Lew Ayres: The Road Less Traveled

“It’s dirty and painful to die for your country. When it comes to dying for your country, it’s better not to die at all. There are millions out there dying for their country and what good is it?” ~ Erich Maria Remarque.

In All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), actor Lew Ayres played Paul Bäumer, a German soldier disillusioned by the horrors of World War I (the iconic scene of his reaching for a butterfly on the battlefield remains a classic image in world cinema). The film was the first all-talking non-musical film to win the Best Picture Oscar for its producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. and an additional Academy Award for director Lewis Milestone. It also received nominations for the remarkable work by Arthur Edeson for Best Cinematography and a nomination for the adapters of Erich Maria Remarque‘s 1929 autobiographical novel, George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson, and Del Andrews. Actor Lew Ayres, who seems to me to be by turns awkward and quietly powerful in the film, received no nomination for the movie, though the film would have a far-reaching impact on his life.

The callow Ayres was, by his own admission at that early stage of his life and career, an unlikely choice. Having starred as an infatuated boy who unwittingly unleashes Greta Garbo‘s banked fires in her last silent, The Kiss (1929), he was not a complete unknown. According to the actor’s recollection, he was, however, flustered when he made the off-the-cuff test that won him the part of the young German soldier.

A callow Ayres with Garbo in The Kiss (1929)

A callow Ayres with Garbo in The Kiss (1929)

Lew Ayres had read the book months before pre-production began and dreamed of playing the part. One of those up for the part was 20 year old Lewis Ayres. George Cukor, a New York theater pro conducting the screen tests, made Ayres uncomfortable. As Lew Ayres explained, Cukor “was used to polished theater actors and I was just a nobody from nowhere. He was perfectly frank about saying I didn’t have the polish. All I had was this tremendous desire and I was the type.” Ill at ease, and perhaps even a bit miffed at being treated as inadequate, something earnest and true came across in the test for the young German soldier. Fortunately for the actor, the ultimate choice for the part was up to Milestone, who saw the test. Since “polish” wasn’t necessarily on his list of priorities for the part, he immediately announced “I think this is our man.”

Reflecting the deepening disillusionment of the generation affected most deeply by the upheaval of the First World War, All Quiet on the Western Front continues to influence generations born after the film was made, reminding us of the power of the moving image. Years later in Lew Ayres own life, after many ups and downs in his Hollywood career, the potent message about the futility of war in All Quiet on the Western Front would resonate in his life during the Second World War. The power of this movie’s ground level perspective from the point of view of an average soldier–remarkably for an American film, an average German soldier, seems to come across most dramatically in the devastating scenes when Ayres withdraws from his surroundings, as when he is alone in a battlefield hole with a French Poilu he has stabbed in self-defense. Tormented by the prolonged death gasps of the soldier, he comforts, cajoles, prays for and screams at the man, whose every breath reminds him of the consequences of his actions. As Paul, he cries out to his dead enemy in an anguished torrent:”I tell you, I didn’t want to kill you, I tried to keep you alive. If you jumped in here again I wouldn’t do it. You see, when you jumped in here, you were my enemy, and I was afraid of you. But you’re just a man like me, and I killed you. Forgive me comrade. Say that for me, say you’ll forgive me…”

Ayres’ moral devastation and isolation is best rendered when his eyes grow coldest. Two scenes illustrate this aspect of his performance best. The first is when he returns to his unit with the boots of a dead comrade who has died in agony after losing his leg, only to have a fellow soldier immediately appropriate the boots. The second moment comes as he listens to older men back on the home front naively describing ways to “win the war.” The cathartic moment when Paul (Ayres) returns to his jingoistic teacher’s classroom and tells a few potent truths to the unbelieving boys who will soon join him on the battlefield is made more powerful because the mild-mannered actor’s outburst is unexpected.

After the film became a worldwide sensation, Ayres was groomed for movie stardom by those who believed that his gentle sensitivity and refined, often wistful persona could be adapted into other projects. With typical Hollywood logic, producers apparently believed that carrying a gun in his movies would be something that audiences would want again in Lew Ayres‘ follow up vehicle. Consequently, he was quickly miscast as a ruthless Al Capone type in one of the first of the gangster cycle films, Doorway to Hell (1930). Unfortunately for the boyish Lew Ayres, he was compelled to share the screen with the electrifying presence of James Cagney. Ayres, who was quite affecting in the scenes when he reflected on the social conditions that had formed his gangster character, (driving through his old neighborhood, remembering the disease and injustices that had festered there) and in the final moments of the movie as he awaits his own inevitable gangland murder, alone in his room with what would be his final meal. However, he had still not developed enough as an actor to withstand comparison on screen with Mr. Cagney, the prodigiously talented “gutter everyman”, a product of Hell’s Kitchen who was making only his second appearance in a film.

While going on to appear opposite the likes of Constance Bennett, Janet Gaynor, Alice Faye, Dorothy Lamour, and Ginger Rogers, (whom he would marry in 1934 after a brief marriage to Lola Lane), Ayres‘ career foundered in mediocre studio assembly line product, often in unimaginative “B” movies.

Lew Ayres, after "All Quiet..."

Lew Ayres, after "All Quiet on the Western Front"

As his wife Ginger Rogers became among the most popular of musical and later dramatic stars in the Thirties, Ayres career languished in films with titles such as Let’s Be Ritzy, Silk Hat Kid, She Learned About Sailors, Hold ‘Em Navy and King of the Newsboys. Not surprisingly, the disparity between their careers contributed to their marriage foundering within a few years of the wedding. Fortunately for the actor, he was rescued from this pedestrian lull in his career by his screen test director, George Cukor, who cast him in a sparkling remake of Phillip Barry’s Holiday (1938) as the alcoholic brother of Katharine Hepburn. His role as the frustrated musician and spoiled rich boy, Ned Seton, won him renewed respect.
While the part gave Ayres a chance to display his considerable charm, he also revealed the darkness and cowardice beneath the character’s surface as he douses his disappointment in life by drinking. In one of the better characterizations of an alcoholic’s charm and joylessness, Ayres seems born to play this truth-teller who at one point, bluntly urges Hepburn to follow her instinct to love Cary Grant, despite the fact that he is engaged to her sister (Doris Nolan). Ned (Ayres) enjoys a certain clarity of vision, thanks to his perspective from the sidelines of life, telling Linda (Hepburn) what Julia (Nolan) is truly like: “If you were in her way, she’d ride you down like a rabbit.” Holiday (1938)His candid revelation of his family’s true soulless nature is both heartbreaking and moving since he is too weak and yet too perceptive to escape it as well. Though this film may have played a part in Lew Ayres being signed for a long term contract by MGM, the fact was that Holiday (1938) did not make money for Columbia Studios, despite the critical acclaim that it garnished. This may have been one reason why Ayres did not receive an Oscar nomination for the exceptionally well-played role. A more mature Lew Ayres, however, was deeply grateful to the director for thinking of him, seeing it as “an opportunity to do something with big, stellar figures. Cukor was still the same but by now I was a different person. I could take him in stride. I didn’t carry the load. I wasn’t bothered by the long exegesis of the characterization.”

At MGM, he became the first Dr. Kildare in 1938 in a series of popular MGM movies which paired him with Lionel Barrymore as his eternally crusty mentor. Easily dismissed as programmers, the Dr. Kildare movies of the late ’30s and early ’40s, allowed Ayres to display the earnest as well as the humorous sides of his talent, along with that screen presence that generated a gentle calmness that was uniquely his own.

The Kildare films, which pop up on the TCM schedule from time to time, were perhaps rather unrealistic from our perspective, but grappled in an engaging, often intelligent way with a surprising number of still pertinent issues, such as socialized medicine, the social conditions that breed unrest and disease, as well as the eternal themes of youth vs. experience, tradition vs. change, and duty vs. sacrifice. The role of the young doctor seeking novel ways to treat the body, mind and spirit of his patients also foreshadowed modern concerns about the care of the whole person that figures in today’s more forward looking medical research. Ayres‘ quiet, thoughtful demeanor, in counterpoint to Barrymore‘s curmudgeonly presence, along with the good, unpretentious direction of the veteran director of MGM’s “Crime Does Not Play” series, Harold S. Bucquet, helped launch an unexpectedly popular franchise that even outlasted the durable Andy Hardy movies.

Of course, as a lucky working actor under contract, Lew Ayres also had to appear in just about any film that MGM slated him for–whether or not it was a good match for his, or anyone else’s talent. This is the best explanation for the casting of Ayres, along with those other non-skaters, James Stewart and Joan Crawford in The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939), a film that must be seen to be believed, and which you can catch on TCM on March 11th at 7:45AM ET.
Clearly meant to cash in on the unsated public taste for ice skating fostered by 20th Century Fox’s discovery, Sonja Henie, Joan Crawford would later mention when describing the creative thinking behind the film, that “Everyone was out of their collective minds.” Or perhaps the role of a studio mogul played by perennial father figure Lewis Stone may have played a part in the greenlighting of this loopiest product of the “classic” studio era by Louis B. Mayer. In a part that could have been played by a George Murphy type just as easily, Ayres played the losing end of a trio of skaters whose hearts get sprained as much as their ankles in their drive for stardom on ice. Widely considered a low point in the studio careers of Stewart and Crawford, Mr. Ayres, who had long since learned to roll with the punches when it came to his career, was probably thankful to return to the relative dignity of his next Dr. Kildare movie.

With the outbreak of World War II, and America’s entry into the war following Pearl Harbor, many actors of Ayres‘ generation, among them Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, James Stewart, Tyrone Power, felt the urge to serve their country in the armed services. Just as his quiet style seemed to run counter to the temper of his times earlier in his life, Lew Ayres chose to follow his conscience in an unanticipated way that recalled his experience playing the reluctant soldier in All Quiet On the Western Front a decade before. When he received his induction notice, the man best known as the dutiful Dr. Kildare, announced that he was a conscientious objector. As he explained to the press, “I came to the conclusion that I could…no longer kill things, I just couldn’t do that.” In the weeks that followed his decision, he stuck to his commitment, explaining further that to bear arms would cause him ”to live in a nightmare of hypocrisy.”

Newspapers such as Variety wondered about the seemingly unpatriotic choice on their pages, commenting that “We don’t know what is behind Ayres’ sudden impulsive decision not to serve his country.” Ayres was dropped by his studio and his popular films were picketed and soon were banned in 100 theatres. According to industry pundits at the time, this choice to become a conscientious objector “has ruined him. His film life is dead, because a fellow can’t live down the fact that he has refused to bear arms in defense of his country.” As Ayres later reflected, “I thought, well, this may mean the end of a career. As far as I was concerned that was all right, I was ready. Requesting that he be recognized as a conscientious objector on religious grounds (despite his non-affiliation with one organized religion) and his high visibility knocked the Selective Service for a loop. Ayres explained that while it was his ethical belief that killing was wrong, he did not “mind working with the army because you do have a tremendous problem with the Hitler situation, I can’t deny these things. But I said as far as I’m concerned I couldn’t kill, and I couldn’t go into the army even on your side unless I did what I considered to be constructive work. [The Selective Service] said no you may not make that choice, you have to go where we will put you, and I said well then, I won’t go at all.”

Assigned to a labor camp for two months while the bureaucracy grappled with a decision on his case, the Army finally relented, and Ayres was
inducted as a medic, setting a precedent allowing other COs to choose to serve in the armed forces as medical personnel as well as in the Civilian Public Service where many offered their brave help fighting fires, aiding in prisons, mental wards and medical hospitals, and even acting as human guinea pigs for vital medical research. Those who could not, in good conscience, serve in any capacity also chose prison over public or non-combat service. Thanks to the choice created by Lew Ayres vocal public action, most of the World War II COs, 25,000 in all, would enter the armed forces as non-combatants. Receiving praise as an “excellent soldier” following completion of his Army basic at Camp Barkeley’s medical replacement training center, he became an instructor and later shipped out for the war zone.
Ayres would serve in the South Pacific in field hospital units throughout the war zone as an Army Medic and later became a chaplain’s assistant as well. According to his colleagues in the same theater of war, he was often among the first to enter areas to treat his fellow Americans as well as wounded Japanese soldiers. As his fellow medic, Lewis Markovich said, “Although they were the enemy and although they would have killed him, had they been able…he didn’t look at it that way. He saw that another human being needs help.” Serving for a total of three and a half years in the Medical Corps, his distinguished service earned him three battle stars.

Coming back to Los Angeles after the war, his first film as an independent actor was–once again–the part of a doctor, this time a psychiatrist trying to help Olivia de Havilland in director Robert Siodmak‘s interesting noir, The Dark Mirror (1946), (a film that needs to be showcased on TCM someday). His career, like many of his contemporaries, was never quite the same after the war, his objection to armed service was not held against him and he was eventually cast as a sympathetic, nurturing doctor in director Jean Negulesco‘s Warner Brothers production of Johnny Belinda.
The leads in Johnny Belinda
The visually beautiful film, set in Cape Breton (though filmed in a part of the hauntingly lovely Northern California coast), is composed of a truly ensemble cast which included Agnes Moorehead, Charles Bickford, Stephen McNally and Jan Sterling, as well as Lew Ayres. The movie is highlighted by Jane Wyman‘s breakthrough role as a deaf mute character, for which she won an Oscar. The beautifully photographed film by cinematographer Ted McCord and the delicate scoring by Max Steiner added to the film’s distinctive qualities.
Johnny Belinda, in addition to telling an exceptionally moving story, challenged the accepted beliefs of audiences about handicaps and the Production Code’s strictures against the depiction of rape and childbirth. I wonder if the film would have been as successful as it was without the addition of Ayres as the doctor who helps Belinda McDonald bloom and escape her isolation. His blend of gentle strength and his beautifully modulated voice adds immeasurably to the role of the doctor and to the film as a whole. Nominated for twelve Oscars in all, Johnny Belinda, which can be seen on TCM on Feb 26, at 2:00PM ET, earned Lew Ayres his only Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. The years ahead would be busy ones for the actor, who rarely lacked for work, though this film would be a second crest in the ebb and flow of his long career. Another opportunity came Ayres‘ way in the early 1960s when he was offered to reprise his affiliation with the role of Dr. Kildare on television. Once again, Lew Ayres‘ ethical sense kept him from taking on the lucrative part, since the producers would not agree to relinquish cigarette manufacturers as potential sponsors for the program.Eventually, Mr. Ayres’ abiding interest in spiritual belief and hope of promoting religious understanding would lead him to make two intriguing sounding documentaries about religion, Altars of the East (1955) and Altars of the World (1976). In between numerous television appearances and an occasional foray back onto the big screen, notably in Otto Preminger’s Washington story, Advise and Consent (1962). Musing about the career sacrifices that his deeply principled life committed him to once, Lew Ayres once commented that ”A fellow’s never through till he quits trying.” Mr. Ayres died at age 88 in 1997, leaving his wife of 33 years, Diana Hall Ayres, a son, Justin, and a life, well and fully lived.

Sources:
Eames, John Douglas, The MGM Story, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1979.
Ehrlich, Judith & Tejada-Flores, Rick, The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It, Bullfrog Productions, www.pbs.org, 2000.
Frazer, Heather T & O’Sullivan, John, We Have Just Begun To Not Fight: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors, Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1996.
McGilligan, Patrick, A Double Life: George Cukor, HarperCollins,1991.

36 Responses Lew Ayres: The Road Less Traveled
Posted By Alice : February 20, 2008 6:57 pm

This was so interesting – I had no idea that Lew Ayres was a conscientious objector in WWII.  I've only just started reading Movie Morlocks, but I loved this piece and the one you did about Claude Rains a few days ago.

Posted By Alice : February 20, 2008 6:57 pm

This was so interesting – I had no idea that Lew Ayres was a conscientious objector in WWII.  I've only just started reading Movie Morlocks, but I loved this piece and the one you did about Claude Rains a few days ago.

Posted By Medusa : February 22, 2008 10:21 am

Wow.  Fascinating story and how heartening to read of any individual — let alone an movie actor — having such deeply felt beliefs and refusing to compromise on them.Wonderful article, Moira!– m

Posted By Medusa : February 22, 2008 10:21 am

Wow.  Fascinating story and how heartening to read of any individual — let alone an movie actor — having such deeply felt beliefs and refusing to compromise on them.Wonderful article, Moira!– m

Posted By Christy : February 23, 2008 3:44 pm

Moira, another gem!  Lew Ayres had a remarkable career and life.His quiet strength is what always made me want to watch what he did on the screen. The first time I saw All Quiet On The Western Front, I was mesmerized by Lew Ayres.And let's not forget that he dated Mary Richards, at least for one episode…

Posted By Christy : February 23, 2008 3:44 pm

Moira, another gem!  Lew Ayres had a remarkable career and life.His quiet strength is what always made me want to watch what he did on the screen. The first time I saw All Quiet On The Western Front, I was mesmerized by Lew Ayres.And let's not forget that he dated Mary Richards, at least for one episode…

Posted By Andrew : February 28, 2008 7:58 pm

I was not aware of Lew Ayres background as a Conscientious Objector either before this article. All the other times he played doctors must have affected his choice to become a medic in the war, don't you think? I hope that "All Quiet on the Western Front" is still read in schools and hope that the movie is seen by some.  Not to mention his later choice to play a different doctor in the sci-fi classic "Donovan's Brain."Good choice to write about for the blog, Moira. Thanks. 

Posted By Andrew : February 28, 2008 7:58 pm

I was not aware of Lew Ayres background as a Conscientious Objector either before this article. All the other times he played doctors must have affected his choice to become a medic in the war, don't you think? I hope that "All Quiet on the Western Front" is still read in schools and hope that the movie is seen by some.  Not to mention his later choice to play a different doctor in the sci-fi classic "Donovan's Brain."Good choice to write about for the blog, Moira. Thanks. 

Posted By 3perfectcats : March 3, 2008 10:42 pm

I am a big Lew Ayers fan and have often wondered why he has not been the subject of a major biography.  He lead a rich and varied life and displayed deep sense of inner conviction all too uncommon in Hollywood.  Thank you for your wonderful posting.  Maybe it will inspire someone to write a book.  By the way, for those who are interested, the Lew Ayers episodes of Dr. Kildare done for radio with Lionel Barrymore are available for free at the Internet Achieve.  Go by and fill up your MP3 player for a real treat.  They differ from the Dr. Kildare films but are still enjoyable to listen to.

Posted By 3perfectcats : March 3, 2008 10:42 pm

I am a big Lew Ayers fan and have often wondered why he has not been the subject of a major biography.  He lead a rich and varied life and displayed deep sense of inner conviction all too uncommon in Hollywood.  Thank you for your wonderful posting.  Maybe it will inspire someone to write a book.  By the way, for those who are interested, the Lew Ayers episodes of Dr. Kildare done for radio with Lionel Barrymore are available for free at the Internet Achieve.  Go by and fill up your MP3 player for a real treat.  They differ from the Dr. Kildare films but are still enjoyable to listen to.

Posted By Phil Ayres : September 14, 2008 9:55 am

As an Ayres, I didn’t even know much about Lew Ayres. I have read some about him. But, I did learn a lot from this. I agree with a previous poster. I didn’t know that Lou was a conscientious objector during WWII. This post has sparked an interest for me. I intend to learn more about Lew.

Phil Ayres

Posted By Phil Ayres : September 14, 2008 9:55 am

As an Ayres, I didn’t even know much about Lew Ayres. I have read some about him. But, I did learn a lot from this. I agree with a previous poster. I didn’t know that Lou was a conscientious objector during WWII. This post has sparked an interest for me. I intend to learn more about Lew.

Phil Ayres

Posted By Justin Ayres : October 2, 2008 3:30 pm

I thought the images of my father were interesting and informative in themselves. The information seems to check in a brief reading with what I know of his public past. I was moved by the images of his work when he was a medic in the South Pacific. Those I think were beautiful and deeply important moments in his life. He actually had some important visions that he spoke on later that came from that time. Particularly I remember him speaking on meeting (in his dream) a kind of implaccable face of “God” that stood beside an enormous precipice. The face of this divine entity seemed to evince that “God’s” message was that we human beings were entirely free to stay above the precipice or throw ourselves off of it. Thank goodness he understood this terrible aspect of human freedom and strove as a good man to seek to preserve life.

Posted By Justin Ayres : October 2, 2008 3:30 pm

I thought the images of my father were interesting and informative in themselves. The information seems to check in a brief reading with what I know of his public past. I was moved by the images of his work when he was a medic in the South Pacific. Those I think were beautiful and deeply important moments in his life. He actually had some important visions that he spoke on later that came from that time. Particularly I remember him speaking on meeting (in his dream) a kind of implaccable face of “God” that stood beside an enormous precipice. The face of this divine entity seemed to evince that “God’s” message was that we human beings were entirely free to stay above the precipice or throw ourselves off of it. Thank goodness he understood this terrible aspect of human freedom and strove as a good man to seek to preserve life.

Posted By moirafinnie : October 2, 2008 8:39 pm

Hi Justin,
Your post is among the most gratifying I’ve received since beginning to write for this blog. I’d always liked your father’s distinctive work, but after researching his profoundly principled stand during the Second World War and his lifelong quest for enlarging spiritual understanding through his thoughtful acting, his film making and as a conscientious objector, my respect for him deepened considerably.

I thought the photos I unearthed of his work in the South Pacific treating Allied, Japanese and native peoples alike as a medic were deeply touching as well. The common thread that ran through the comments I found during my research on your father by fellow C.O.s, soldiers and others from this period of his life always mention his exceptional hard work, compassion and down to earth approach to his duties.

Thank you so much for taking the time to post a response here.

Posted By moirafinnie : October 2, 2008 8:39 pm

Hi Justin,
Your post is among the most gratifying I’ve received since beginning to write for this blog. I’d always liked your father’s distinctive work, but after researching his profoundly principled stand during the Second World War and his lifelong quest for enlarging spiritual understanding through his thoughtful acting, his film making and as a conscientious objector, my respect for him deepened considerably.

I thought the photos I unearthed of his work in the South Pacific treating Allied, Japanese and native peoples alike as a medic were deeply touching as well. The common thread that ran through the comments I found during my research on your father by fellow C.O.s, soldiers and others from this period of his life always mention his exceptional hard work, compassion and down to earth approach to his duties.

Thank you so much for taking the time to post a response here.

Posted By Eddie Lent : March 16, 2009 11:58 pm

I have been looking around to see further biography information on him , and I haven’t been able to find who his parents were and siblings, or if they list any past for Lew besides being born in Minneapolis. I always hoped they’d do a biography on him, but as far as I know there hasn’t been one yet. I followed him since I was little because I was told he was my great uncle (told he was the brother of my grandmother Grace Ayres). But the article helped me learn a little bit more about him, and that is great…especially the pacifist stance.

Posted By Eddie Lent : March 16, 2009 11:58 pm

I have been looking around to see further biography information on him , and I haven’t been able to find who his parents were and siblings, or if they list any past for Lew besides being born in Minneapolis. I always hoped they’d do a biography on him, but as far as I know there hasn’t been one yet. I followed him since I was little because I was told he was my great uncle (told he was the brother of my grandmother Grace Ayres). But the article helped me learn a little bit more about him, and that is great…especially the pacifist stance.

Posted By Marge Brandel : May 1, 2009 11:02 pm

I too would love to see a biography written about this wonderful actor. He has given so many of us such pleasure through the years. I grew up watching many of his films and would love to read about his life in and out or films.

Posted By Marge Brandel : May 1, 2009 11:02 pm

I too would love to see a biography written about this wonderful actor. He has given so many of us such pleasure through the years. I grew up watching many of his films and would love to read about his life in and out or films.

Posted By Eileen Downey : May 7, 2009 12:50 am

I live in Fawnskin, a small town in the San Bernardino Mountains. Mr. Ayers owned a home in this community. I have spoken to several long term residents who remember him as a nice and caring person. One person commented on how he would stop by his cabin, and take him down to fish in Grout Creek.
Since his cabin is still standing and much loved, we hope to find some photos of him at his cabin and in town.

Posted By Eileen Downey : May 7, 2009 12:50 am

I live in Fawnskin, a small town in the San Bernardino Mountains. Mr. Ayers owned a home in this community. I have spoken to several long term residents who remember him as a nice and caring person. One person commented on how he would stop by his cabin, and take him down to fish in Grout Creek.
Since his cabin is still standing and much loved, we hope to find some photos of him at his cabin and in town.

Posted By Fawnskin Flyer : May 27, 2009 7:04 am

[...] these buildings and was excited to find that many were built by wealthy and famous people such as Lew Ayres and Frances [...]

Posted By Fawnskin Flyer : May 27, 2009 7:04 am

[...] these buildings and was excited to find that many were built by wealthy and famous people such as Lew Ayres and Frances [...]

Posted By Art Henrikson : May 31, 2009 12:24 pm

I grew up watching Lew Ayers in Dr. Kildare, with Lionel Barrymore. I didn’t know he was married to Ginger Rogers. I’d love to read a biography of his life. I saw a Mary Tyler Moore TV show recently in which he had a central part. It was great to see him again.

Posted By Art Henrikson : May 31, 2009 12:24 pm

I grew up watching Lew Ayers in Dr. Kildare, with Lionel Barrymore. I didn’t know he was married to Ginger Rogers. I’d love to read a biography of his life. I saw a Mary Tyler Moore TV show recently in which he had a central part. It was great to see him again.

Posted By moirafinnie : May 31, 2009 2:11 pm

Hey, dear readers, it’s great that so many of us still enjoy Lew Ayres’ work. I think his life off-screen may have been even more interesting than his long, fascinating career, which encompassed everything from co-starring with Greta Garbo in The Kiss to Donovan’s Brain and beyond! It is possible that this continued interest may generate a biography someday soon. Btw, Art, I remember that great Mary Tyler Moore show too. When Mary dated the much older, and still very appealing Mr. Ayres, her friends asked if “she felt old age creeping up on her!” I think many very young women can still understand her interest–especially if they had seen his earlier movies!

Thank you for sharing your continued interest here.

Posted By moirafinnie : May 31, 2009 2:11 pm

Hey, dear readers, it’s great that so many of us still enjoy Lew Ayres’ work. I think his life off-screen may have been even more interesting than his long, fascinating career, which encompassed everything from co-starring with Greta Garbo in The Kiss to Donovan’s Brain and beyond! It is possible that this continued interest may generate a biography someday soon. Btw, Art, I remember that great Mary Tyler Moore show too. When Mary dated the much older, and still very appealing Mr. Ayres, her friends asked if “she felt old age creeping up on her!” I think many very young women can still understand her interest–especially if they had seen his earlier movies!

Thank you for sharing your continued interest here.

Posted By marc : June 8, 2009 11:43 am

fantastic collection of interesting facts about Lew. helluva guy, on and off screen. some of my favorite movies star Lew. Johnny Belinda is probably my favorite work of his. he and Wyman put on a real ‘acting class’ in that one. a biography would be soooooooooooo nice. kildare series stands up pretty well these days too.

Posted By marc : June 8, 2009 11:43 am

fantastic collection of interesting facts about Lew. helluva guy, on and off screen. some of my favorite movies star Lew. Johnny Belinda is probably my favorite work of his. he and Wyman put on a real ‘acting class’ in that one. a biography would be soooooooooooo nice. kildare series stands up pretty well these days too.

Posted By Riccardo Bono : November 17, 2009 5:19 pm

An interesting life story. I knew that his marriage to Ginger Rogers faltered over the disparity in early career success. As it turned out, Ginger too had her peaks and valleys…as all actors…and I might add human beings do. Conscientious objection and the pacifist perspective is now part and parcel of our civilization. Gandhi and MLK demonstrated other ways to fight and resist without the recourse to arms and violence. After 50 million war deaths in WW I and II, who is to say that this was not the better more noble way?

Posted By Riccardo Bono : November 17, 2009 5:19 pm

An interesting life story. I knew that his marriage to Ginger Rogers faltered over the disparity in early career success. As it turned out, Ginger too had her peaks and valleys…as all actors…and I might add human beings do. Conscientious objection and the pacifist perspective is now part and parcel of our civilization. Gandhi and MLK demonstrated other ways to fight and resist without the recourse to arms and violence. After 50 million war deaths in WW I and II, who is to say that this was not the better more noble way?

Posted By Bob Saloum : February 16, 2010 2:54 am

About 20 years ago I had read that Lew Ayers was giving public
talks at the Los Angeles branch of the Theosophical society and
immediately recognized his depth of religious and philosophical
living. Recently while watching one of his movies on TCM I de-
cided to research his life a little further. I was so overwhelmed
by his depth of spiritual convictions juxtaposed to our current
climate of hate, divisity and a whole list of pathological phobias cultivated by political and religious perversions and
aberrations that I felt refreshed for a moment. God bless Lew
Ayers and his family.

Posted By Bob Saloum : February 16, 2010 2:54 am

About 20 years ago I had read that Lew Ayers was giving public
talks at the Los Angeles branch of the Theosophical society and
immediately recognized his depth of religious and philosophical
living. Recently while watching one of his movies on TCM I de-
cided to research his life a little further. I was so overwhelmed
by his depth of spiritual convictions juxtaposed to our current
climate of hate, divisity and a whole list of pathological phobias cultivated by political and religious perversions and
aberrations that I felt refreshed for a moment. God bless Lew
Ayers and his family.

Posted By Calling Dr. Kildare! Hollywood’s Take on Medical Science | MovieFanFare : September 3, 2010 6:03 am

[...] eventually forgave him this CO status, Ayres’ career was never quite the same after the war. (Lew Ayres: The Road Less Traveled over at TCM’s Movie Morlocks is a great piece for further [...]

Posted By Calling Dr. Kildare! Hollywood’s Take on Medical Science | MovieFanFare : September 3, 2010 6:03 am

[...] eventually forgave him this CO status, Ayres’ career was never quite the same after the war. (Lew Ayres: The Road Less Traveled over at TCM’s Movie Morlocks is a great piece for further [...]

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