The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)

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The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939) Poster

Dr. Gillespie's cancer has gotten worse, and to force him to take a rest instead of pursuing a sulfa-drug/pneumonia study, Kildare refuses to assist Gillespie, and instead accepts a case of... See full summary »



  • Lew Ayres and Laraine Day in The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)
  • Lew Ayres and Helen Gilbert in The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)
  • Lew Ayres and Laraine Day in The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)
  • Lew Ayres in The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)
  • Lew Ayres and Laraine Day in The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)
  • Lew Ayres and Helen Gilbert in The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)

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Cast & Crew

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Harold S. Bucquet


Max Brand (story), Willis Goldbeck, Harry Ruskin

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1 March 2008 | blanche-2
| Kildare tries to help Gillespie and a young woman
In 1939's "The Secret of Dr. Kildare," the young doctor is faced with a tough decision. Dr. Gillespie's cancer has exacerbated, and he cannot continue his lab experiments as he once did. Of course, he's refusing to stop. So Kildare quits, knowing Gillespie can't do the work without him. He takes over instead the care of a young woman, Nancy Messenger (Helen Gilbert), who has some emotional issues. Her father (Lionel Atwill) isn't sure what to do about her, so Kildare gains her confidence and tries to get to the bottom of her problems. Meanwhile, Kildare's parents (Samuel S. Hinds and Emma Dunn) come to visit. It turns out that the senior Dr. K has a potentially terminal heart problem and has come to New York for a second opinion. This, too, is a Secret of Dr. Kildare - because he doesn't tell his son.

What made this series a great success was the interrelationships of the characters. Lionel Barrymore is a great Dr. Gillespie, and his relationship with Kildare, with his head nurse, Molly Byrd (Alma Kruger) and Dr. Carew (Walter Kingsford) are lively ones of affection cut with bellowing. Laraine Day is Mary Lamont, who's in love with Kildare, but things haven't really heated up between them yet. She, too, has her moments with Gillespie. At one point while recuperating from a weak spell, he asks her to order him a steak, baked potato and apple pie. Lamont never changes expression, picking up the phone to get him gruel and weak tea.

Though the plot line involving Nancy Messenger is oversimplified and not terribly realistic, this is nevertheless a good episode in the Kildare series. Some trivia - Helen Gilbert, who plays Nancy, in real life was married for one year to gangster Johnny Stompanato, Lana Turner's boyfriend who was killed by her daughter Cheryl.

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