BORN: December 29, 1908
DIED: December 30, 1996
AGED: 88 yrs
DIED FROM: Natural Causes after going into a coma
MARRIED:3 Times-Lola Lane, Ginger Rogers and Diana Hall
CHILDREN:1 son with Diana Hall (1968)
AFFAIRS: A few from what I read, the most famous being with his co-star, Jane Wyman
REAL NAME: Lewis Ayres
OSCAR NOMS: Once for Johnny Belinda (1948)
TALENT: Was in a Jazz Band and could play the banjo and guitar
KNOWN FOR: Being a conscientious objector during WW2; Playing Dr. Kildare
He is actually one of my favourite actors not that he was a stupendous one but one I always felt a sincerity that came across when he acted. I think that was due to his own sense of doing what he felt was the right thing to do no matter the consequences. His first acting gig was in a silent film called "The Kiss" starring Greta Garbo but the role that made him famous was as the young German in "All Quiet On The Western Front." This role is the main reason he decided not to fight in the 2nd World War and the public, the studio and many of his friends shunned him not knowing that he signed up as a medic making sure he would be able to serve in the Pacific. He was one of 16 medics who arrived, under heavy gun fire, to set up evacuation hospitals during the invasion of Leyte. By the end of the war he was awarded 3 Bronze stars plus he donated all the money he made, while serving, to the Red Cross.
Aside from his 2 brief marriages in the 1930s to the actresses mentioned above, he had a few fun times with others including an affair with Jane Wyman while making Johnny Belinda and she, still married to Ronald Reagan. You can tell, just by watching the film, how much chemistry they had. I had a big crush on him after I saw this movie and, yeah, I was like 15. He actually won a Golden Globe for his documentary titled "Altars of The World" but he is most famous for playing Dr. Kildare in 9 movies and was ready to play the character again on TV, but he wanted a ban on all smoking commercials feeling that smoking was harmful (Boy, was he ahead of his time). Not wanting to lose this revenue, he was dropped and they brought in young Richard Chamberlain to play Kildare (Chamberlain became the hot ticket after this). Lew Ayres guest-starred in many TV shows during the last 2 decades of his life like "The Love Boat", Fantasy Island", "6 Million Dollar Man" and "Little House on the Prairie."
1. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT-1930
2. STATE FAIR-1933
4. YOUNG DR. KILDARE-1938 (the first of 9)
5. RICH MAN/POOR GIRL-1938
6. ICE FOLLIES OF 1939-1939
7. THE DARK MIRROR-1946
8. THE UNFAITHFUL-1947
9. JOHNNY BELINDA-1948
10. ADVISE & CONSENT-1962
I admire principled actors, politicians and people in general. Lew Ayres was a man of principle. He made difficult choices that resulted in misunderstanding and undeserved criticism. I'm happy to know that history has been kind.
I studied All Quiet on the Western Front in my college film course. That clip is compelling, very different from the glory speeches made in most war movies. I also appreciated the signing scene with Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda. Over the years, I have seen Lew in State Fair, a few of his Kildare pictures, The Unfaithful with Ann Sheridan and on TV in Climax! and Alcoa Theater.
Thanks for shining the spotlight on a good actor, a great man and one of your favorites and mine, Lew Ayres. Enjoy the rest of your week, dear friend BB!
I think I heard the name, but I don't recall having seen him in anything. It takes a whole lot more courage to be a conscientious objector, especially before Vietnam. I'll have to seek some of his movies out.ReplyDelete
I haven’t seen the film, but I have read All Quiet on the Western Front and I’m not surprised that it made him a conscientious objector.ReplyDelete
Good on him for having the strength of his convictions to stand up for what was right regardless of the outcome.ReplyDelete
Good write-up on an actor I knew very little about!ReplyDelete
I'd never heard of Lew Ayres until you showcased him. Too bad he was so principled or he would have been more popular. Good think he was so principled because he could look himself in the mirror!ReplyDelete
Another great choice Birgit!ReplyDelete
Not an actor of limitless scope but within his zone of the sensitive and caring everyman he was always solid and sometimes more.
Surely his two most notable performances were in All Quiet (a great movie that utilized his gentle demeanor to maximum effect) and the Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn version of Holiday. As Kate's alcoholic brother Ned his work is so moving, if it was up to me he would have been that year's Best Supporting Actor winner.
Other than those two his was never a flashy screen presence but his solid reliability was always welcome in any film he appeared in. While he fell into that category of steady leading men along the lines of George Brent, David Brian and the like (the sort whose mild presence didn't stop the major female stars of the day from plowing right over them on their way to center stage) his energy was a bit different and he had a substantial leading man career in the 30's and 40's before gradually moving into support.
I see you listed Ice Follies of 1939 in his films, geez that's a terrible movie!!! A real stinker that was a low point for all involved.