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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dr Christian

Dr. Christian was a long-running radio series with Jean Hersholt in the title role. It aired on CBS from 1937 to 1954.

After Hersholt portrayed a character based on Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe in the 20th Century Fox movie The Country Doctor (1936), he wanted to do the same role on radio but could not get the rights. He decided to create his own doctor character for radio, and since he was a Hans Christian Andersen enthusiast, he borrowed that name for his character of philosophical Dr. Paul Christian.

Dr. Christian practiced in the Midwest town of River's End with the assistance of Nurse Judy Price (Rosemary DeCamp, Lurene Tuttle, Kathleen Fitz, Helen Claire). With the opening theme music of "Rainbow on the River," Dr. Christian was introduced on CBS November 7, 1937 on The Vaseline Program, aka Dr. Christian's Office and later Dr. Christian, sponsored by Chesebrough Manufacturing Company's Vaseline [Petroleum Jelly, Hair Tonic, Lip Ice, etc.].

The small-town physician's good humor, innate common sense and scientific training helped drive off a series of villainous types who tried to interfere with the peaceful lifestyle of River's End, as well as dealing with personal problems among his many patients and the majority of those who lived in town. The program was also unique in that, by the mid-1940's, listeners contributed the majority of the scripts (some were "professionally polished" before they were used), and an annual script-writing competition introduced in 1942 was the highlight of every season- top prize: the $2,000 "Dr. Christian Award" {with several $500 "runner-up" prizes}; among the later winners were Rod Serling and Earl Hamner, Jr.. Produced by Dorothy McCann, the radio series became a popular success, continuing on CBS until January 6, 1954.

Hersholt was so strongly identified with the role that he received mail asking for medical advice. There were various spin-offs as Hersholt co-wrote a Dr, Christian novel and made a series of six family films as Christian for RKO from 1939 to 1941.

  • Meet Dr. Christian (1939)
  • Remedy for Riches (1940)
  • The Courageous Dr. Christian (1940)
  • Dr. Christian Meets the Women (1940)
  • Melody for Three (1941)
  • They Meet Again (1941)

In 1956, his Dr. Christian character made the transition to television in a 39 episode syndicated Ziv Television series, scripted by Gene Roddenberry, with Macdonald Carey as his nephew Dr. Mark Christian. Jean Hersholt appeared for the last time as Dr. Christian in the first episode, officially turning his medical practice over to his nephew. Shortly after filming the episode, Hersholt died on June 2, 1956.


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References: Old Time Radio Researchers Group, Wikipedia, Frank Passage & Others OTR Logs, Archive.org, Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning, Australian Old Time Radio Group

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