Richard Chamberlain rose to fame in the 1960s as the idealistic, smoothly handsome “Dr. Kildare” on the television series of the same name, a long-running portrayal that brought him legions of adoring, often youthful fans.
During his long, successful career, Chamberlain has played a wide variety of roles, starring in film and theater productions as well as on television. But it is on the small screen that he gained his major renown, first as Dr. James Kildare, a young doctor learning the medical ropes, and later as the star of epic, hugely popular television productions of the 1980s.
In “Shogun,” a 12-hour, 1980 dramatization of novelist James Clavell’s bestseller, Chamberlain played Jack Blackthorne, the English pilot of a Dutch ship wrecked off the coast of Japan. Three years later, he starred as Father Ralph de Bricassart, the conflicted, charismatic priest at the heart of the romantic saga “The Thorn Birds,” based on Colleen McCullough’s bestseller. Both portrayals earned him Emmy nominations and Golden Globe awards.
On the stage, Chamberlain earned critical acclaim in “Hamlet” and “Richard II,” among other performances. His films include “Petulia,” “The Three Musketeers,” “The Towering Inferno” and “The Last Wave,” a Peter Weir film that became a cult favorite.
Born George Richard Chamberlain on March 31, 1934, in Beverly Hills, Chamberlain became interested in acting while attending Pomona College in Claremont. He launched his career after military service in Korea.
After decades of evading questions from interviewers about his personal life, the actor disclosed in a 2003 memoir, “Shattered Love,” that he was gay. He has lived primarily in Hawaii for most of the last 25 years, but moved back to Los Angeles in 2009.