I really liked Maisie Was a Lady (1941-Edwin L. Marin) too, though Swing Shift Maisie (1943) remains my favorite of that series. Maisie Was a Lady gave C. Aubrey Smith a different type of part playing a butler to boot. Here's the early scene when Lew Ayres and the delightful working gal, Maisie (Ann Sothern) "meet cute." Lew seemed to be the man to call when you needed a young man who could be both charming and inebriated (especially after he was a critical hit in Holiday in 1938).
Here are a couple more moments in Lew Ayres career in the '30s.
Up For Murder (1931-Monta Bell), one of the few talkies directed by silent veteran Monta Bell, is a story of a young printer and hopeful reporter (Lew Ayres) who becomes involved with the society editor mistress (Genevieve Tobin) of his publisher. This scene gives us a good look at this spectacular art deco apartment of the woman and something of Ayres' naturalism on screen:
Murder With Pictures (1936-Charles Barton) is a fast-paced 70 minute story about a news photographer (Lew Ayres) who unravels the truth behind a murder after hiding the accused (Gail Patrick). It is fun to see the many cliches in the mystery played out in such an energetic style (Ayres' character seems to be a peppy combination Lee Tracy-Chester Morris in this part!):
Holiday (1938-George Cukor) was the film that was part of a comeback for Lew Ayres' career. His role as Ned, the only son of a socially prominent, wealthy New York family, won him critical accolades for his touching portrayal of the weak, but loving young man who encourages his sister Linda Seton (played by Katharine Hepburn) to escape their soul-crushing life with Johnny Case (Cary Grant). Quietly smashed most of the time, Ned has moments when he cracks a joke or plays a tune that hint at the spirit he once longed to express. The film, which was not a financial success, reunited him with George Cukor with felicitous results and renewed interest throughout the studio system in his talent:
While we lead up to Lesley Coffin's arrival on Friday, we have a chance to see Lew Ayres on that same day. On Fri., Oct. 26th at 8pm (ET) on TCM Ayres can be seen in one of his better later roles in the timely politically charged story of Advise and Consent (1962-Otto Preminger). ______________________________________________ Here are two of the nine entries in the Dr. Kildare series made with Lew Ayres in the title role at MGM, beginning in 1938. These increased Ayres' profile professionally and, I think it is fair to say, tapped into a nurturing aspect of his personality. The warmth of Ayres' portrayal and the casts' rapport with one another is still partly responsible for the perennial popularity of this series with classic film fans.
The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939-Harold S. Bucquet)
Dr. Kildare's Strange Case (1940-Harold S. Bucquet)
Fingers at the Window (1942-Charles Lederer) was Lew Ayres' last film before the hubbub of his conscientious objector status caused some upheaval. In fact, according to Ms. Coffin's biography, there were some protests associated with the theaters where this entertaining tale played. This B film is evidence of the high production values that MGM products maintained even in their programmers. The movie, which features Ayres playing one of his charming inebriates turned modern knight errant, is beautifully photographed (by Harry Stradling, Sr. & Charles Lawton), a bit silly as a thriller (Basil Rathbone + hypnosis is involved), but reunited Ayres and Laraine Day on screen for the last time.
After his return to Hollywood, The Dark Mirror (1946), which is being released on DVD & Blu-Ray at last this month, was his first project to appear on the screen. Under the direction of noir icon Robert Siodmak, Ayres is noticeably thinner, and a bit tentative at times in his portrayal of a psychiatrist examining the psyche of twins (both played by Olivia de Havilland, who chose Lew for this role after reading about his experiences in the war). Here are a few moments from that film.
In The Capture (1950), Lew Ayres appeared in a film noirish story written and produced by his friend Niven Busch (Duel in the Sun, The Furies, The Postman Always Rings Twice). The movie, set in Mexico, featured Teresa Wright (then married to Busch) and was directed by the rising director, John Sturges. Small in budget, the movie has Ayres portraying an oil project manager who, almost on a whim to impress a girlfriend, track and shoot another man who is suspected of robbery. The doubts about his actions and his conflicting emotions about the path his life has taken give some color to the movie, which has moments of quiet power, while remaining frustratingly diffuse in the story's telling. You almost start yelling at the screen for Busch to rewrite certain scenes for more effectiveness, but that's not the cast's fault. Especially worth noting in the movie are: Victor Jory as a priest listening to Ayres' flashback on his experiences, the ubiquitous and oily noir fixture Barry Kelley as a petro company exec, and Jimmy Hunt, who appears as Teresa Wright's understandably suspicious son. Jimmy was the lad whose nightmares and innocence enhanced De Toth's classic domestic noir Pitfall (1948) so well and he went on to greater glory in the classic Invaders From Mars in '53. Here is The Capture (1950):
Donovan's Brain (1953), directed by the interesting Felix Feist, is one of the strangest films of Lew Ayres' career, but, coming from the pen of Curt Siodmak, the film weaves enough credible science in with the fancy to be often highly amusing. Ayres' remains quite credible as a scientist in this movie about keeping an (overly dynamic) brain going after the body is gone. The movie features Nancy Davis (the year she became Mrs. Reagan) and the welcome presence of that shambling bear of an actor, Gene Evans. Watch for that strange little smile that creeps into Ayres' expressions throughout this movie. Is someone having difficulty playing this role with a straight face? (I like to think so). This film can be seen in its entirety here. The movie's trailer below should give you a taste of the story's flair:
I can't resist adding one more video for Lew Ayres. This is from his appearance as a much older but attractive man who comes into the life of Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This first aired on February 12, 1977: