Cast & Crew
After warning ambitious intern Randall "Red" Adams about the dangers of "blondes," noted Blair Hospital physician Dr. Leonard Gillespie confers with Red and fellow intern Dr. Lee Wong How about their future. Both Red and Lee want to be Gillespie's assistant and, hoping to impress him, each takes turns bragging about his latest diagnostic accomplishments. Torn between the two men, the irascible Gillespie, whose self-imposed deadline for making the decision is fast approaching, announces that he will be assigning a special case to each one. The wheelchair-bound Gillespie then asks Red to attend a medical forum with him later that week, and while they are at the forum's hotel, they notice a beautiful young woman stagger to her car, apparently drunk. The woman then hits a parked car and, while she is being questioned by an angry policeman, passes out. Red intervenes on the woman's behalf and, with Gillespie's help, convinces the officer to allow him to take her to a hospital. On the way there, the woman reveals to Red that she was only pretending to be unconscious but insists that she is not drunk. After the woman passes out in earnest, Red checks her into the hospital, and the next morning, informs the policeman that she had no alcohol in her system. Although Red expresses concern about the woman's health, she checks herself out without having given her name. Later, however, Red tells Gillespie about the woman and suggests that she become his test case. Gillespie, who has just assigned Lee to find out why young patient Mary Jones went into convulsions after eating candy, at first disapproves of Red's choice, but then gives him the woman's purse, which she had tossed out her car window on the way to the hospital. From her driver's license, Red discovers the woman's name is Jean Brown and goes to see her. To his surprise, Jean lives with her father and invalid mother, who has been crippled by incurable spinal arthritis. Pressed by Red, Jean confesses that she went to a party the previous night, hoping for a temporary escape from caring for her mother, and took someone else's prescription medicine, which Red deduces caused her inebriated state. After Jean reveals that she broke up with her fiancé because of her mother's condition, Red pledges to reexamine Mrs. Brown. Later, Red confers with Gillespie about Mrs. Brown's disease and learns that her arthritis is indeed incurable. Though discouraged, Red undertakes to lighten Jean's load by finding a way to make her mother mobile. The hard-working Lee, meanwhile, has put Mary on a sugar-free, vitamin-supplemented diet and is confident that he will soon have her cured. On the eve of Gillespie's deadline, Red agrees to drop by the rich, marriage-hungry Ruth Edley's apartment, but asks Lee to make a phony emergency call to him to ensure that he will not succumb to her charms. Lee calls Red at Ruth's as planned, and on their way back to the hospital, Lee takes his rival to watch a little boy hopping playfully down the street with one leg on the sidewalk, the other in the street. Lee explains to a confused Red that Mrs. Brown's arthritis may have caused one of her legs to become shorter than the other, which would account for the extreme pain she feels while walking. Having solved Red's case, Lee then takes the final step in resolving Mary's problem. Prepared to administer insulin, Lee orders Mary to eat several candies and waits to see if she has an adverse reaction to them. She doesn't, and the next morning, Lee proudly reveals to Gillespie that Mary was suffering from a mineral deficiency that caused her to crave sugar and have convulsions. Gillespie informs Lee that, although he was unaware of it at the time, he aided him in much the same way Lee helped Red. Gillespie then discovers that Red has suddenly withdrawn himself from the "competition" and goes in search of him. At the Browns's, Red presents Mrs. Brown with orthopedic shoes and watches with satisfaction as she begins to walk for the first time in years. As he is leaving the Browns's, Red is intercepted by Gillespie, who, having spied Mrs. Brown walking, offers him the assistant's job. The intern turns him down, however, saying that Lee is the more worthy physician. Later, however, Lee learns that Gillespie has arranged for him to join the Chinese Red Army medical corps, an assignment for which he has long yearned, and vows to help bring back Red. As Red is preparing to depart for Chicago, Ruth connives to meet with him one last time at the hotel and is pleasantly surprised when Hobart, having been sent by Lee, knocks him out in the parking lot.
George H. Reed
Edwin B. Willis
Three Men in White
- Tag line from the trailer for Three Men in White
By the time MGM's successful and lucrative movie series set in Blair General Hospital reached its 13th installment with Three Men in White (1944), the dynamic duo of Dr. Kildare and Dr. Gillespie had undergone a few changes. Actor Lew Ayres, who shot to stardom as the intense and eager young Kildare, had offended the sympathies of patriotic WW II audiences when he declared himself a conscientious objector. MGM made the decision in 1942 to drop him from the popular movie franchise after nine films, and the series changed its focus to the crusty yet benign Dr. Leonard Gillespie, played by Lionel Barrymore. The senior actor had been wheelchair-bound for several years after breaking a hip and suffering intense arthritis that nearly immobilized him, but audiences accepted and loved the new Barrymore-on-wheels as he continued his busy career.
Three Men in White was the fourth Blair General Hospital entry sans Kildare. (The character had been introduced in a 1937 Paramount film but was quickly adopted by MGM.) With Ayres unavailable as the white-coated sidekick, writers, including Kildare veteran Willis Goldbeck (who also directed several entries, including Three Men in White), vamped for one movie until they settled on rising MGM contract player Van Johnson, who made his debut in the eleventh film of the series, 1942's Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant. (Johnson had been in a serious car accident towards the end of 1942 which left him with a steel plate in his skull, and precluded military service.)
Johnson's Dr. Randall "Red" Ames, along with Chinese intern Dr. Lee Wong How, played by Keye Luke, would continue in their roles as friendly rivals for Dr. Gillespie's medical approval until the end of the series in 1947 at movie number fifteen (though Johnson missed the last entry). Keye Luke's presence was one of MGM's inspired concessions to wartime sentiments; China was a U.S. ally and in fact at the end of Three Men in White Luke's character goes off to join the Chinese Army medical corps.
While medical matters set the plots in motion, some of the chief appeal of the popular doctor dramas lay in the notion of handsome and dynamic young medicos finding romance. Three Men in White was lucky to have a couple of the most beautiful young starlets in Hollywood close by to administer the proper va-va-voom to the tireless Dr. Ames. The ravishing MGM starlet Ava Gardner, a natural beauty who had traveled to Hollywood from a sultry South Carolina tobacco farm, piqued the public's interest through her marriage to MGM superstar Mickey Rooney in early 1942, a short-lived liaison that was over in less than a year-and-a-half. She spent the early 1940s doing walk-ons and one-liners, often uncredited, including a small bit in which she uttered her first onscreen lines in 1942's Calling Dr. Gillespie, the first Kildare film without Kildare.
Gardner would always remember the kindness and professionalism of Lionel Barrymore, who stayed after his usual early quitting time (for health reasons) to do the scene with her. As Gardner related in her autobiography: "...even though I was terrified at the idea of opening my mouth and having to produce words, I thought, What a wonderful old gentleman...what lovely old-fashioned manners. Mr. Barrymore taught me something I never forgot: he taught me what "respond" really means to an actor."
Gardner was joined in the glamour girl department by the vivacious blonde Marilyn Maxwell, a singer who was picked up by MGM and made her screen debut in 1942. She had originated her role as socialite social worker Ruth Edley in 1943's Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case, and reprised the role here and in Between Two Women in 1945. Both Ava Gardner as Jean Brown and Marilyn Maxwell as Ruth Edley constituted the prime distractions to the interns' concentration, with frequent played-for-laughs interactions offering light comedy counterpoint to otherwise sober medical situations. Ava would remember "...Marilyn Maxwell and I were chosen from the studio's starlet pool as potential seductresses, primed to test Van Johnson's resolution...in those days, with the eyes of the Hays office everywhere, we had to play it strictly for laughs." Gardner had a field day playing drunk and pawing the solicitous young intern, though her character was actually a hard-working young woman who was caring for her arthritis-disabled mother. Maxwell connives and contrives for face time with Dr. Ames, who has become downhearted and decides to move to Chicago and resume his internship there. (Don't worry; he doesn't go, and Miss Edley doesn't get him into the church, either.)
The usual Blair General denizens were still around, including Alma Kruger as Head Nurse Molly Bird, who had been with the series since the very beginning and would finish out the saga. Nell Craig as Nurse "Nosey" Parker came onboard in the second feature and would also stay until the end of the series. Walter Kingsford as Dr. Walter Carew was in since the first picture and would stay for all but the last entry. The part of the bumbling ambulance driver was originally played by Nat Pendleton, but in Three Men in White the new driver character was named Hobart Genet (for this movie only) and played by MGM comic relief specialist Rags Ragland. Rags started out as a boxer, transitioned to burlesque as a raucous comic, then made it to Broadway. He was picked up by MGM in the early 1940s and made regular appearances in comedies and musicals with his unique comedic style.
Lightweight but serviceable, Three Men in White was at least good enough to keep the franchise going; two more movies would follow until the series ended in 1947. Critics knew enough not to expect much from the plot, and instead found nice things to say about the feminine pulchritude on display. The Hollywood Reporter called Gardner and Maxwell "two of the smoothest young sirens to be found." Variety thought the drama slightly weak and the romance a little far-fetched: "In this day and age it's difficult to believe that a good-looking boy will dodge a better-looking gal for eight reels, hesitant even for a first kiss...Marilyn Maxwell makes a toothsome blonde menace, and Ava Gardner is attractive as a girl with a problem." The New York Times thought it "a pleasant interlude" and particularly commented on the venerable Barrymore, saying "...he looms larger than the hospital or, if you please, the picture. As a matter of fact any novice actor must view uneasily an opportunity to get before the camera with this mellow scene pirate...."
The Hippocratic Oath wins out over sweet nothings in the end of Three Men in White, and all good interns good to their beds alone and unsullied. Though he might not have said it exactly, we can be sure that the esteemed Dr. Gillespie in Three Men in White surely knew this one fact, and he ought to know: a pretty girl is like a malady.
Director: Willis Goldbeck
Screenplay: Martin Berkeley, Harry Ruskin; Max Brand (characters)
Cinematography: Ray June
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Harry McAfee
Music: Nathaniel Shilkret
Film Editing: George Hively
Cast: Lionel Barrymore (Dr. Leonard B. Gillespie), Van Johnson (Dr. Randall 'Red' Ames), Marilyn Maxwell (Ruth Edley), Keye Luke (Dr. Lee Wong How), Ava Gardner (Jean Brown), Alma Kruger (Molly Bird), Rags Ragland (Hobart Genet), Nell Craig (Nurse 'Nosey' Parker), Walter Kingsford (Dr. Walter Carew), George H. Reed (Conover)
by Lisa Mateas
Three Men in White
TCM Remembers Van Johnson - Important Schedule Change on TCM In Honor To Salute VAN JOHNSON
The new schedule for the evening of Tuesday, December 23rd will be:
8:00 PM In the Good Old Summertime
9:45 PM A Guy Named Joe
12:30 AM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
2:30 AM The Last Time I Saw Paris
4:30 AM Thrill of a Romance
Van Johnson (1916-2008)
Van Johnson, the boyish leading man whose clean cut, All-American appeal made him a top box-office draw for MGM during World War II, died on December 12 in Nyack, New York of natural causes. He was 92.
He was born Charles Van Dell Johnson on August 25, 1916, in Newport, Rhode Island. By his own account, his early childhood wasn't a stable one. His mother abandoned him when he was just three and his Swedish-born father offered little consolation or nurturing while he was growing up. Not surprisingly, Johnson found solace in singing and dancing lessons, and throughout his adolescence, he longed for a life in show business. After graduating high school in 1934, he relocated to New York City and was soon performing as a chorus boy on Broadway in shows such as New Faces of 1936 and eventually as an understudy in Rodgers and Hart's musical, Too Many Girls in 1939.
Johnson eventually made his way to Hollywood and landed an unbilled debut in the film version of Too Many Girls (1940). By 1941, he signed a brief contract with Warner Bros., but it only earned him a lead in a "B" programmer Murder in the Big House (1941); his contract soon expired and he was dropped by the studio. Johnson was on his way back to New York, but as luck would have it - in the truest Hollywood sense - friends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz introduced him to Billy Grady, a lead talent scout at MGM, which was currently Ball's new studio. Johnson was signed up and almost immediately MGM had a star on its hands.
It might have been slow going at first, with Johnson playing able support in films such as Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant and The War Against Mrs. Hadley (both 1942). By 1943 the studio capitalized on his broad smile and freckles and starred him in two of the studio's biggest hits: A Guy Named Joe and The Human Comedy. Those two films transformed him into a boxoffice draw with a huge following, particularly among teenage girls. A near fatal car accident that same year only accentuated the loyalty of his fans, and his 4-F status as the result of that accident created an opportunity for him when so many other leading actors of the era (James Stewart, Clark Gable) were off to war. Johnson was quickly promoted as MGM'sleading man in war heroics and sweet romancers on the big screen: The White Cliffs of Dover, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (both 1944), Thrill of a Romance, the episodic Week-End at the Waldorf (both 1945), and a musical remake of Libeled Lady entitled Easy to Wed (1946).
Hits though these were, it wasn't until after the war that Johnson began to receive more dramatic parts and better material such as supporting Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in the political farce State of the Union (1948). other significant roles included the well-modulated noir thriller The Scene of the Crime, the grim war spectacle Battleground (both 1949), the moving domestic drama Invitation (1952) in which he played a man who is paid to marry a woman (Dorothy McGuire) by her father. Before he left MGM, he closed his career out in fine form with the sweeping musical Brigadoon, co-starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse; and the lilting soaper The Last Time I Saw Paris (both 1954) with Elizabeth Taylor.
After he left MGM, the parts that came Johnson's way weren't as varied, but he had his moments in The Caine Mutiny (1954), the beguiling romance drama Miracle in the Rain (1956) with Jane Wyman; and his lead performance in one of the first successful made for-TV-movies The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1957). By the '60s, Johnson returned to the stage, and played the title role in London's West End production of The Music Man. He then returned to Broadway in the drama Come on Strong. He still had a few good supporting parts, most notably as Debbie Reynolds' suitor in Norman Lear's scathing satire on marital differences Divorce American Style (1967); and television welcomed his presence on many popular shows in the '70s and '80s such as Maude, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and of course Murder She Wrote. There was one last graceful cameo in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), yet for the most remainder of his career, Johnson worked mainly on the dinner theater circuit before retiring from showbiz completely by the mid-90s. He is survived by a daughter, Schuyler.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Van Johnson - Important Schedule Change on TCM In Honor To Salute VAN JOHNSON
The film's opening title card reads: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents A New Dr. Gillespie Adventure Three Men in White." According to a mid-December 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, production shut down temporarily because of a "flu epidemic," which laid up Van Johnson, Lionel Barrymore and uncredited producer Carey Wilson. Although Hollywood Reporter news items add Bobby Blake, later known as Robert Blake, to the cast, his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. As with many M-G-M films in 1944, Three Men in White was shown to overseas troops before its release in the U.S. For more information on the "Dr. Kildare/Dr.Gillespie" series, consult the Series Index and see entry for the 1938 film Young Dr. Kildare in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5251 and the above entry for Calling Dr. Gillespie.