Richard Chamberlain Auditioned For One TV Series - And Got Into Another!
One day early last year, MGM Studios in Hollywood were holding auditions for a new television comedy series which they had scheduled. A long line of hopeful young actors had assembled for the vacancy - for which the essential quality was the ability to make people laugh.
Halfway down the audition queue was a good-looking, fair-haired young man, standing slightly over six feet, who had already had some slight TV experience to his credit - he had appeared in small roles in "Gunsmoke," "The Deputy" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
He didn't really consider that he was cut out be a comedian, but so determined was he to make good in his chosen career, that he decided to try for every opening he heard about. And that's how Richard Chamberlain found himself in the running for the comedy series.
He might well have landed the part, too - but for one detail. The producer took one look at him and decided he was exactly right for the brand new medical series MGM were planning.
The comedy script was abandoned, an office boy was sent running to an adjoining office block to pick up some projected "Calling Dr. Kildare" scripts - and Richard was tested on the spot for the role which has subsequently brought him international fame.
Within a month, filming had started on the new "Dr. Kildare" series - though I understand that the comedy series, for which Richard had originally hoped to be tested, is still on the shelf!
Much of the shooting of the medical series does, in fact, take place inside a hospital close to the MGM Studios - and Richard admits that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the role, since he is a serious-minded young man and completely captivated by such matters.
It's interesting to note that, when he was at college, Richard was initially studying art and painting. He might well have taken this up as a career had he not been invited to take part in some amateur dramatics.
This whetted his appetite for acting, and by the time he graduated, he was in no doubt about his future plans - though his ambitions were unavoidably delayed by two years' Army service in Korea.
When you think about it, Richard Chamberlain is a born actor.
Not only does he have the looks and personality necessary for his calling, but he is also blessed with that elusive something known as "star quality." His studio will tell you that he's the easiest of persons to work with, and never fluffs a line - indeed, he is completely immersed in his role as Dr. Kildare, and virtually lives the part.
How did the singing come about? Well, this is no chance fluke, for Richard has long been interested in singing, and has studied for many years. He will tell you that it is his aim to combine acting with singing, and it looks very much as though he has taken the first step towards the realisation of that ambition with his current top-table entry.
Although the hit parade shows his success as "Dr. Kildare Theme," the actual song title is "Three Stars Shine Tonight," based upon the TV theme music.
It says much for Richard's popularity that he can achieve best-selling status with his vocal version immediately after Johnnie Spence enjoyed such a substantial instrumental hit.
This is one of the very rare occasions on which this has happened. Usually a vocal follow-up of a non-vocal hit is regarded as a novelty, but little else (as in the case of "African Waltz," "Take Five" and more recently, "Stranger On The Shore"). But now this young American actor has turned the tables - and I'm sure it's entirely due to the force of his appeal.
For he now comes into the category of the most popular of all TV idols - along with such stars as Robert Horton and Clint Walker. And the measure of his appeal can be assessed from the Alley Cat's revelation last week - that Starpics sell more photographs of him than anyone else, other than Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard.
I have heard it suggested that Richard Chamberlain's voice is reminiscent of the young Frank Sinatra.
Certainly, the timbre and phrasing compare favourably, particularly on the reverse side of his hit, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Kiss To Build A Dream On" - which is more closely allied to the type of material associated with Sinatra.
Richard is a keen sports enthusiast - this, too, dates back to his college days when he was an outstanding athlete. Today his pastimes are a little less energetic, his main interests being swimming and horse-riding - though he also likes to fit in a game of tennis whenever he can.