In the 1930's & 40's, one of the most popular movie series was MGM's "Dr. Kildare" that starred Lew Ayres as the young intern James ("Jimmy") Kildare and Lionel Barrymore as his gruff but friendly mentor Dr. Leonard Gillespie as they encountered various patients and crises at Blair General Hospital, a New York City teaching hospital.
This film, number three in the series, is one of the best and perhaps the most representative of the entire series. Ayres and Barrymore play off each other beautifully, and they have fine support from the regular ensemble who played a major part in most of the other "Dr. Kildare" films, including Laraine Day as Nurse Mary Lamont, Alma Kruger as Head Nurse Molly Bird, Walter Kingsford as Hospital Director Dr. S.J. Carew, Nell Craig as Nurse "Nosey" Parker, Marie Blake (Jeanette MacDonald's older sister) as Sally the wisecracking switchboard operator, and Nat Pendleton as the slow-witted ambulance driver Joe Wayman.
"The Secret of Dr. Kildare" especially shows off the technique the series featured of the characters being involved in several intertwined plots. Dr. Kildare attempts to stop Dr. Gillespie from wrecking his health while working on a cure for pneumonia, and at the same time takes up the call for help of a Wall Street business magnate (Lionel Atwill) whose debutante daughter (Helen Gilbert) has begun to behave oddly and eventually develops psychosomatic blindness. While all this goes on, Dr. Kildare's parents (Emma Dunn & Samuel S. Hinds) come to New York supposedly for a friendly visit with their son, but more serious matters lie underneath.
This was Helen Gilbert's second feature film. She is unusual in Hollywood history having formerly been a cellist in the MGM studio orchestra, and even though she didn't achieve major stardom, I enjoyed her performance in this movie as Nancy Messenger.
The baby-boom generation may remember Richard Chamberlain on TV as Dr. Kildare, but for their parents as well as classic movie lovers, there will always be only one Dr. Kildare in Lew Ayres.