothy is feeling very low and stupid for having fallen for Joe and his offer to help the War Relief organization.   One day a man arrives at the War Relief’s building.  He introduces himself as Mr. Hard Swede, that he is a friend of Joe’s, and that Joe wanted him to give the ladies a packet.  In the packet is the money that the ladies rightly earned through their Charity Casino night!  Some more days go by and Dorothy is informed that Joe Bascopolous is dead.  She asks to see a picture of Joe and it isn’t the Joe that she fell in love with.  She learns that Bascopolous worked on a ship called the “Briny Marlin” and remembering some Australian slang phrases Joe had taught her one evening, she rushes to the docks, knowing that the ship and her Joe are probably there.   Dorothy reaches the dock and sees the ship and Joe and begs him to take her with him.  Joe has loaded his ship with war relief supplies and informs Dorothy that he is sailing to Europe and it will be too dangerous to take her with him.  He treats her rudely, as he doesn’t want her to know his real feelings for her.  A few weeks later, Dorothy finds out that the Briny Marlin was torpedoed on its return to New York City and sunk.  Despite this awful news, Dorothy is confident that Joe somehow survived  and she visits the dock each night waiting for his return.

The movie has a happy ending and I don’t want to reveal more to ruin it for the viewer.  Suffice it to say that the movie was a huge hit with the audiences of 1943 and it earned a profit of $1, 603,000 at the box office.  If you are a Cary Grant fan, or if you love knitting, if you want a film that has a bit of a deeper message than a typical romance-comedy, than seek out Mr. Lucky.  The movie is available through Amazon.com, clips of it are on Youtube, and Turner Classic Movies will be airing it this weekend, on March 30th, at 10:30 p.m. CST.

Cary and Laraine

Trying to work his charm on Miss Bryant(Laraine Day).

Trying to work his charm on Miss Bryant(Laraine Day).

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