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Lew Ayres Overview:

Legendary actor, Lew Ayres, was born Lewis Frederick Ayre III on Dec 28, 1908 in Minneapolis, MN. Ayres died at the age of 88 on Dec 30, 1996 in Los Angeles, CA and was laid to rest in Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life and Career

Lew Aryes was born Lewis Frederick Ayres III ion December 28th, 1908 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents, Irma and Louis Ayres, would divorce when little Lew was only four years old. His father quickly remarried and young Lew then spent much of his childhood with his mother. As a teen he developed an interest in music and began learning multiple instruments. After graduating High School, Aryes went on to attend the University of Arizona with the intentions of entering the medical field. During this time Aryes also remained active musically, performing whenever he could. It quickly became apparent that music held far more sway over him than his medical studies and dropped out of college. He began working the nightclub scene, playing the banjo and guitar for the big bands in southern California. Aryes then began  playing with the Henry Halstead Orchestra in 1927. Later that year, while working as the house pianist at the Coconut Grove Night Club in Los Angeles, Ayres was noticed by a Hollywood talent scout. Soon after he left his music career to focus full time on being an actor.

Hollywood

In 1929 Aryes made his film debut in an uncredited role in the Leo McCarey comedy The Sophomore. He made another uncredited appearance as a copyboy in Big News. Later that year his career received a remarkable boost when he was cast opposite Greta Garbo in the romantic drama The Kiss. His big break, however, would come the next year when he was cast as the earnest and naive Paul Baumer in the big screen adaptation of the German pacifist novel All Quiet on the Western Front. The film was massive global hit, showing the harrowing reality of war better than any films had before. The film would go on to garner four Academy Awards, winning Best Director and Best Picture. Thanks to the films success, Aryes was then put under contract with the Universal Studios. He then went on to star in series of forgettable Universal films such as Iron Man, Up for Murder, Night World, and My Weakness. His most successful ventures seemed to be the films in which he loaned to other studios, such as Fox Films State Fair opposite Janet Gaynor. By the mid-1930s he had left Universal for Fox before quickly moving to Republic Pictures to pick up directing.

MGM and WWII

In 1938 Aryes was loaned to Paramount studios for the screwball comedy Holiday opposite Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. The role brought the young actor a fair amount of attention and soon MGM signed him to a long-term contract. The studio quickly assigned him to the Dr. Kildare series, with Aryes playing the role of Dr. James Kildare. He also began appearing in a series of light comedy such as Spring Madness and Rich Man, Poor Girl. Despite his popularity from the late 1930s to early 1940s, his decision to declare himself as a conscientious objector when drafted severally affected his popularity. Despite the fact that he went to serve as a non-combat medic from 1942 to 1946 in the Philippines and New Guinea, his career would never fully recover.  

He returned to the Big Screen in 1946 with the film The Dark Mirror. In 1948 he earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination or his work in as a doctor trying to understand the distress of a deaf/mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda. He continued to act on the big screen into the mid-1950s with films like The Capture, New Mexico and No Escape.

Later Career and Life

By the mid-1950s , Aryes began to appear on the tube, making his first television appearance in the 1954 series Omnibus. For the next two decades Aryes would continue to work mainly in TV, making appearances on popular shows such as The Ford Television Theatre, Playhouse 90, Alcoa Theater, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Gunsmoke and The Big Valley. In 1976 he made his second of two religious documentaries Altars of the World, which would go on to win a Golden Globe for Best Documentary. He remained on television into the early 1990s, with his final role being for the TV movie Hart to Hart: Crimes of the Heart in 1994. Soon after finishing the film he retired from the business. Lew Aryes died on December 30th, 1996. He was 88 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).

HONORS and AWARDS:

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Although Ayres was nominated for one Oscar, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1948Best ActorJohnny Belinda (1948)Dr. Robert RichardsonNominated
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He was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Radio and Motion Pictures.

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Lew Ayres Quotes:

Paul Bäumer: Up at the front you're alive or you're dead and that's all. You can't fool anybody about that very long. And up there we know we're lost and done for whether we're dead or alive. Three years we've had of it, four years! And every day a year, and every night a century! And our bodies are earth, and our thoughts are clay, and we sleep and eat with death! And we're done for because you can't live that way and keep anything inside you!


Paul Bäumer: War isn't the way it looks back here.


Paul Bäumer: You still think it's beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it's better not to die at all.


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Lew Ayres Facts
Biography in: "American National Biography". Supplement 1, pp. 22-23. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Portrayed the title character for the syndicated radio show "The Story of Dr. Kildare" (1950-1951).

He was a conscientious objector during World War II, which made him rather unpopular at the studio.

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