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Paging Dr. Kildare and Dr. Casey


Dr. KildareBack in the Sixties nurses basically wore all white from head to toe which encompassed their dress, stockings, and cap. The waiting room public heard the constant reverberations of doctors being paged around the clock.  There arose two medical drama series which sexified men in ill fitting scrubs. Dr. Kildare, the NBC television series (1961 -1966) focused on young intern, Dr. James Kildare (Richard Chamberlain) who worked at the fictional Blair General, dealing with his patients’ problems and garnering the respect of senior Dr. Leonard Gillespie (Raymond Massey). Ben Casey, ABC’s version (1961 – 1966), starring Vince Edwards, portrayed Dr. Ben Casey as a young, intense, idealistic surgeon at fictional County General Hospital, and mentored by Dr. David Zorba (Sam Jaffe).


Both drama docs spread a contagious infatuation among their female followers who longed to experience their warm bedside manner.  The best I could hope for was carrying Dr. Ben Casey in my arms in the form of a notebook. As notebook statistics go, most of the girls at Lincoln Jr. High were smitten with Dr. Kildare.  Apparently, kitsch didn’t stop with three ring binders either.  


In my nostalgic gurney ride I was reminded that Richard Chamberlain cut a few records, one of which is “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight (1962) from “Theme from Dr. Kildare” which hit number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Floating around somewhere , there’s a white cotton pillowcase with a photo screen of Richard Chamberlain surrounded by three pink and blue lambs and stars, bearing his autograph, signed, “Dr. Kildare.”  And, be still my heart, there’s a “Dr. Kildare Thumpy, the Heartbeat Stethoscope” patented in 1963 by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Inc. and Amsco Industries, Inc.  Get this – no batteries and nothing to wind, the slightest movement activates the heartbeat.


As the fleas fly in flea markets, up for auction is a mint condition 110 card set, entitled, “Casey and Kildare” by Topps in 1962.  Then there’s a set of “Ben Casey Cuff Links” made by Bing Crosby Productions for Gerald Sears Sales Promotion Service in 1962 for when girls wore white button down shirttail blouses with cuffs that could have used securing with a pair of Ben. Say a-a-a-a-h…I don’t espy any Dr. Kildare or Dr. Casey notebooks-- bygone kitsch I should have hung onto.


Medical drama series continue to spread and thrive on television networks like a virus.  Unless there’s a major emergency, we show up at the set by appointment. Our pulse quickens, our mouth waters, our temperature rises…is there a doctor in the house?


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