Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Radio Greats: Mrs. Stanford's Angina Pectoris (Dr. Kildare)

Dr. James Kildare was a character invented in the mid 1930s by Max Brand. Brand was most famous for his Westerns, but the modern doctor Dr. Kildare has probably been his most enduring character. Shortly after the publication of the first Dr. Kildare short story, a movie was based on it, Internes Can't Take Money, which did well enough that a whole series of Dr. Kildare movies were made. Two characters in particular became associated with the series: the curmudgeonly Dr. Gillespie, played by Lionel Barrymore, and, of course, the idealistic Dr. Kildare himself, played by Lew Ayres.

In 1949, The Story of Dr. Kildare, often just known as Dr. Kildare, was put together by MGM, starrying both Barrymore and Ayres. It had an all-star cast, including the always-solid Virginia Gregg as Nurse Parker, with whom Dr. Gillespie has a perpetual (but still largely friendly) feud of words. The series did very, very well, but it was late in the Age of Radio, and it was cheaper and easier for radio stations to make their own radio series than to buy fancy packages from third parties, so it only lasted about two years, despite its popularity.

Each episode, Dr. Kildare handles crazy patients (or sometimes crazy administrators) while Dr. Gillespie makes curmudgeonly and sarcastic wisecracks; but he always wins through to heal the sickness or triumph over mere bureaucracy. A good one for October, as we gear up for Halloween, is "Mrs. Stanford's Angina Pectoris", from July 1950. Medicine meets love meets ghosts meets butcher knives meets shenanigans about a will and testament. But Dr. Gillespie knows human nature and will bring everything to a happy ending. Well, perhaps Dr. Kildare will suffer a bit from a bruised heart, but, as Dr. Gillespie likes to point out, he's young yet and will certainly recover.

You can listen to "Mrs. Stanford's Angina Pectoris" online at the Internet Archive (number 24).

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