Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dr. Kildare: The Magic Key (1963)

Good morning! I found this sometime last year at the East Nashville Goodwill and actually had to ask a man standing in front of the bin where it lay, flipping through records near the cash register, if he was going to buy it. I've reached for stuff before that I didn't realized was already "spoken for" and come close to drawing back a nub, so you can never be too sure. "Uh, no?" the records-perusing man replied, as if the item in question had been geriatric diabetic support hose rather than kitsch GOLD. Are you kidding me? Who would not want to buy this? For $1.99, no less?

Hellllloooooooo, nurse!
Omg. Look at the cheerleader's booties. And the nurse's skirt...that can't be regulation, right?

Dr. Kildare, as those in the know already know, was a popular radio, movie, and television property that ran, in different incarnations, from around 1937 to the mid sixties'. The most well-remembered version of the show was the television serial, which ran from 1961 to 1966, and starred clean-cut, handsome Richard Chamberlain in the titular medical role. Think of Dr. Kildare as the very first whoever-George-Clooney-played-on-ER, or Patrick Dempsey on Grey's Anatomy....the great-grandfather of Dr. McDreamy!

The illustrations in this book, as in any sixties' tv-tie-in text, are really the draw. While I'm sure it was fascinating for teenybopper television fans of the series to read anything at all about the further adventures of their dreamboat hero, the story is a little less than fascinating (something about a cheerleader breaking her arm? Maybe? I skimmed, man. I skimmed!). What I love is the ONE COLOR tone...you'll see this in Donna Parker or Troy Nesbitt or any of the similar teen lit of the time in that the illustrations will be in black and white...plus one key note color to ratchet up the eye appeal a little. In this case, what could be more appropriate for a hospital than that pistachio green? Even the checkerboard eschews its traditional red and black format for a taste of spearmint!

What's weird about the illustrations in this book is that the main character, Kildare, always looks more like someone's faithful labrador than his very-human looking actor counterpart, Chamberlain. Is there not something spaniel-ish about the way his face is drawn in the above panel? Most of the other people turn out looking at least like people...you'd think they would have put the MOST effort into the reason-kids-are-buying-the-book! It reminds me of those busts of Elvis or Elvis head lamps that bear little to no resemblance to the King himself. WHY DO THEY STILL APPEAL TO ME.

Note the green tints leeching into Nurse Ratchet's forehead, and the green milk. This is going too far, illustrators! I can't help but think of the "Oh Blanche...you know we've got rats in the cellar?" scene from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane... whatever's in there, girl patient, do not eat it!

Kildare manages to look slightly less canine in this picture, but still way less handsome than his real life actor man. If I had read the text, I might know who this guy is, but instead, I'm concentrating on the quaint little switch above the bed railing, and the similar switch for the tiny light fixture. Think about how many things weren't automated or button controlled in a hospital in 1963!

I personally love the following things in this picture: Chuck's freckles, mom-of-the-patient's single strand of pearls and chignon, and girl patient's cutie bangs and petulant expression. Do you see how Chuck is dressed? I might actually die.

Whatever is going on in this picture, say yes, girl patient! Say yes! Whatever I would have to do to don that absolutely too cute twirler/cheerleader/whatever it is outfit, I would gladly do it! Put down that book, pick up that baton!

You'll have to read the rest of the story (or any of the story) to figure out what happens in the end, but I'm pretty sure that no one dies and the girl gets to go baton-twirling...after all, it is a young adult book (back when that did not necessarily connote various supernatural romantic creatures, other worlds, wizards, etc).

The end pages boast other Whitman classics...um, you had me at "Little Lame Prince" (which is my new cursing epithet for Matthew, by the way):

I now HAVE to track down the Beverly Hillbillies novelization. I mean, right?

Do you remember Dr. Kildare? Did you have any embarrassingly intense tv crushes that translated into buying tie-in merchandise in your vulnerable teens? Which use of green in the above illustrations is the most off-putting to you? Let's talk!

If you're into more Kildare merch, there's a TON on Etsy practically for the asking. Check it out!

That's all for today...see you all right back here tomorrow for more scanned goodies and gewgaws.


  1. Oh My Goodness, yes! I remember being at my great-grandmother's house and watching Dr. Kildare on her old black and white television - the kind with the wooden cabinet and thick screen with bake-lite knobs. I had that TV until a few years ago.

    Another thing I remember - you might just die here - I had the Doctor's kit from Dr. Kildare! Just one of the many cool things I wish I still had. I'm almost 54 years old and although I kept a lot of my son's toys, my mother was always good for having a garage sale.

    1. That is so cool! At least you had one when you did! A lot of my dad's childhood, tv-tie in treasures got yard sold as well. Hindsight!

  2. i'm such a sucker for anything with old illustrations like that. i love the green too. also, i will never be able to resist elvist stuff, no matter how UNlike the king it looks. i yearn for an elvis lamp! i might have to swallow my pride and just buy one at "full price"

    1. I know, I passed on a set of two (!) for thirty bucks (!!) two or three years ago and it still kind of haunts me. WHY DO THEY APPEAL! Even with their realisticlessness (total new word there)!

  3. The "quaint little switch" above the patient's bed is the call light. Good to see that the fictional nurse put the call light within reach of the fictional patient.

    1. Ah HA! Eagle-eyed Mrs. Leapheart sheds some "light" (haha) on the situation. :)



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