Lewis Frederick Ayres III (December 28, 1908 – December 30, 1996)
was an American actor whose film and television career spanned 65
years. He is best known for starring as German soldier Paul Bäumer in
the film All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and for playing Dr.
Kildare in nine movies. He was nominated for an
Academy Award for
his performance in Johnny Belinda (1948).
1 Early life and career
World War II
World War II controversy
3 Personal life
4 Death and legacy
7 See also
10 External links
Early life and career
Lew Ayres' grave
Ayres was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Irma Bevernick and
Louis Ayres, who divorced when he was four. Louis, an amateur musician
and court reporter, remarried soon afterwards. As a teen, Lew and his
mother moved with his step-father, William Gilmore, and half
brother and sister to San Diego, California.
Leaving high school before graduating, he started a small band which
traveled to Mexico. He returned months later to pursue an acting
career, but continued working full-time as a musician. He played banjo
and guitar for big bands, including the
Henry Halstead Orchestra. He
recorded one of the earliest
Vitaphone movie shorts called Carnival
Night in Paris (Warner Brothers, 1927). Ayres wrote, "I was a member
of Henry Halstead's orchestra in 1927 at the Mission Beach Ballroom in
California for the summer. My instruments were tenor banjo,
long-neck banjo and guitar. After a hiatus, I rejoined Mr. Halstead
with a new group, including Phil Harris, on
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve the same
year for the opening night of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, a memorable
occasion." He left a national tour to pursue a career
as an actor full-time.
Ayres was discovered at a night club by talent agent Ivan Kahn. He was
cast to play opposite
Greta Garbo in The Kiss (1929), but it was his
leading role in the original version of All Quiet on the Western Front
(1930) that made him a star, secured him a contract with
Universal—and made him a conscientious objector to World War II.
(See below.) He made a number of mostly forgotten B movies for
Universal, with the exception of Iron Man (1931), with Jean Harlow.
His most successful movies at this time were those he made on loan to
other studios, including
The Doorway to Hell
The Doorway to Hell (1930) with James Cagney
in a supporting role, and as Janet Gaynor's leading man in both State
Fair (1933) and
Servants' Entrance (1934), which featured a
combination of live action and
Walt Disney animation in a musical
dream sequence, both for Fox Films.
Ayres left Universal to sign with Fox Films. In 1934 he was listed as
one of Fox's second tier stars.
He moved to poverty row studio
Republic Pictures to pursue a second
career as a director, including the film
Hearts in Bondage
Hearts in Bondage (1936),
starring James Dunn and Mae Clarke. He moved to Paramount Pictures
before finally being signed to MGM in 1938. At this time, he was
loaned from Paramount to play the role of Ned in Holiday (1938). The
role earned him considerable critical attention, including interest
from MGM to put him under contract specifically for the role of Dr.
James Kildare in an upcoming film series. Ayres played the role in
nine films from 1938 to 1942 (and again in a 1950s radio series) while
also appearing in light comedies for MGM, including
Spring Madness and
Rich Man, Poor Girl (both 1938),
The Ice Follies of 1939
The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939), and
Fingers at the Window (1942).
in Johnny Belinda (1948)
His final film as Dr. Kildare, Born to Be Bad, was re-edited after he
was drafted and declared himself a conscientious objector in March
1942. This stance almost destroyed Ayres' reputation
until it was revealed that he had served honorably as a non-combatant
medic from 1942 to 1946. He returned to acting in the
films The Dark Mirror (1946) with
Olivia de Havilland
Olivia de Havilland and The
Unfaithful (1947) with Ann Sheridan. For his role in Johnny Belinda
(1948) he received an
Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, while
Jane Wyman won Best Actress.
Ayres gradually moved to television, appearing in several anthology
series in guest roles. In the summer of 1958, he hosted eleven
original episodes of a
CBS Western anthology television series called
Frontier Justice, a production of Dick Powell's Four Star Television.
He was offered the part of
Dr. Kildare in an
NBC series but his
prescient request that the show have no cigarette advertising led to
the offer being withdrawn, and the part going, in 1961, to Richard
Chamberlain. He appeared as the Vice-President in Advise & Consent
(1962), and in The Carpetbaggers (1964), but he was by then primarily
a television actor, with only occasional film work. For a guest role
in Kung Fu ("The Vanishing Image", 1974) he was nominated for an Emmy.
Doris Day and
Lew Ayres in The
Doris Day Show (1970)
His documentary film Altars of the World (1976), based on a series of
documentaries he made titled Altars of the East (1956), brought his
Eastern philosophical beliefs to the screen and earned him critical
acclaim and a
Golden Globe Award
Golden Globe Award for best documentary in 1977.
Ayres guest-starred in an episode of
The Bionic Woman
The Bionic Woman ("Doomsday is
Tomorrow", 1977) as Dr. Elijah Cooper, an elderly nuclear scientist
who attempts to blackmail the world into peace. In 1985, he was cast
in his first series as a regular cast member, as the father of Robert
Wagner in the short-lived series Lime Street. His last role was in the
made-for-TV film Hart to Hart: Crimes of the Heart (1994), also
World War II
World War II controversy
In March 1942, Ayres was identified as a 4E conscientious objector and
sent to a CO camp. As expected, the announcement that a Hollywood
actor objected to the war was a major source of public outcry and
debate. Within a month it was determined that he had initially
requested to be A-O-1, so that he could serve as a non-combat medic.
However, the military's policy that servicemen cannot request, or be
guaranteed, where they will serve, forced him to request a 4E status.
The U.S. military confirmed that they would place him as a medic and
in April 1942, his status was changed. He enlisted in the United
States Army on May 18, 1942.
He served as a First Aid instructor in the
United States Army
United States Army before
requesting a drop in rank in order to serve as a medic and chaplain's
assistant in the Pacific. He was one of 16 medics who arrived under
fire during the invasion of Leyte to set up evacuation hospitals, and
there he provided care to soldiers and civilians in the Philippines
and New Guinea. He donated all the money he had earned as a serviceman
to the American Red Cross. Serving for three and a half years in
the Medical Corps, he was awarded three battle stars. After the war,
he resumed his career and made scores of movies, but never reached the
peak of his early
Ayres was married three times. He was married to actress Lola Lane
from 1931 to 1933, and to actress
Ginger Rogers from 1934 to 1940,
whom he met while starring in the film
Don't Bet on Love (1933). He
was separated from both women considerably earlier than their legal
divorces. His third marriage, to Diana Hall, lasted from 1964 until
his death in 1996. They had one son, Justin, born in 1968.
Death and legacy
Lew Ayres died December 30, 1996, just two days after his 88th
birthday. He was survived by his wife of 32 years, actress
Diana Hall, and their son, Justin Ayres. Ayres was a Lutheran.
His body was buried under a simple headstone at Westwood Memorial Park
in Westwood, Los Angeles, California.
In 1960, Ayres was inducted into the
Hollywood Walk of Fame with two
stars. His motion pictures star is located at 6385
while his radio star is located at 1724 Vine Street.
The Sophomore (1929) as Sophomore Fraternity Brother (uncredited)
Big News (1929) as Copyboy (uncredited)
The Kiss (1929) as Pierre
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) as Paul
Common Clay (1930) as Hugh Fullerton
The Doorway to Hell
The Doorway to Hell (1930) as Louie
East Is West
East Is West (1930) as Billy Benson
Many a Slip (1931) as Jerry Brooks
Iron Man (1931) as Kid Mason
Up for Murder
Up for Murder (1931) as Robert Marshall
The Spirit of Notre Dame
The Spirit of Notre Dame (1931) as Bucky O'Brien
Heaven on Earth (1931) as States
The Impatient Maiden
The Impatient Maiden (1932) as Dr. Myron Brown
The Cohens and Kellys in
Hollywood (1932) as Himself
Night World (1932) as Michael Rand
Okay, America! (1932) as Larry Wayne
State Fair (1933) as Pat Gilbert
Don't Bet on Love (1933) as Bill McCaffery
My Weakness (1933) as Ronnie Gregory
Cross Country Cruise
Cross Country Cruise (1934) as Norman Winthrop
Let's Be Ritzy (1934) as Jimmy Sterling
She Learned About Sailors (1934) as Larry Wilson
Servants' Entrance (1934) as Erik Landstrom
Lottery Lover (1935) as Cadet Frank Harrington
Spring Tonic (1935) as Caleb Enix
The Silk Hat Kid (1935) as Eddie Howard
Murder with Pictures
Murder with Pictures (1936) as Woodruff 'Woody' Davis
Panic on the Air (1936) as Jerry Franklin
Shakedown (1936) as Bob Sanderson
Lady Be Careful (1936) as Chester aka Dynamite
Murder with Pictures
Murder with Pictures (1936) as Kent Murdock
The Crime Nobody Saw
The Crime Nobody Saw (1937) as Nick Milburn
The Last Train from Madrid (1937) as Bill Dexter
Hold 'em Navy (1937) as Tommy Graham
Scandal Street (1938) as Joe McKnight
King of the Newsboys (1938) as Jerry Flynn
Holiday (1938) as Ned Seton
Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938) as Henry Thayer
Dr. Kildare (1938) as Dr. James Kildare
Spring Madness (1938) as Sam Thatcher
The Ice Follies of 1939
The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939) as Eddie Burgess
Broadway Serenade (1939) as James Geoffrey Seymour
Dr. Kildare (1939) as Dr. James Kildare
These Glamour Girls
These Glamour Girls (1939) as Philip S. Griswold
The Secret of
Dr. Kildare (1939) as Dr. James 'Jimmy' Kildare
Remember? (1939) as Sky Ames
Dr. Kildare's Strange Case
Dr. Kildare's Strange Case (1940) as Dr. James 'Jimmy' Kildare
The Golden Fleecing (1940) as Henry Twinkle
Dr. Kildare Goes Home (1940) as Dr. James Kildare
Dr. Kildare's Crisis
Dr. Kildare's Crisis (1940) as Dr. James 'Jimmy' Kildare
Maisie Was a Lady
Maisie Was a Lady (1941) as Bob Rawlston
The People vs.
Dr. Kildare (1941) as Dr. James Kildare
Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day
Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941) as Dr. James Kildare
Dr. Kildare's Victory
Dr. Kildare's Victory (1942) as Dr. James Kildare
Fingers at the Window (1942) as Oliver Duffy
The Dark Mirror (1946) as Dr. Scott Elliott
The Unfaithful (1947) as Larry Hannaford
The Way of Peace (1947, Short) as Narrator (voice)
Johnny Belinda (1948) as Dr. Robert Richardson
The Capture (1950) as Vanner
Mexico (1951) as Capt. Hunt
Donovan's Brain (1953) as John Howard Tracy
No Escape (1953) as Dr. Patrick J. Cory
The Ford Show
The Ford Show with Tennessee Ernie Ford (1958, TV Series) as Father
The DuPont Show with June Allyson
The DuPont Show with June Allyson (1960, TV Series) as Howard Moon
The Barbara Stanwyck Show
The Barbara Stanwyck Show (NBC, 1961, TV Series) as Dr. Paul Harris
Advise & Consent (1962) as The Vice President - Harley Hudson
The Carpetbaggers (1964) as 'Mac' McAllister
The Big Valley
The Big Valley (1967-1968, TV Series) as Jason Fleet / Sheriff Roy
Doris Day Show (1970, TV Series) as William Tyler
Earth II (1971, TV Movie) as President Charles Carter Durant
The Biscuit Eater (1972) as Mr. Ames
The Man (1972) as Noah Calvin
The Stranger (1973, TV Movie) as Prof. Dylan MacAuley
Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) as Mandemus
Hawaii Five-O (1973, TV Series) as Dr. Elias Haig in "Anybody Can
Build a Bomb" (S6/Ep12)
The Questor Tapes
The Questor Tapes (1974, TV Movie) as Vaslovik
Heat Wave! (1974, TV Movie) as Dr. Grayson
Columbo: Mind over Mayhem (NBC, 1974, TV Series) as Dr. Howard
Little House on the Prairie (NBC, 1976)
The Bionic Woman
The Bionic Woman (1977, TV Series) as Dr. Elijah Cooper
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1977, TV Series) as Doug Booth
End of the World (1977) as Beckerman
Damien: Omen II (1978) as Bill Atherton
Saga of a Star World (1978) as President Adar
Salem's Lot (1979, TV Movie) as Jason Burke
The World of Don Camillo
The World of Don Camillo (1984) as Doc
Highway to Heaven
Highway to Heaven (1985-1989, TV Series) as Ivan Zelenka / Frank
Worton / Harry Haynes
Philip Morris Playhouse - episode
Dark Victory (1952)
The Story of
Dr. Kildare - (1949–1951 series)
List of actors with
Academy Award nominations
^ "Lew Ayres,the original
Dr. Kildare who acted in films for... -
Baltimore Sun". articles.baltimoresun.com. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
^ Malnic, Eric (31 December 1996). "Lew Ayres, Star of Dr. Kildare
Movie Series, Dies".
Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
^ Lyon, Christopher; Doll, Susan & Vinson, James, eds. (1984).
"Ayres, Lew". The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. 3.
Chicago: St. James Press. ISBN 978-0912289083. Retrieved
September 30, 2008. .
^ 1920 United states Federal Census
^ Canton, Rolf (2006). Minnesotans in the Movies. Nodin Press.
^ By, D. W. (1934, Nov 25). TAKING A LOOK AT THE RECORD. New York
Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
^ a b "Ayres Backs His Project Religiously : Film: Actor best
known for 'Dr. Kildare' says his documentary, 'Altars of the World,'
represents the bigger part of his life today".
Los Angeles Times.
Retrieved 8 October 2014.
World War II
World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
^ Coffin, Lesley L. (2012). Lew Ayres: Hollywood's Conscientious
Objector. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 121.
^ "Lew Ayres, Actor, Dies at 88; Conscience Bound His Career - New
York Times". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
Lew Ayres Took Faith Seriously As Actor, Citizen - Philly.com".
articles.philly.com. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
Lew Ayres (1908 - 1996) - Find A Grave Memorial".
www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved
^ "Lew Ayres". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
^ "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. May
4, 1952. p. 50. Retrieved May 8, 2015 – via
Coffin, Lesley L. Lew Ayres: Hollywood's Conscientious Objector.
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 781848522
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lew Ayres.
Lew Ayres on IMDb
Lew Ayres at AllMovie
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