A) Call a cop?
B) Run like hell in the opposite direction?
C) Stick by his side until he murders three people and tries for a fourth?
|While Marcia looks forward to|
marriage, Tod has his eyes on a
|Look at him -- I told you the maniac's doctor |
was a know-it-all.
Even after Roy inexplicably smashes a storefront window, hops around like an epileptic Mexican jumping bean and swears to kill Gillespie, all that's prescribed is a good nap. Son of Sam wishes he had such understanding people around him.
|"Darling, where'd you learn to handle|
the scalpel so well?"
This being called Calling Dr. Gillespie and not Calling Precinct 14, the cops guarding the hospital are of no use. It's Gernide who hatches a scheme to lure Todwell into being captured, and Gillespie's bodyguard who nails him on the head with a well-aimed monkey-wrench. Blair General can resume its usual routine of receptionists cracking wise, interns tripping over their shoelaces and nurses flirting with wealthy cardiac patients.
Calling Dr. Gillespie was to have been the ninth in MGM's enormously popular Dr. Kildare movie series, which began in 1938. These are the kind of movies where deafness is cured with a vitamin B shot and schizophrenia by putting the patient into insulin shock. In Calling Dr. Gillespie, Dr. Gernide figures out that the sound of train whistles set off Todwell's murderous rages. (Times were much simpler then.) And unlike many other movie series of the time, the Kildare films had continuing storylines so that audiences felt involved in the characters' lives. Think of them as a B-movie Berlin Alexanderplatz. Go ahead, I dare you.
"I'll make you forget your
|Barrymore demands that Ayres get out of |
his camera range.
Having already filmed the movie as Born to be Bad, MGM reshot Ayres' scenes wth Dutch actor Phillip Dorn (who looks like a cross between Fred Allen and Frank Sinatra) as Dr. Gernide. This allowed Lionel Barrymore, as Kildare's mentor Gillespie, to chew the scenery even more than usual, enough to wear down his molars.
This is not a slam against Barrymore -- I find him to be extremely entertaining, often more than his brother John. I mean, if I'm watching an actor, I want to see him act! And boy does he ever -- shouting, snarling, snorting, chuckling, squinting and whatever other gerund you can think of.
(While we're on the subject, my daughter noticed the similarities between Barrymore's Gillespie and Hugh Laurie's Dr. Gregory House. Both are cranks; have problems getting around; play piano; are the Sherlock Holmes of the sawbones set; and have utterly ridiculous medical theories which inevitably prove correct.)
|Irony alert: Dr. Gillespie on|
a cigarette trading card.
That wheelchair wasn't a prop, either, Barrymore having both arthritis and a fractured hip keeping him off his feet. At the time, it was a well-kept secret that his pain was alleviated by daily cocaine injections. MGM boss Louis B. Mayer was thoughtful enough to supply the coke himself, although deducted the cost from Barrymore's weekly salary and, presumably, declared it a tax write-off. (By the way, Dr. Gregory House is a Vicodin addict.)
|Don't be fooled by |
that boyish smile.
|It's a long way from Blair General|
Hospital to Tatooine.
Calling Dr. Gillespie is my favorite kind of old movie, one that delivers far more than expected. Had I seen Calling Dr. Gillespie in my younger years, I'd have gotten my hands on a poster featuring Phil Brown's creepy image and attended one of his conventions. As I slipped it in front of him, I'd sigh, "You were one of my favorite mental cases ever!" I'd like to think he'd have appreciated it.