Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dr. Kildare

TCM is showing all nine movies in the Dr. Kildare series tomorrow. Lew Ayres (whose birthday is tomorrow, hence the tribute) played the young Dr. Kildare who was the assistant to Dr. Leonard Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore). Now, I've mentioned Dr. Gillespie before, specifically in regards to the 1942 film Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant. And there's a bit of a tale in that.

Dr. Kildare was played by Lew Ayres from 1938's Young Dr. Kildare (airing at 6:15 AM tomorrow) through to the end of 1941. And then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. World War II changed a lot of careers, mostly because people got called off to fight in the war, at least if they were men. Women like Greta Garbo found they were really no longer popular and the European market had dried up; and of course Carole Lombard died in a plane crash while raising money for war bonds. But back to Lew Ayres. He had the misfortune of being a conscientious objector of one of the few wars which was quite obviously morally acceptable. So it killed off his career for quite a few years, until the war was over. (To be fair, Ayres did serve as a medic/chaplain during the war.) Ayres didn't really achieve prominence again until Johnny Belinda in 1948, for which he earned an Oscar nomination, although like almost everybody else involved with that film, he lost. In the end, Ayres went on to a career in television, making dozens and dozens of appearances in episodic TV.

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