Posts Tagged ‘Lionel Barrymore’

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.

 

 

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My Classic Movie Pick: Mickey Rooney Films I Greatly Enjoyed

Mickey Rooney, who had a 9 decades long career in the Entertainment Industry, passed away April 6th.   In honor of him, Turner Classic Movies is going to present on Sunday, April 13th, 13 films that Rooney starred in.  Among this list are 3 of Rooney’s films that I have already seen and instead of one post about one movie, I thought I’d write short synopses about  3 of those films that I really enjoyed.

A Family Affair, 1937 from MGM studios.  Stars Lionel Barrymore(Great-Uncle of Drew Barrymore) as Judge Hardy, running for re-election to keep his judgeship and encountering opposition from some of the citizens of the small-town where he resides.   Spring Byington plays his wife Emily, Cecilia Parker is his daughter, Marion, and Mickey Rooney is his son, Andy.  A Family Affair was shot in 15 days!  It was considered a “B” movie by the studio and Lionel Barrymore didn’t want to be in it.  Another teen actor was set to play the part of Andy, but by the time filming was to begin, he had grown too tall so the part went to Rooney.  In his autobiography, Life is too Short, Rooney wrote that he knew the movie was a “B” movie but that fact didn’t keep him from putting his all into the role.  Surprising to MGM is that when the film opened at theatres, it became a huge hit and so profitable that MGM ended up making 16 Andy Hardy films.  The Hardy Family films usually center around Andy and the amusing difficulties he gets himself into and how he finally handles the difficulties with some advice from his wise father.  Movie Poster for AFA

Judge Hardy talking with his two teenagers.

Judge Hardy talking with his two teenagers.

Boys Town, 1938, also from MGM.  Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and won the Academy Awards for Best Original Story and Best Actor, Spencer Tracy.  Tracy plays Father Edward Flanagan who is called to the prison to hear the last confession of a prisoner scheduled to die in the electric chair.  The condemned man tells Father Flanagan that if only he had had good friends at the age of 12 instead of the delinquents he ran with, he’d probably not ended up in prison.   Father Flanagan takes the man’s words to heart, and with the attitude that their is no such thing as a bad boy, he opens up a home for boys in trouble outside of Omaha, Nebraska and calls the place Boys Town.   Mickey Rooney plays Whitey Marsh, a tough young hoodlum who’s older brother, serving time in prison, asks for Father Flanagan to take in his younger brother and try to turn his life around.  Tracy is great as the priest who is kind but very firm when he has to be.  Rooney is great as the snotty, brash, juvenile delinquint with a heart of gold.   Here’s a clip from the film Boys Town.  The film proved to be such a great box office success that in 1941 a sequel was made, Men of Boys Town and Tracy and Rooney reprised their roles.

Father Flanagan having a meeting with Whitey.

Father Flanagan having a meeting with Whitey.

Boys Town

National Velvet, 1945, from MGM.  Stars  12 year old Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown, an English  girl who loves horses.  She enters the town lottery as the prize is a neighboring farmer’s unruly and spirited horse.  The winner of the first number called doesn’t appear so  another  number is  called and Velvet wins.  With the help of Mi Taylor( Mickey Rooney), a young drifter who has a lot of knowledge about horses and racing them, Velvet decides to train the Pi(her name for her horse) for the Grand National Race.  This is a charming movie, espousing hard work, reaching for one’s dreams, and filmed in gorgeous technicolor.  Look for Angela Lansbury playing Velvet’s older sister, Edwina.  Here’s a training sequence from National Velvet, featuring Taylor and Rooney.

Rooney and Taylor

Rooney and Taylor

National Velvet

Here is also the schedule that TCM has posted for Rooney’s films on Sunday.  TCM has also made a lovely tribute video of Rooney’s career and it can be viewed here.  Be sure to tune in and/or set your dvr machine!