People all around the world, both young and old, fell in love with Richard Chamberlain when he rose as a popular actor in the 1960s.
In my mind, he was the single biggest heartthrob on television at the time and had roles in numerous popular shows and movies.
Chamberlain’s been through a lot in his life, including the weight of hiding a big secret for many, many years. This is him today at 88.
There are many things about the 1960s I never will forget. One of those things was watching TV. More specifically, my absolute favorite, Richard Chamberlain, plays the fabulous role of Dr. Kildare.
Chamberlain was perfect for the role – and I think this quote sums it up.
”The slim, butter-haired hunk with the near-perfect Ivy-League charm and smooth, intelligent demeanor, had the distaff fans fawning unwavering over him.”
Yes, I was one of those fans, and there were undoubtedly more like me, as Richard will confirm later on in this article.
Of course, Richard Chamberlain was more than just a handsome Dr. Kildare.
He portrayed several eminent characters but, at the same time, led a tough life. He loved the fame, but it was also something he couldn’t escape from.
Not only that, but he had been carrying the secret of being gay for a long time. This is the story of the wonderful Richard Chamberlain – and this is him today, age 88.
Richard Chamberlain was born on March 31, 1934, in Beverly Hills, California. As a child, Richard loved listening to the radio, particularly to radio dramas and mysteries.
He didn’t enjoy school, but at the same time didn’t think he had the courage to be an actor. That changed once he figured out his true life calling.
”We used to go to double-bills on a dime and I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s a good place to be—up on the screen,’” he recalled.
”I was always fascinated with the idea of being an actor. The problem was I was always a little withdrawn, shy, and not very sure of myself. But the people up on screen seemed so confident.”
Chamberlain attended Pomona College, where his interest in acting grew. He landed several roles in their theatrical productions, for which he was praised.
Soon after college, he would turn to the studios to look for work, and Paramount Pictures showed their interest. However, the Korean War was happening, and in December of 1956, he was drafted into the Army to serve for 16 months.
When Richard Chamberlain returned to the United States, he already knew where he wanted to go – and that place was Hollywood.
He got parts in several productions, but it wasn’t until 1961 that he’d score the part which changed his life. Richard Chamberlain played Dr. Kildare in the medical series of the same name, and it turned into a huge success.
He wasn’t only praised by critics for his role but gained a huge fanbase. Suddenly, Richard Chamberlain was the golden boy of the 1960s.
”My self-esteem deep down was low, low for various reasons. And so, having that kind of public adulation was just wonderful. It was like a wonderful medicine. It was everything that I’d ever dreamt of and is thought to be very attractive and everything, I thought it was just great,” Richard Chamberlain explained on Emmy TV Legends.
”I used to be chased around supermarkets. I had a convertible stingray, and girls would chase me around in the hills, but I usually managed to escape. When traveling with my parents in Switzerland, we were at some mountain top when someone came up and asked me for my autograph. And my father said ’ Now I know you really made it,’” Chamberlain said, laughing.
Dr. Kildare aired in 1961. The series followed Chamberlain’s Dr. James Kildare – a young medical intern – and the relationship between him and his mentor Dr. Leonard Gillespie, played by Raymond Massey, at the fictional Blair General Hospital.
It was a huge breakthrough for Chamberlain, who won a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star – Male in 1963. The show aired from 1961 to 1966 with a total of 191 episodes and was nominated for several Emmys and Golden Globe Awards.
So why was the medical drama so successful?
According to Richard Chamberlain himself, it was all about the fact that Dr. Kildare was a doctor who cared about, listened to, and helped all of his patients. That made the show attractive.
”It was hugely successful right from the beginning all over the world. It was my ultimate dream come true, everything I had ever dreamt of for my own life and creativity, it was a phenomenal stroke of excellent good fortune,” Chamberlain said.