Richard Chamberlain became a beloved actor in the 1960s, winning the hearts of people of all ages all around the world.
He appeared in a number of well-liked shows and films, and in my opinion, he was the biggest hunk on television at the time.
Chamberlain has endured a lot in his life, including the stress of keeping a significant secret for a very long time. His current age is 88.
There are many aspects of the 1960s that I will never forget. One of them was watching television. More specifically, Dr. Kildare, who is played brilliantly by my all-time favorite Richard Chamberlain.
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 I’m sure there were others, as Richard will attest later in this essay.
Of course, Dr. Kildare was not the only attractive thing about Richard Chamberlain.
While playing a number of notable roles, he also led a hard life. The popularity, albeit something he enjoyed, was also something he couldn’t get away from.
He had also been keeping his sexual orientation a secret for a very long time. This is the tale of the great Richard Chamberlain, who is pictured here at the age of 88.
Richard Chamberlain – childhood
In Beverly Hills, California, on March 31, 1934, Richard Chamberlain was born. Richard adored listening to the radio as a child, especially mysteries and radio dramas.
He didn’t like going to school, but he also didn’t think he had the guts to become an actress. Once he discovered his true calling in life, that changed.
When he started looking for work soon after graduating from college, Paramount Pictures expressed interest. He was called up to the Army in December 1956 to serve for 16 months, although the Korean War was still going on at the time.
Richard Chamberlain had had a destination in mind when he arrived back in the country, and that destination was Hollywood.
Richard Chamberlain – Dr Kildare
”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 travelling 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.
In 1961, Dr. Kildare first aired. The show focused on Raymond Massey’s character Dr. Leonard Gillespie and Chamberlain’s character Dr. James Kildare, a young medical intern at the fictional Blair General Hospital.
For Chamberlain, who in 1963 won the Golden Globe for Best Male TV Star, it was a significant turning point. The program, which ran for 191 episodes from 1961 through 1966, received numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
Why then was the medical drama so popular?
Working around the clock
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.
”I think people are fascinated by medical protection, of situations in life like this. Everybody knows that someday you’ll be sick, break something or another problem, and you’ll need a doctor.”
Richard Chamberlain had a contract with MGM then, but he didn’t have time to rest. First of all, he received an ”enormous amount” of fan mail and presents, but he just wasn’t capable of answering every single one.
Since Dr. Kildare was such a huge success, MGM saw its chance and took it. The studio decided to put him in several movies in between shooting the series.
”I never got any time off. And if their was a week or so off, they’d send me somewhere and do publicity. I took ballet classes and singing lessons after work, so I kind of escaped.”
Chamberlain wanted to do more than just be a “Prince Charming” type of actor for soap operas. He appeared in Twilight of Honor (1963) and Joy in the Morning (1965), but the viewers didn’t like them at all.
It all looked like he was destined to be a sweet and charming soap opera persona. However, Richard himself had other plans.
Turning to theater
Chamberlain chose to concentrate on acting creation, like he had done in college, rather than continue his employment in the film industry. He appeared in a number of theater shows in 1966, such as The Philadelphia Story, Private Lives, and even West Side Story as Tony.
Richard Chamberlain was introduced to England by the theater, which gave him parts in timeless plays like Richard II in 1971 and Hamlet in 1969. After a while, he came back to the US to start a new phase of his Hollywood career.
Chamberlain would allegedly exact his revenge in the 1980s. He played the lead in The Thorn Birds and Shogun in 1980. (1983). The second one was also a tremendous hit overseas, and Chamberlain at last received the credit he so richly deserved.
People seemed to want a tragedy-driven soap opera.
”It was the absolute top of the heat of a soap opera,” Richard Chamberlain says.
”I am often surprised when I think about how it remains so successful because there was one tragedy after another, after another, after another. Nobody came out on top of that show. It was so sad but had such wonderful characters.”
Richard Chamberlain – coming out
Richard Chamberlain finally made his way back to the stage and appeared in several Broadway productions. Later, he made the decision to leave Hollywood entirely and relocate to Hawaii.
At the age of 69, he came out as gay in his memoir Shattered Love, which was published in 2003.
As Father Ralph in The Thorn Birds and Dr. Kildare in his career, Chamberlain lit up young audiences’ hearts.
Although he claimed that being a “hetero heartthrob” was his profession, his pals and nearly everyone in the industry knew that he was gay.
”When you grow up in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s being gay, it not only ain’t easy, it’s just impossible,” Chamberlain explained.
“You cannot do it, that being gay was the worst thing you can possibly be. I assumed there was something terribly wrong with me. And even becoming famous and all that, it was still there.”
To assist Richard Chamberlain discover who he was, he underwent years of counseling as well as other spiritually uplifting experiences.
No matter what, he was courageous and displayed remarkable bravery by coming out, especially considering his advanced age of about 70.
Richard Chamberlain – today
Richard Chamberlain lived together with his partner, producer Martin Rabbett, for several years, but they then elected to live separately.
”We don’t live together anymore, and we’re much better friends than we’ve ever been,” Chamberlain said. ”So I’m in the business of advising people who are married, etc., to get another house.”
Richard Chamberlain, who was placed No. 7 on TV Guide’s list of ” TV’s 25 Greatest Teen Idols,” was the golden boy of the 1960s.
He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000. He is currently 88 years old, but he is still a shining star and still appears in plays and productions.
He had a role in the drama movie Finding Julia only last year. Additionally, he will appear in the fictional drama Echoes of the Past, which according to its Facebook page was still in post-production as of November of last year.
A recently shot photo of Richard Chamberlain working on set was also uploaded on Facebook. Wow, he looks fantastic!
In 2013, Chamberlain’s collection of poems, My Life in Haiku, was published. And the well-respected actor has proven himself to be a wise man following a life full of ups and downs, telling the world that you should always follow your dreams and be who you are.
”I’m discovering in my later days what it’s like to just be myself. I came from a family where we were all pretending to be perfect. We played into each others’ game of perfection,” Chamberlain told Palm Springs Life in October 2019.
”But just in the last couple of years, I’ve felt this wonderful freedom to really … just be myself.”
We will always treasure Richard Chamberlain for his wonderful roles and performances on stage. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him in many more productions in the years to come.
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