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Calling Dr. Gillespie

Calling Dr. Gillespie(1942)

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The characters of "Roy Todwell" and "Marcia Bradburn" reappeared in the 1943 film Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case, in which "Gillespie" tries to obtain psychiatric help for Roy, who has been incarcerated, and who is eventually killed after a prison escape. Donna Reed reappeared as Marcia in the latter film, but Roy was portrayed by John Craven. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M wanted to borrow from Twentieth Century-Fox actor Frank Orth, who frequently appeared in the Kildare/Gillespie films as "Mike Ryan," owner of a tavern popular with "Blair General Hospital" staff members, but he did not appear in the released version of this film. Other actors mentioned in news items, whose appearances in the released film have not been confirmed, include: Barbara Bedford, Frances Raeburn, Monty Collins, Mitchell Lewis, Robert E. Keane and Ruth Dwyer.
       News items, information in M-G-M story files at the USC Cinema-Television Library and the AMPAS Library file on Calling Dr. Gillespie reveal the following information about the production: The title of Kubec Glasmon's original story, written in June 1937, was Dr. Kildare's Triple X, and an early working title of the picture was Marked in Scarlet. It began filming in mid-February 1942 and shortly thereafter was known as Born to Be Bad. At that time, two months after the United States's entry into World War II, it was to be another in M-G-M's "Dr. Kildare" series, starring Lew Ayres as Kildare. In addition to Ayres, actress Ann Ayars was cast in the film, reprising the role of "Cookie Charles," a character she portrayed in Dr. Kildare's Victory, which was shot in October 1941, but was not yet released. A short time after shooting was completed on Born to Be Bad, Ayres declared himself a conscientious objector to war and was confined to an internment camp. News items in April 1942 noted boycotts by exhibitors of Ayres's films and adverse public reaction to his stance, although several news items reported some support for tolerance of Ayres's position. On April 3, 1942, well-known publicist Russell Birdwell took out a full-page ad in trade publications defending Ayres, and on April 13, 1942, a Hollywood Reporter article reported that ITOA theaters would continue to play Ayres's films because it was "inconsistent with Americanism" not to show them.
       On April 14, 1942, Hollywood Reporter reported that Ayres had been reclassified by the government, thus decreasing the "fuss" over his unpopular stance, and on May 19, 1942, it was reported that he was serving in the U.S. Medical Corps. During the height of the controversy, however, M-G-M executives decided to re-shoot much of Born to be Bad to exclude the "Dr. Kildare" and "Cookie Charles" characters and turn it into a new film featuring "Dr. Gillespie" as the main character, yet retaining the central story of "Roy" and "Marcia." Philip Dorn was then selected to replace Ayres and the film's title was changed to Calling Dr. Gillespie. Most reviews still referred to it as a "Dr. Kildare" film, but all subsequent films in the series were called "Dr. Gillespie" pictures.
       A number of actors were considered or tested for the part of Gillespie's new chief assistant. According to Hollywood Reporter, these included Rod Cameron, Dana Andrews, Cornel Wilde, Larry Parks and Charles Drake. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter in 1943, M-G-M was planning to have at least one film in the series feature a woman doctor. A script by M-G-M staff physician Dr. Helen Jones was to be directed by Willis Goldbeck and produced by Carey Wilson under the title Dr. Gillespie's Woman Doctor or Dr. Gillespie's Lady Doctor, but the film was never made. Van Johnson appeared in four Dr. Gillespie films from 1942 to 1944 as "Dr. Randall 'Red' Adams," a young physician aspiring to be Gillespie's chief assistant. In three of those films, Keye Luke as Chinese-American "Dr. Lee Wong How," portrayed Johnson's rival. Luke revived his character in the 1947 film, Dark Delusion, the last of the series (see below).
       Born to Be Bad would have been Ayres' last M-G-M film. His last released M-G-M film was Fingers at the Window (see below). Ayres resumed his acting career in 1946 in The Dark Mirror (see below) and sporadically appeared in films and television over the next four decades. For additional information on the "Dr. Kildare" and "Dr. Gillespie" series, consult the Series Index and see entry to the 1938 film Young Dr. Kildare in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5251.