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).
Ayres in the 1940s
Lewis Frederick Ayres III
December 28, 1908
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||December 30, 1996 88) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California|
(m. 1931; div. 1933)
(m. 1934; div. 1940)
Diana Hall (m. 1964)
Early life and career
As a teen, he 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 San Diego, 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 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.
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 (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.
He moved to poverty row studio Republic Pictures to pursue a second career as a director, including the film 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 (1939), and Fingers at the Window (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 and The Unfaithful (1947) with Ann Sheridan. For his role in Johnny Belinda (1948) he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, while co-star 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.
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 for best documentary in 1977.
Ayres guest-starred in an episode of 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 starring Wagner.
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 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 Hollywood stardom.
Ayres was married three times. He was married to actress Lola Lane from 1931 until 1933, and to actress Ginger Rogers from 1934 until 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
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.
- 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 (1930) as Louie
- East Is West (1930) as Billy Benson
- Many a Slip (1931) as Jerry Brooks
- Iron Man (1931) as Kid Mason
- Up for Murder (1931) as Robert Marshall
- The Spirit of Notre Dame (1931) as Bucky O'Brien
- Heaven on Earth (1931) as States
- 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 (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 (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 (1936) as Kent Murdock
- 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
- Young Dr. Kildare (1938) as Dr. James Kildare
- Spring Madness (1938) as Sam Thatcher
- The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939) as Eddie Burgess
- Broadway Serenade (1939) as James Geoffrey Seymour
- Calling Dr. Kildare (1939) as Dr. James Kildare
- 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 (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 (1940) as Dr. James 'Jimmy' Kildare
- Maisie Was a Lady (1941) as Bob Rawlston
- The People vs. Dr. Kildare (1941) as Dr. James Kildare
- Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941) as Dr. James Kildare
- 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
- New Mexico (1951) as Capt. Hunt
- Donovan's Brain (1953) as Dr. Patrick Cory
- No Escape (1953) as John Howard Tracy
- The Ford Show with Tennessee Ernie Ford (1958, TV Series) as Father John Gerald
- The DuPont Show with June Allyson (1960, TV Series) as Howard Moon
- 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 (1967-1968, TV Series) as Jason Fleet / Sheriff Roy Kingston
- The Doris Day Show (1970, TV Series) as William Tyler
- My Three Sons (1970, TV Series) Professor Harper
- 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 (1973) as Mandemus
- Hawaii Five-O (1973, TV Series) as Dr. Elias Haig in "Anybody Can Build a Bomb" (S6/Ep12)
- The Questor Tapes (1974, TV Movie) as Vaslovik
- The Magician (1974, TV Series) as Max Braden in "The Illusion Of The Evil Spikes"
- Heat Wave! (1974, TV Movie) as Dr. Grayson
- Columbo: Mind over Mayhem (NBC, 1974, TV Series) as Dr. Howard Nicholson
- Little House on the Prairie (NBC, 1976)
- The Bionic Woman (1977, TV Series) as Dr. Elijah Cooper
- The New Adventures of Wonder Woman (1977, TV Series)
- 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
- Battlestar Galactica: Saga of a Star World (1978) as President Adar
- Salem's Lot (1979, TV Movie) as Jason Burke
- The World of Don Camillo (1984) as Doc
- Highway to Heaven (1985-1989, TV Series) as Ivan Zelenka / Frank Worton / Harry Haynes
- "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. ISBN 978-1932472417.
- By, D. W. (1934, Nov 25). TAKING A LOOK AT THE RECORD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/101193306
- "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 October 8, 2014.
- U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946.
- Coffin, Lesley L. (2012). Lew Ayres: Hollywood's Conscientious Objector. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 121. ISBN 978-1617036378.
- "Lew Ayres, Actor, Dies at 88; Conscience Bound His Career". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
- "Lew Ayres | Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
- "Lew Ayres". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
- "Lew Ayres Took Faith Seriously As Actor, Citizen - Philly.com". articles.philly.com. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
- Starr, Kevin (28 November 2002). The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199923939 – via Google Books.
- Bahn, Paul (14 April 2014). The Archaeology of Hollywood: Traces of the Golden Age. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780759123793 – via Google Books.
- "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. May 4, 1952. p. 50. Retrieved May 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
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