Young Doctors, The (1961): Phil Karlson’s Medical Drama, Starring Ben Gazzara and Fredric March,

Narrated by Ronald Reagan, The Young Doctors is a rather conventional medical melodrama, elevated by the direction of Phil Karlson and acting of Ben Gazzara, Fredric March, Dick Clark, Ina Balin, Eddie Albert, Phyllis Love, Aline MacMahon, George Segal.

The Young Doctors
The Young Doctors FilmPoster.jpeg

The film is based on the 1959 novel The Final Diagnosis by Arthur Hailey.

Arthur Hailey wrote a two part TV play for Studio One, “No Deadly Medicine,” which was broadcast in 1957 starring Lee J. Cobb, William Shatner and James Broderick.

Doubleday then commissioned Hailey to adapt the script into a novel, The Final Diagnosis, published in 1959.

Film rights were bought by Dick Clark, (then best known for Bandstand), who took the project to the producing team of Laurence Turman and Steve Tillman (their first film together).

The tale begins with the arrival of David Coleman (Ben Gazzara), a young doctor hired by a hospital’s pathology department. The head of the department, Dr. Joseph Pearson (Fredric March), sees Coleman as a rival, and they fight over medical issues and methods.

Meanwhile, Coleman falls in love with Cathy Hunt (Ina Balin), a nurse at the hospital, who develops a tumor in her knee. Pearson believes that the tumor is malignant and that the leg should be amputated, but Coleman disagrees.

Coleman then orders three blood tests on Mrs. Alexander (Phyllis Love), an expectant mother whose baby may have hemolytic disease, but Pearson believes that the tests are excessive and cancels the third test. Mrs. Alexander is married to a young intern at the hospital (Dick Clark), who, along with Coleman, pushed for the third test.

When the born baby is ill, Dr. Charles Dornberger (Eddie Albert), Mrs. Alexander’s OB/GYN, berates Pearson and conducts a blood transfusion to save the baby’s life.

When his future at the hospital becomes uncertain, Pearson resigns. By now, Coleman has changed his mind about Cathy’s tumor and agrees with Pearson’s decision, while Pearson says that Coleman reminds him of himself when he was young and urges him not to let hospital bureaucracy to wear him down.

This film marks the screen debut of George Segal, who would become a major player later in the decade in such films as “Ship of Fools” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woof?”

Fredric March – Dr. Joseph Pearson
Ben Gazzara – Dr. David Coleman
Dick Clark – Dr. Alexander
Ina Balin – Cathy Hunt
Eddie Albert – Dr. Charles Dornberger
Phyllis Love – Mrs. Elizabeth Alexander
Edward Andrews – Jim Bannister
Aline MacMahon – Dr. Lucy Grainger
Arthur Hill – Tomaselli
Rosemary Murphy – Miss Graves
Barnard Hughes – Dr. O’Donnell
George Segal – Dr. Howard
Dolph Sweet – Police Car Driver
No Deadly Medicine and The Final Diagnosis


Directed by Phil Karlson
Produced by Stuart Millar, Lawrence Turman
Written by Joseph Hayes, based on novel “The Final Diagnosis” by Arthur Hailey

Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Arthur J. Ornitz
Edited by Robert Swink
Distributed by United Artists

Release date: August 23, 1961

Running time: 100 minutes


TCM showed the movie on September 24, 2020.