THE INTERNS was a big hit in 1962, a gross of $14,300,000 ranking it #12 for the year. Boosted by its best-selling novel source, the slick and superficial treatment operated in soapy synch with a sudden surge of interest in dramas centered around medical practitioners. *
Big city hospital: first year interns arrive, determined to mark their mark in medicine, to serve and/or prosper. When not tasked by the demands of their training and the needs of their patients, they find relief or grief in their off-hours private lives. Pile-driving pulpy stuff is primed by an eager cast. David Swift directed, and co-wrote the script with Walter Newman, based off the novel written by Richard Frede, who’d been an intern for two years. Swift had just directed back-to-back hits for Disney, Hayley Mills classics Pollyanna and The Parent Trap, so this was a departure, as the hot-to-trot interns deal with abortion, mercy killing, drug addiction and enough crazypants partying to put Keith Richards in intensive care. One critic described them as “Hippocratic oafs”, fair enough since most of them are less-than-likable and the festive antics are absurdly overdone, apparently trying to top the idiotic party sequence whipped up by Blake Edwards a year before for Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The splashy dramatics and trashy hijinks are watchable thanks to some of the actors and to the sheer momentum of the enterprise.
In the mix— Michael Callan as ‘Dr. Alec Considine’, who two-times two girlfriends and gets hooked on “bennies”; James MacArthur as the most sincere ‘Dr. Lew Worship’, who inexplicably falls for toothsome nurse Stefanie Powers, 19, encumbered by a hairdo you could scare children with; Cliff Robertson as ‘Dr.John Paul Otis’, who blows it by falling for icy model Suzy Parker; Nick Adams as ‘Dr.Sid Lackland’, brash because, well…Nick Adams was always brash; Haya Harareet as ‘Dr. Madolyn Bruckner’, extra-serious because she’s “a female doctor!”, chafing under insults from Telly Savalas as ‘Dr. Dominic Riccio’, a hardass who gives everyone a bad time, especially women who think they can handle anything more complicated than a Band-Aid; Buddy Ebsen as understanding ‘Dr. Sidney Wohl’, who treats the new kids like they might be human beings; and Kaye Stevens as ‘Nurse Doody Loomis’, mother-hen showing new gals the ropes, because she’s “seen it all and will do it, too”. A nurse named ‘Doody’.
Callan is excellent until he’s forced to explosively (hilariously) wig-out in a split-second nervous breakdown when the pills finally frazzle him out. MacArthur is steady, Adams tiresome, Parker effective as the snooty model. Ebsen does good work as the more thoughtful veteran, while Savalas gets the harsh material. Brassy nightclub singer Stevens, in her acting debut, is garish, plus her character’s behavior is patently ridiculous. The berserk party scenes are elaborate, riotously foolish. Everything is well-photographed by Russell Metty. **
With Katherine Bard (nice ‘Nurse Vicky Flynn’, who gets stiffed by Callan’s Considine cad), Anne Helm (sexing it up as ‘Mildred’, Considine’s meal-ticket fiancée), Gregory Morton (gruff doctor), Connie Gilchrist (tough nurse), Peter Brocco (terminal-case sufferer who gets the “just let me die!” speech), Ellen Davalos (sympathetic dying Indonesian girl there to make Nick Adams reform), Brian Hutton, Charles Robinson, Sondra Blake (excellent bit as a woman in labor), Baruch Lumet, Carroll Harrison, Don Marshall and Ted Knight.
* The last big movie score with doctors had been 1955’s Not As A Stranger. The Interns coincided with the 1961 TV season delivering both Ben Casey and Dr.Kildare, both for 5-year runs. The less-flamboyant 1961 feature The Young Doctors was also part of the prognosis that would lead to TVs General Hospital starting its forever run in 1963.
** 40-year-old Telly Savalas moved up a notch in ’62, scoring as a cop in Cape Fear and a con in Birdman Of Alcatraz, scooping an Oscar nomination for that one. Two years later Telly co-starred in The New Interns, which brought back Callan (cured now), Powers and Stevens, and introduced a new crop to the hardest-drinking hospital in North America—Inger Stevens, Dean Jones, Barbara Eden, George Segal, Greg Morris, Dawn Wells. Pro work from all involved but it wasn’t as successful at the box office.