Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Richard Kimble

Name: Dr. Richard Kimble

Portrayed by: David Janssen

TV series: The Fugitive

Occupation: Pediatrician before getting arrested for his wife’s murder.

Lifestyle: Since he was constantly trying to evade police Lieutenant Philip Gerard (Barry Morse), Kimble rarely stayed in one place for long. His occupations included: truck driver; farm laborer; bartender; chauffeur; construction worker; fisherman, masseuse, bellhop, and carnival worker.

Family and Friends: Father was Dr. John Kimble, who had a heart attack and retired to a home in the country. Had a strained relationship with his brother Ray, but was very close to his sister Donna Taft (who appeared in five episodes). Deceased wife was Helen Kimble; her sister Terry was in love with Richard. Kimble developed feelings for several women during his years on the run. In the final episode, “The Judgment,” he appeared to have found true love with Jean Carlisle (Diane Baker).

Trademark: Quick, slight smile with only one side of the mouth turned up.

Adversaries:  Stafford, Indiana detective detective Philip Gerard (who appeared in 37 episodes) and Fred Johnson (10 episodes), the one-armed man who murdered Helen Kimble. Interestingly, Kimble had encounters with both Gerard’s wife (the two-part “Landscape With Running Figures”) and son Phil Jr. (“Nemesis”).

Useful Skills:  He was a physician!

Classic quote: “I didn’t kill my wife.”

Classic episodes: “Landscape with Running Figures”; “The 2130″ (a computer is used to track Kimble); and “Corner of Hell” (Kimble saves Gerard from moonshiners).

Seven Things to Know About The Fugitive

Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!

  • Mgaffney48

    I always liked David Jansen as “Harry O.”

  • Aaron

    “The Fugitive” was a first rate show all the way,good acting and writing,compelling premise. Dated to its time though,since in this day and age it would be exceedingly difficult to remain at large the way Kimble did. Too many people have cameras,not to mention Cable news and the Internet, to enable him to take new jobs and fake names.

  • smoky

    While “The Fugitive” was a very successful TV Drama, I really have to wonder how it would do in 2012, even with upgraded technology like cell phones and the internet.  In the 60′s we only had 4 networks, including PBS for most homes.  Large cities did have some additional stations that showed reruns and local programs.  Now the number of stations available to the average viewer ranges well over 100 or more.  I’ve no doubt that many of my generation would tune in if TV Land or some station begin to show the old Fugitive series.  But I doubt it would be watched by many of those born after 1975.  The reason is that the shows were fairly predictable.  Dr Kimble would wander into a town, get a job, have to deal with some problem or emergency, have to make a decision to help or not (he always helped), then almost get caught because he gave aid and then narrowly escaped.  Programs of that nature today, may get very popular for a few years, then gradually lose viewership.  To me, Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” was a far more intertesting character than Richard Kimble.  To each his own!

  • Rogerl Sorenson

    Aren’t you forgetting Pat Butram as Mr.Haney on “GREEN ACRES”
    All David Janssen had going for him was a $500.00 haircut BIG ears and the ability to
    enunciate clearly with an ever-present cigarette bobbing in his mouth.

  • Black & White Critic in Color

    How about “Barney” of the Mission Impossible Force

  • Lorraine M.

    “The Fugitive” is being shown as part of a black & white drama line-up on Sunday nights here in Chicago. It airs rather late, but I try to stay up for it because I really like Janssen and the way he underplays that tension between survival and humanity. He’s quite believable as a man on the run always looking over his shoulder, having to decide who to trust, etc. Janssen didn’t even have to say much–he could telegraph Kimble’s weariness, loneliness and longing for community with his expressive eyes and body language.

    But smoky may be right that this series wouldn’t play well in this day and age because of its predictability. For today’s viewers, the original series is a victim of its era, when spoonfed predictability was the order of the day. And an updated version would be tough to pull off because of the changes not just in everyday technology but the economy (no wandering from job to job today!)

  • Trembleybill

    My favorite show of all time—tremendous yet underrated  acting by Janssen—really drew out the empathy of ordinary Americans—-check out “Incident at Northfolk” episode—-great writing and the marketing of the final episode way ahead of its time—-

  • Ferrantegary

    james garner, Maverick

  • Gregory Pollard aka (G)

    I often wondered, after the hyped died down from Kimble finally being cleared of his wife’s murder, David Janssen would return in the fall of 1968 with a new show called none other than” DR. Kimble”. I think that would have been a hit for ABC and another score for Quinn Martin. After all, he was a “DOCTOR”. Has anyone ever thought of that?

  • tone26

    janssen is the all time champ