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The Complete Story of 'The Doctors' (1963-1973)

Daytime TV covered the world of soap operas for decades before finally folding in the 1990s. In the mid-70s, the magazine did an excellent series titled "The Complete Story of..." recounting the history of a soap opera from its inception. Below is the historical feature on the first 10 years of NBC's The Doctors (1963-1973), which is currently being aired on Retro TV.

Some of the interesting tidbits include:

* The Doctors did not start as a serial; it began as a "half-hour anthology series of medical dramas, set in the large metropolitan Hope Memorial Hospital, and with the four principals alternating daily in the lead role, according to NBC's original announcement. The roles were Dr. William Scott (played by Jock Gaynor), Dr. Jerry Chandler (portrayed by Richard Roat), Dr. Elizabeth Hayes (played by Margot Moser) and Rev. Samuel Shafer, a hospital chaplain (played by Fred J. Scollay).

* Later in the first season, Herb Kenwith and Paul Lammers became the directors. But after nine months, The Doctors shifted to a continuing story line, and by 1965, James Pritchett was portraying Dr. Matt Powers, chief of staff at Hope Hospital, and Elizabeth Hubbard was playing Dr. Althea Davis, chief of the Outpatient Clinic.

* James Pritchett did a single performance during The Doctors' one-story-a-week phase, on June 20, 1963. "I played a corporation president running away and having a broken back that brought me to the hospital." He returned to The Doctors on July 9, 1963 as Dr. Matt Powers when the serial was still was still a one-story-a-week show.

* The first story of the premiere week of The Doctors was called Whatsoever House I Enter, and it had Dr. Scott (Jock Gaynor) performing an operation on a seven-year-old girl. The child dies and, moments later, Dr. Scott is called to the Emergency Room where a new-born infant is close to death. There is another operation, but this time the baby lives. The dead girl's father arrives at the hospital and hears the news. He confronts the mother of the surviving infant and presents her flowers he had brought for someone else.

* 1964: Mercedes MacCambridge, once called the Queen of Radio Soaps, made one of her rare TV serial appearances as a patient in this tense scene. She subsequently moved to Hollywood.

* Allen Potter, producer of The Doctors from January of 1967 to July of 1973, came to this post after years in creative radio and TV positions. He had been an actor, a stage director, a theatre producer-director, an actor and director with the U.S. Army AA Command Headquarters in Australia and New Guinea in 1942/45. Associated with The Aldrich Family on NBC, he became radio director of The Brighter Day, then its TV director and finally TV producer until 1960. He was producer of As the World Turns, 1960/64; producer of Another World, 1964/66; then producer of Our Private World in 1965, a nighttime spin-off of As the World Turns.

* The Doctors went from black and white to color in November of 1966. At that time, Bert Berman was producer; Herb Kenwith and Wes Kenney were the directors; Orin Tovrov and James Lipton were the writers.

* In March of 1968, Bethel Leslie (playing Dr. Maggie) came down with measles, and Kathleen Murray was in to substitute until Miss Leslie returned.

* Dr. Maggie was first played by Ann Williams, then by Bethel Leslie. Lydia Bruce was called in for eight weeks while Bethel made a movie and returned. But when Bethel didn't return, Lydia Bruce took over permanently in August of 1968.

* Keeping in step with the times, The Doctors has used black actors and actresses, Palmer Deane (Dr. Hank Iverson) is in a love story with Marie Thomas (Lauri James). Greta Rae has played Ginny since 1969.

(click image to expand)

Parts 1, 2, 3 (read left to right)

Parts 4, 5, 6

Parts 7, 8, 9

Part 10

* 5 Reasons to Watch 'The Doctors' on Retro TV


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