Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Kildare

Boyishly handsome, Lew Ayres.
Photo Courtesy of
Lew and Louis Wolheim in
Quiet on the Western Front.
Photo Courtesy of
     Today would be Lew Ayres's 108th birthday. He was born on December 28, 1908 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but was raised in San Diego, California. He is most famous for his role as Dr. James Kildare, but had been acting in bit player roles since 1927. His first starring role was in the 1929 silent film The Kiss which starred Greta Garbo, in her last silent film, and Conrad Nagel.
     It was the very next year that Lew starred in the epic World War I film, All Quiet on the Western Front as Paul Baumer, that he became a star. In the years to come he would star in Common Clay with Constance Bennett, The Doorway to Hell with James Cagney in his second film role (all 1930), Iron Man with a still relatively unknown Jean Harlow (1931), the original 1933 film State Fair, and in 1938 he would star as Katharine Hepburn's drunk brother in the wonderful gem, Holiday.
Lew as the adorable drunk brother of
Katharine Hepburn.
Photo Courtesy of
Lew and love interest, Mary Lamont,
portrayed by the beautiful
Laraine Day.
Photo Courtesy of
     After the wrap of Holiday, he made his first appearance as Dr. James Kildare in Young Dr. Kildare. This was actually the second film in the series; Joel McCrea having been the first to portray James Kildare in Interns Can't Take Money with Barbara Stanwyck the previous year. He would go on to make eight more films as Dr. Kildare until the character was written out of the series, which would continue on with Lionel Barrymore's character Dr. Gillipsie. Also in that year he starred with James Stewart and Joan Crawford in The Ice Follies of 1939.
Both Lew and Jane were nominated
for an Academy Award for their
perfomances in Johnny Belinda.
Jane would be the only one to take
home Oscar.
Photo Courtesy of
Lew and Olivia. Lew was often typecast as a doctor.
Photo Courtesy of
      Perhaps due to his role in All Quiet on the Western Front, Lew was a conscientious objector of war, and when the United States entered World War II, he made it known that he was so . . . which didn't sit well with anyone. Before he decided to become an actor, Lew had went to the University of Arizona to become a doctor. Taking this experience, he decided to join the Medical Corps. None of the forces, however, could guarantee him this position, and so he reported himself to the Civilian Public Service (CPS). Having such a well-known figure as Lew declaring himself in that position, the armed forces, not wanting to look bad, revised the rules, and Lew joined the Medical Corps.
     After the war, it seemed as though Lew's career in Hollywood was over, but then Olivia de Havilland demanded that Lew be cast as her love interest in 1946's The Dark Mirror, that he was once again accepted by the movie going public. Two years later, Lew was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in Johnny Belinda alongside Jane Wyman.
As the V.P. who everyone ignores . . . kind of like they do
now, too.
Photo Courtesy of
     Mostly after Johnny Belinda, he would make few films. He guest starred on a few television shows such as The Ford Show with Tennessee Ernie Ford, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, and The Barbara Stanwyck Show, and he also starred in several television miniseries. His biggest film after Johnny Belinda was Advice and Consent as the Vice-President that basically everyone ignores, with Henry Fonda.
     Lew married three times: Lola Lane of the Lane Sisters (1931-1933), Ginger Rogers (1934-1940), and finally Dina Hall, whom he married in 1964 and stayed married to until his death on December 30, 1996--only two days after his eighty-eight birthday. They had a son named Justin. It's a shame that because of his way of that his career which was so very promising was basically destroyed. In my opinion, Lew Ayres was a fantastic actor, and had he gotten more roles such as that of Paul Baumer in All Quiet on the Western Front or as Dr. Robert Richardson in Johnny Belinda, perhaps he wouldn't be so easily forgotten by so many of us today, including us classic film fans. I hope, however, he knew that the films he did do: All Quiet
on the Western Front, the Kildare series, and Johnny Belinda, plus many others, are loved by those that watch them, and that he, too, is loved by all of those that remember him.

Awww . . . Lew and Ginger fishing.
Photo Courtesy of


David said...

Thanks for sharing, Runell! I watched "All Quiet on the Western Front" when I was small, and didn't have a very large impression of it. Maybe that's because I was raised on westerns, and didn't see much action. A film I should rewatch I suppose. I had no idea that Lew was in Holiday - I absolutely adored his character in that film. Thanks for the write up! :)

Happy New Years!

moviechick9620 said...

awwwwwwwwwww you did it again!
this was wonderful....and very interesting!
well at least it was for me!
keep 'em coming!