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In 1963, Richard Chamberlain found himself in the same position as another actor, Lew Ayres, nearly thirty years before. He had become famous as "Dr. Kildare" in the TV medical drama series. Whether it was film (as in Ayres' case) or television, where Chamberlain had made his mark, the role of Kildare had turned into a curse; one that Richard Chamberlain had hoped to escape when he left the small screen for the big one with Twilight of Honor (1963).
The film, produced for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, revolves around David Mitchell (Chamberlain), a young attorney who must fight to prove his client (Nick Adams) innocent of murder even after discovering the truth. Chamberlain's mentor in the film was played by the great Claude Rains, making his final film appearance. Rounding out the cast was James Gregory and Joey Heatherton (who would earn a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Adams' wife.)
John Gruen, writing for The New York Herald dismissed the film as "More tedium than tension. Moments after some fast, furious and quite intriguing credits have whizzed past us, the production of Twilight of Honor settles into a predictable courtroom drama. Aside from a smirk-laden, not to say prurient script, it purports to be a showcase for the antiseptic acting abilities of Richard Chamberlain, who has won fame and fortune putting thumb to pulse as television's Dr. Kildare." The New York Times was kinder to Chamberlain, saying, "The guy's not bad. Here's the rub. Instead of letting Mr. Chamberlain, as a small-town lawyer, exercise in a harmless, old-fashioned vehicle, his sponsors have carefully spiced the old courtroom format to a fare-thee-well. The picture's no more for the kids than it is for Mr. Chamberlain. He has a bit of acting to do and does it with determined briskness." Variety praised the screenplay, saying the "[d]exterity which writer [Henry Denker] displays is matched by the shrewd, moving direction of Boris Sagal, who is particularly proficient in his realistic courtroom sequences."
When the Academy Award nominations were announced, it was Nick Adams who received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He lost to Melvyn Douglas in Hud. Ironically, Claude Rains' next acting assignment was co-starring with Chamberlain in a TV episode of Dr. Kildare.
Producers: Irv Pearlberg, George Seaton (both uncredited)
Director: Boris Sagal
Screenplay: Henry Denker; Al Dewlen (novel)
Cinematography: Philip Lathrop
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Paul Groesse
Music: John Green
Film Editing: Hugh S. Fowler
Cast: Richard Chamberlain (David Mitchell), Nick Adams (Ben Brown), Claude Rains (Art Harper), Joan Blackman (Susan Harper), James Gregory (Norris Bixby), Joey Heatherton (Laura Mae Brown), Pat Buttram (Cole Clinton), Jeanette Nolan (Amy Clinton).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice by David J. Skal with Jessica Rains
The New York Herald film review by John Gruen, November 11, 1963
Variety film review, September 18, 1963
The New York Times film review by Howard Thompson, November 14, 1963
The Internet Movie Database