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Dr Cook's Garden is a play by Ira Levin. It was adapted as a made-for-television film in 1971 starring Bing Crosby.

Dr Cook's Garden
Written byIra Levin
Date premieredSeptember 18, 1967
Place premieredNew York
Original languageEnglish



James Tennyson is a young and idealistic doctor who returns to his hometown of Greenfield to work with Doctor Leonard Cook, his mentor who is a father figure to him. Tennyson's own father was an abusive brute who broke his arm in a drunken rage. Doctor Cook seems to be a positive role model to Tennyson and a pillar of the community who welcomes his young protégé home. Cook's housekeeper Dora tells Tennyson of Doctor Cook's heart troubles and how he needs an assistant. Upon his homecoming, Tennyson is also reunited with Jamey Roush, his childhood sweetheart, and in the process begins to become suspicious of Doctor Cook's activities. He discovers that many of his patients have died suddenly and mysteriously. He also discovers in the doctor's medicine cabinet a large supply of poisons. The town constable tells Tennyson that he feels that the Lord has blessed the town because the "nice" people have lived to a ripe old age and the mean ones have died off. He begins to look through the doctor's files and finds a mysterious code "R", which he notices is also in the doctor's garden, and he interprets it to mean removal of those that the doctor considers unworthy people. Tennyson confronts his mentor, who freely admits to euthanizing those that he considers unworthy. He tells him of killing his abusive father and considers his actions to be of community service, using his beautiful garden as a metaphor. Cook attempts to poison Tennyson and they wage a battle to the death, which ends in Cook suffering a heart attack and dying after Tennyson refuses to bring him his medicine in a perverse act of final mercy.

Original productionEdit

The play premiered on Broadway in 1967 with a cast including Burl Ives and Keir Dullea. George C. Scott was meant to direct[1] but was replaced during rehearsals by Levin.[2]

The play's Broadway production was covered in William Goldman's book on Broadway, The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway.

Television filmEdit

Dr. Cook's Garden
Based onDr. Cook's Garden play by Ira Levin
Written byArt Wallace
Directed byTed Post
StarringBing Crosby
Frank Converse
Blythe Danner
Barnard Hughes
Bethel Leslie
Music byRobert Drasnin
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Bob Markell
CinematographyUrs Furrer
Editor(s)John McSweeney
Running time75 minutes
Production company(s)Paramount Television
Original networkABC
Original releaseJanuary 19, 1971 (1971-01-19)

The play was adapted for television in 1971 with Bing Crosby in the title role and Frank Converse as his young colleague, Dr. Tennyson. It was well received with Variety magazine commenting, inter alia: "‘Doctor Cook's Garden’ was an unusually satisfying entry in ABC's ‘Movie of the Week’ series . . . For Bing Crosby, the title role was an acting triumph. In his long list of films, ‘Garden’ was only his second straight acting role (the other was The Country Girl in 1955) and he has indeed come a long way since his first ‘doctor’ film - ‘Doctor Rhythm’ in 1938. Playing a part that easily could have been hammed-up, Crosby let the fictive character take over—no small trick for a star with a forty-year identity as a singer and light comedy artist."[3]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ News of the Rialto: So Many Busy People By LEWIS FUNKE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Aug 1967: D1.
  2. ^ Playbill for 1967 production accessed 15 June 2013
  3. ^ "Variety". January 27, 1971. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External linksEdit