Film Fashion Fridays: 7. Lew Ayres’s Suit in “Calling Dr. Kildare” from 1939; “America’s Favorite Doctor” for The Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2019

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Today is Friday, so it is time for another Film Fashion Friday article! Since today is June 7, this is my first article in this series this month. In this series, I write about a different outfit or fashion concept from the Golden Era of Hollywood every week, using costumes and pictures from Code films as examples. Then, I recommend products on Amazon which are similar to these so that my readers can buy them and recreate these outfits for themselves, generating a small commission for PEPS per sale. So far, I have had more articles on fashion for ladies than fashion for gentlemen. However, I have tried to redress the balance recently by covering more male fashion. Last week, I featured my second article on men’s fashion, in which I described the three-piece suits which are worn by three different gentlemen in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington from 1939. This week’s topic will be another style of suit for gentlemen. However, instead of covering a style, I will describe one particular suit from a film.

This weekend, Maedez of Font and Frock and Ruth of Silver Screenings are hosting their popular annual blogathon on the film characters we most admire, The Reel Infatuation Blogathon. I have enjoyed participating in past years of this blogathon, so I knew I wanted to join when I heard they were hosting it shortly after I decided to rejoin blogathons. Since I am trying to incorporate blogathon topics into my regular weekly features, I decided that I could write about a costume which one of my favorite characters wears. It is a good way to ensure that I write about another male costume! 

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When trying to choose a character I admire, I thought about my favorite actors. My thoughts quickly went to Lew Ayres, one of my favorites and a subject of past entries in this blogathon. Since he was almost exclusively in films with modern setting, he usually wears nice suits. I decided that I would like to write about one of my favorite characters of his, Jimmie Kildare, the handsome young doctor who was the star of nine MGM films opposite Lionel Barrymore’s Dr. Gillespie between 1938 and 1942. Although he spends the majority of his time in these films in a smart white doctor’s uniform, he always wears at least one suit in the course of each film. My topic for today is the gray patterned suit he wears in the second film in the series, Calling Dr. Kildare from 1939. In this film, Jimmie, who has a pretty girl back home named Alice (Lynne Carver), is torn between the attentions of a New York glamour girl, Rosalie (Lana Turner), and a vivacious young nurse, Mary Lamont (Laraine Day). With every girl in the film infatuated with this dashing, principled intern, how can we help but be, too?

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Lew Ayres and Lana Turner

The topic of this article is Jimmie Kildare’s last costume in this film. He wears it when he goes to see Rosalie at Dr. Gillespie’s request, and he also wears it in the last scene at the hospital. Most of the pictures of him in this outfit which I found are publicity shots. It seems that he wore this suit for a photo shoot. Although many of the pictures are not full-body shots, we will do our best to deduce exactly what Dr. Kildare is wearing and describe how you can have that style, too.

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Lew Ayres and Laraine Day

The suit appears to be dark gray with a tweed-like pattern. It is a heavy material. The suit is single-breasted, but he has no vest. This is probably because he bought the pieces of his suit separately. Since interns only make $20 a month at the Blair General Hospital, he can’t afford a vest! The coat and pants match. The coat has two buttons on it. As with all Lew Ayres’s suits, the shoulders are significantly padded, and the sleeves and trousers are very loose. However, the suit comes in at the waist to accentuate his thin frame. Note that it does not look like a “modern” or “slim” fit. The main difference is the length and the looseness of the sleeves and pants. The coat is also quite long, in standard vintage style, reaching to the thigh. Even though “interns don’t take money,” Jimmie is stylish!

The above suit from Amazon is the best option for this ensemble available on the website. It is a matching two-piece suit with a classic fit. It comes in three colors, navy mini check, gray windowpane, and charcoal gray, which is pictured. Although not exactly the same pattern as Jimmie’s suit, the charcoal gray has a tight but subtle checkered pattern which is quite similar to that in the movie. The material’s texture does not seem to be quite as heavy as Dr. Kildare’s, but it is part wool, which is excellent. The exact percentages are 52% wool, 46% polyester, and 2% spandex. The coat has two buttons, which are black. It also has a split-peak lapel. Like most vintage suits, Jimmie’s lapel is considerably wider than that of this modern suit, but the design is the same. This suit costs between $83.13 and $199.99, depending on which size and color you order. This is an excellent option for this outfit!

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Jimmie is not wearing the customary plain white shirt with his suit. Like many younger men of the time, he opts for a subtle pattern for his shirt. It is white, but it has thin colored stripes on it. It’s hard to tell what color the stripes are in black and white, but they look like they are medium blue. Also, that is the most logical color to wear with gray. The collar seems to be fairly long and pointed, and I don’t think it buttons down. The cuffs aren’t visible in any picture, since his sleeves are extremely long. I don’t think they made anything but French cuffs in 1939, so he probably is wearing cufflinks of some sort.

The above shirt from Amazon is the most similar option to Lew Ayres’s. It seems to have a medium slim fit, but that doesn’t matter much under a suit. The stripes seem to be about the same width and distance as those in the movie. It’s hard to tell, but I would wager that the blue is about the same color as the blue stripes in the film. The cuffs have buttons, unsurprisingly, but it doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately, the collar is not as long as Lew Ayres’s. This shirt comes with three collar styles, a cutaway color, a spread collar, and a button collar. The spread collar is probably the most similar. This shirt is 100% cotton, which is the material that a less-affluent man of the 1930s such as Jimmie Kildare would have chosen. This shirt costs between $12.96 and $45.00, depending on the color and the size you choose. This is the only option with the right pattern and not too slim a fit, so I highly recommend it!

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A vital part of every suit is the necktie. With this particular suit, Jimmie wears a black tie with little white dots on it. It is fairly thin. The two below ties from Amazon are a lot like Jimmie’s. The one of the left has slightly larger dots, but the one on the right has very small and very plentiful dots. They are both good options.

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Jimmie wears a pocket square, which you can see clearly in the picture above the tie descriptions. It is not plain white. It appears to have another color on it as well, which I assume is blue to match the shirt. It looks like it has wide blue stripes of varying sizes on it. The particular shade of blue on the shirt which I recommended is extremely difficult to match. However, I found two good options.

The above product from Amazon is a set of six handkerchiefs, two each of three different patterns. The pattern on top would look good with this suit. It is white with two shades of blue as a border. The material is high-quality cotton. The set is only $9.99.

The above product from Amazon is a matching set of a woven silk tie, pocket square, cufflinks, and a silver tie clasp. At only $17.99, this is a wonderful value! This set comes in nineteen striped patterns of various arrangements and colors. The pictured pattern is called White Blue 2, and I think that it would match the chosen shirt very nicely. You could buy the set and just wear the pocket square to recreate Dr. Kildare’s exact look. However, I highly recommend that you create an alternate style for this suit by also wearing it with a plain white shirt with French cuffs and adorning it with the matching tie, pocket square, and cufflinks. It would be a very smart alternative look! 

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You can see in this picture that Jimmie is wearing a nice pair of black leather shoes. Black was the standard color for men’s shoes back then. These shoes seem to be the standard style of the day, which included laces and a rounded cap toe. Below are two options from Amazon. The first is a synthetic material, and the second is real leather. Although they will rarely if ever be seen, socks must be worn. Black is always good, but gray could also be worn with this suit. Another option would be blue patterned socks which match the pocket square, but the length of the pants would make that touch go unnoticed.



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That concludes my description of this outfit! Jimmie Kildare is dedicated, principled, and determined to help his patients no matter how often it gets him in trouble. He fights tirelessly to prove his theories, relying on his own sense and what he knows to be right more than what other people say. He receives guidance from Dr. Gillespie’s rambunctious bullying and his mother’s loving advice. When he wears this suit, his head may be turned by a beautiful redhead, but that is only because he is so kind that he believes everything she says. At the end of the film, he realizes that the girl for him is lovely and sweet Nurse Mary Lamont, and he remains faithful to her for the rest of the series. Richard Chamberlain played the fearless young doctor in a television series of the same name in 1961-1966. Many people enjoy his performance in the five seasons of the show, but for me no one will ever be able to compete with Lew Ayres’s charming portrayal of this role. Jimmie Kildare was his most important character, and it brought him great fame and success at MGM. Although he dropped out of high school, he had wanted to be a doctor in his real childhood, and he served as a medic in World War II. This series made his medical dreams come true, even if only for a few hours on the screen. It’s easy to see why Jimmie Kildare always was and always will be America’s favorite doctor. In scrubs or in a dapper gray suit, he is one of a kind!

If you want to observe Mr. Ayres’s style for yourself, I suggest that you purchase the movie and study his outfit firsthand! Click the above image to purchase all nine Dr. Kildare films on a DVD set at Amazon.

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By the way, please join our month-long celebration of Code films, #CleanMovieMonth85! Throughout July, we are going to watch nothing but American Breen Era films, and we are inviting participants to do the same. Writers can join this celebration with articles about their own favorite films and discoveries during the month, and we will republish them on our website. Here’s to 85 years since the formation of the Production Code Administration!

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As a special high-point of our month-long celebration in July, we are hosting a blogathon on the first weekend in July in honor of the formation of the PCA and the twenty wonderful years of decent cinema which followed during Joseph Breen’s tenure. It will be called The Favorite Code Film Blogathon. On July 5-7, participants will choose their single favorite Code films and write about why these movies from the era of film decency were so good. Please join!

Remember, take pictures of yourself in vintage style and send them to me to be featured in a future Film Fashion Fridays article! I will gladly republish your pictures, advice, and experiences in vintage clothing for others to see and read. Let’s make Friday a day for film fashion!

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Follow us to bring back the Code and save the arts in America!

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9 thoughts on “Film Fashion Fridays: 7. Lew Ayres’s Suit in “Calling Dr. Kildare” from 1939; “America’s Favorite Doctor” for The Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2019

  1. Thank you so much for participating in the RI Blogathon. I love Lew Ayres (he’s so underrated), and I always notice clothing in films so your post really speaks to me. Fantastic job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Maedez,

      Thank you so much! It is wonderful to hear from you. I remember being pleased to discover you as a fellow Lew Ayres fan during a previous Reel Infatuation Blogathon. I’m glad that you also appreciate costumes in films. I’m happy that you liked my article!

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan


  2. Pingback: #ReelInfatuation 2019 – Day 2 – Silver Screenings

  3. An excellent and very interesting combining of interests for the blogathon. I watched and enjoyed the Kildare/Gillespie films on late night TV during my teens and was very caught up in them. I don’t think, however, that I paid that much attention to Lew’s costuming. I think I shall have to revisit and keep my eyes open.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Paddy,

      Thank you for commenting on my article! I;m very glad that you liked it. It means a lot to me that I am receiving attention on an article in my Film Fashion Fridays series, which is just getting started. I enjoy the different angle it gives. Those movies are very captivating. I love them! I’m glad that you share that love. I’m happy that I have encouraged you to rewatch these classics and notice fashion!

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan


  4. A good observation re: the suit and the absence of vest, which means the character likely bought the pieces separately. That makes sense on an intern’s wage.

    I’m someone who doesn’t pay close enough attention to wardrobe in film. I appreciate the clothes + styles, but I never think about the work and planning that go into them. I suspect wardrobe designers have to be a mix of historian, artist, researcher, technician, etc.

    Lew Ayres looks handsome in all the images you posted. (I love that overcoat.) But, as you’ve pointed out before, Dr Kildare is made more appealing by his personality and character.

    Thank you for joining the blogathon! It’s always a pleasure to see you at the party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ruth,

      Thank you so much! I’m glad that you liked my article, my choice, and my economic deductions about Dr. Kildare’s fashion. I’m glad that my article encouraged you to think more about the clothes which people wear in great films. Thank you for hosting this lovely blogathon!

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan

      Liked by 1 person

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