Childhood & Early Life
George Richard Chamberlain was born on March 31, 1934 in Beverly Hills, California, to Elsa Winnifred and Charles Axiom Chamberlain. His father worked as a salesman while his mother was an actress and singer.
He had a difficult childhood with his father battling alcoholism. But, Richard Chamberlain was a good sportsman who excelled in track. He graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1952 and went on attend Pomona College.
In college, he studied painting and art history and passed out in 1956 with a degree in arts. While in college, he grew passionate about drama and earned recognition for his portrayal of Bluntschil in the successful stage drama ‘Arms and the Man’.
He was accepted into the Army on December 7, 1956 and was assigned to serve in Korea for 16 months.
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Soon after his discharge from the military, Richard Chamberlain headed to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting. He first took acting lessons from the famous acting guru, Jeff Corey. Together they established the Los Angeles theater group ‘Company of Angels’.
Throughout the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Chamberlain made small appearances in numerous TV shows. He was seen in an episode of ‘Riverboat’ here he played the role of Lt. Dave Winslow. He also made small appearances on shows such as ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Mr. Lucky’, ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, ‘Rescue 8’, ‘Bourbon Street Beat’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Paradise Kid’ and so on.
In 1961, his career saw a major breakthrough after he bagged the titular role in the medical TV show ‘Dr. Kildare’. Chamberlain looked every bit of the handsome, kind, and caring medical intern which made him an overnight phenomenon with an envious spike in female fan-base.
He then went on to record several pop singles which further added to his growing fandom. His ‘Theme from Dr. Kildare’ entitled ‘Three Stars Will Shine Tonight’ showed up at number 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.
In attempt to try something different from the goody image of Dr. Kildare, Chamberlain tried his hand at movies. He was cast in the courtroom drama film ‘Twilight of Honor’ in 1963. He played the role of the lawyer David Mitchell who defends a man charged with murder.
In 1965, he featured in the film ‘Joy in the Morning’ which was the adaptation of a novel with the same name. He played the role of a law student named Carl Brown.
After the conclusion of ‘Dr. Kildare’, Chamberlain wanted to break through his ‘American Boy’ image so he took on more serious roles in summer stock productions such as ‘West Side Story’, ‘Private Lives’ and ‘The Philadelphia Story’.
He revived his love for theatre and featured in the Broadway musical ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's’ in 1966. However, the play turned out to be the biggest disaster of his career as it was pulled out after just four performances.
Relocating to England turned out to be the turning point in his career. He won accolades for his performance in the BBC's ‘Portrait of a Lady’ adaptation in 1968. Thereafter, he went on to play the role of David Danner in director Richard Lester’s drama film ‘Petulia’. This was his first try at British classical drama and it helped him create a new image and also improve his acting skills.
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He was the cast opposite Katherine Hepburn in the film adaptation of ‘The Madwoman of Challiot’ in 1969. Also, in 1969, he was selected to play ‘Hamlet’ for which he even took vocal coaching. His efforts paid off and he received rave reviews from the critics and audiences for his excellent portrayal.
He then reprised the role of Hamlet in 1970 for the TV show ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’. Chamberlain continued to widen his realms of acting by taking up more challenging roles like that of the classical composer Tchaikovsky in ‘The Music Lovers’ in 1970 and the flamboyant Lord Byron in the 1973 film ‘Lady Caroline Lamb’.
In ‘The Woman I Love’ he played the role of Edward VIII who renounces his throne for his lady love, Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American divorcée.
During the 1980s Chamberlain appeared in several TV series such as ‘Shōgun’, ‘The Thorn Birds’, and ‘King Solomon's Mines’. In 1988, he also played Jason Bourne in the TV film version ‘The Bourne Identity’.
Post 1990, Chamberlain appeared in several popular TV shows such as ‘The Drew Carey Show’, ‘Will & Grace’, ‘Desperate Housewives’ ‘Leverage’ and ‘Chuck’.
In 2012, he returned to stage as Dr. Sloper in the Pasadena Playhouse in the play, ‘The Heiress’.
Personal Life & Legacy
In the 1970s, Richard Chamberlain was believed to be in a relationship with television actor, Wesley Eure.
He then dated actor Martin Rabbett for a long time after 1977. He legally adopted Rabbett to safeguard his property.
Richard Chamberlain was always secretive about his sexuality. However, he came out of the closet in 2003 when he publicly declared that he is gay in his autobiography, ‘Shattered Love’.
Richard Chamberlain sang the title song in the movie ‘Joy in the Morning’.
He was placed at number 7 in the 2005 list of ‘TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols’ by TV Guide.
He was the original Jason Bourne from ‘The Bourne Identity’ miniseries.
Chamberlain’s frequent appearances on TV shows earned him the nickname, ‘King of the Miniseries’.