LEW AYRES Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Lewis Frederick Ayre, III                                                       
Born: 28 December 1908 Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA                                   
Died: 30 December 1996 Los Angeles, California                                       
Lew Ayres (December 28, 1908 – December 30, 1996) was an American actor.           
Born Lewis Frederick Ayre, III, in Minneapolis, Minnesota and reared in San           
Diego, California, Ayres began acting in bit player roles in films in 1927.           
Lew Ayres was discovered in 1927 playing banjo in the Henry Halstead Orchestra       
as Halstead was recording 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."                                               
Ayres played opposite Greta Garbo in 1929's The Kiss, but it was his starring         
role in 1930's All Quiet on the Western Front which made him a star. Ayres was       
Janet Gaynor's leading man in Servants' Entrance (1934), which featured a             
combination of live action and Walt Disney animation in a musical dream sequence.     
He played the title role in Young Dr. Kildare in 1938 and became a matinee idol,     
starring in several Kildare films. During this time, Ayres also co-starred with       
Joan Crawford and James Stewart in The Ice Follies of 1939.                           
Mirroring his anti-war and medical roles in his film work, Ayres was a pacifist       
who sought to become a member of the Medical Corps during World War II. The           
military would not guarantee him that position, so he declared as a                   
conscientious objector, and reported to a CPS camp. Having such a well-known         
public figure take this stance was poor publicity for the military, and it led       
to changes in the rules, at which point Ayres was then able to join the Medical       
Corps. He served in the Pacific theater and in New Guinea.                           
In 1948 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for Johnny Belinda,     
but his career was sparse after the war. Costar Jane Wyman fell in love with         
Ayres and left her husband Ronald Reagan for him, albeit unsuccessfully.             
In the summer of 1958, Ayers hosted eleven original episodes 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 (now prescient)     
request that the show not have cigarette advertising torpedoed that. The part         
went in 1961 to Richard Chamberlain.                                                 
He played the role of the governor in the pilot episode of the TV CBS series,         
Hawaii Five-O. He chose not to move to Hawaii to do the series, but did appear       
in the show in other roles from time to time. He also had many guest roles in         
other television programs.                                                           
His 1976 documentary film Altars of the World brought his Eastern philosophical       
beliefs to the screen and earned him critical acclaim. He played a pacifist           
politician in the original Battlestar Galactica film in 1978.                         
Late in life, he appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the father of the           
Murray Slaughter character played by Gavin MacLeod. The episode involved Mary's       
May-November romance with Mr. Slaughter, Sr.