All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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JackFavell
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by JackFavell »

Hi, Lesley! It's such a pleasure having you here at the Silver Screen Oasis!

I am curious about Lew's early life and career. What made him pick acting? Was there something in his childhood that steered him in that direction? Was he close with his parents?

I've read that Lew was a pianist. Was music important to him?

I think most actors who make it in Hollywood have a certain amount of drive and ambition, was he an ambitious man? Did he have ambitions to be a good actor, but maybe not so much dazzled with the so called 'good life' that acting provided?

Was he ever in the running to portray Larry Darrell in The Razor's Edge? Or was he interested in the project? It seems like it would have been perfect for him.

Can you tell me about his marriage to Lola Lane?

Thank you so much for giving us your time and expertise.
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Rita Hayworth
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by Rita Hayworth »

filmbiographer wrote:kingme
He did many television shows in his lifetime (Haven't read his book, but someday I will) what shows that he enjoyed the most doing and least doing?
Excellent question and I wish I could definitively answer what his least and favorite roles were, but he rarely spoke of such things (out of modesty and politeness).

He loved work on anthology series because they gave him the opportunity to play such a wide variety of characters, although he often played doctors or religious men. He was good friends with Roddy McDowall and loved working with him on Fantastic Journey, along with the other people he was friendly with from his years in the movies (Janet Gaynor, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck). He was very proud of the two part episode of The Bionic Woman he did titled Doomsday is Tomorrow and thought the episode of I Spy he appeared in called The Tiger was something he could be proud of. Two of the roles which made the strongest impression on him and he worked especially hard where the roles of Noah in Greatest Heroes of the Bible and as Candy in Of Mice and Men for PBS.

As for projects he had bad feelings for, the pilot he made with Michael Landon called Johnny Risk, was a project they both seemed rather embarrassed by, especially the idea of the much younger Landon being his brother.
Thank you so much for this ... The Bionic Woman Episode was my Favorite All-Time. I did not know that he was involved in Fantastic Journey ... this is totally caught me by surprise. Thanks for a great write up too!
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oscotto
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by oscotto »

Thank you Lesley for your informative replies to my questions regarding Ayers C.O. status and marriage to Ginger Rogers. You've piqued my interest! I've always liked the fun little musical he did with Alice Faye, SHE LEARNED ABOUT SAILORS. Didn't Ayers also connect (musically) to Alice's future husband Phil Harris and his band? Any comments on Ayers work with Faye and Harris? Thanks in advance, Scott
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by filmbiographer »

JackFavell
I am curious about Lew's early life and career. What made him pick acting? Was there something in his childhood that steered him in that direction? Was he close with his parents?
His first ambition as a child was to become an actor, largely thanks to the encouragement of his grandmother. His parents divorced when he was young, but he was especially close to both grandmothers. When he began making a living in Hollywood, he supported both his mother and father, but had a very stressful relationship with his stepfather.
I've read that Lew was a pianist. Was music important to him?
He was a pianist and organist but also a professional musician before he became an actor, playing banjo and guitar for popular orchestras (including the Henry Halstead Orchestra).
I think most actors who make it in Hollywood have a certain amount of drive and ambition, was he an ambitious man? Did he have ambitions to be a good actor, but maybe not so much dazzled with the so called 'good life' that acting provided?
He was very ambitious to get started in Hollywood and become a star, but he didn't begin looking at acting as a craft until he was older, after having worked at Universal and Fox.
Was he ever in the running to portray Larry Darrell in The Razor's Edge? Or was he interested in the project? It seems like it would have been perfect for him.
As you mentioned, when the film was optioned, his name was quickly mentioned as the best actor to fit the role because of his reputation in Hollywood.
Can you tell me about his marriage to Lola Lane?
His marriage (and relationship) to Lola Lane was very volatile. They publicly broke up and got back together several times before they eloped and had a very bitter divorce, despite their marriage being brief.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by filmbiographer »

I've always liked the fun little musical he did with Alice Faye, SHE LEARNED ABOUT SAILORS. Didn't Ayers also connect (musically) to Alice's future husband Phil Harris and his band? Any comments on Ayers work with Faye and Harris?
Although he had considerable musical talents, he was almost never permitted to perform in the musical numbers he appeared in (including She Learned About Sailors). This was the first of Ayres films as a contract player at Fox and his comedies at Fox were not well received and he wasn't very happy with the roles he was given at Fox. But Alice Faye, despite being a very talented new star for him to work with, was not a costar he befriended outside a cordial work relationship.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by filmbiographer »

Kingme,
Thank you so much for this ... The Bionic Woman Episode was my Favorite All-Time. I did not know that he was involved in Fantastic Journey ... this is totally caught me by surprise. Thanks for a great write up too!
He worked with Roddy McDowall twice (McDowall also took a few of his infamous portraits of Lew throughout the years). The episode off Fantastic Journey Lew appeared in was Innocent Prey with Cheryl Ladd and Nicholas Hammond, about a land of pacifists (Lew played their leader, it was a perfect fit).
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by clore »

It often comes up on message board inquiries:

"Who would you have liked to have been cast as Ashley in GWTW other than Leslie Howard?"

No slight intended toward Howard, but I've always thought that Lew Ayres would have been perfect in the role. He would have been age-appropriate for the early scenes and to me, of the ideal temperament to play the role. However, I've never seen any indication that he was at all considered.

Did he ever mention any interest in the part?
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JackFavell
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by JackFavell »

Thank you very much for the informative answers, Lesley!

You said that one of the reasons he and Ginger Rogers split up was that she was gregarious and outgoing, while he preferred to be alone. Was he a solitary man within his relationships? I mean, did he withdraw from his romantic partners more and more, spending time in his own head? Or was it simply that he was a homebody and preferred close friends and family gatherings to parties and going out on the town? He seems such a warm personality, it makes me wonder at his shyness or solitude. Perhaps like Henry Fonda, the person who shone out through the camera lens was a little different than the real life Lew Ayres?

Did he keep up on his music as he aged? Was he able to continue playing for enjoyment?

Did he keep in touch with anyone from his days as a medical corp volunteer, or any of the people he met during the war? Did he think of this as his real life's work, rather than acting?
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by filmbiographer »

clore
"Who would you have liked to have been cast as Ashley in GWTW other than Leslie Howard?"

No slight intended toward Howard, but I've always thought that Lew Ayres would have been perfect in the role. He would have been age-appropriate for the early scenes and to me, of the ideal temperament to play the role. However, I've never seen any indication that he was at all considered.

Did he ever mention any interest in the part?
Lew not only had interest in the role, but was one of the actors to audition for the role, immediately following his role in Holiday. But he never spoke against Leslie Howard over not being chosen for the role. By the time he joined MGM, he was very diplomatic about his roles.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by filmbiographer »

JackFavell
You said that one of the reasons he and Ginger Rogers split up was that she was gregarious and outgoing, while he preferred to be alone. Was he a solitary man within his relationships? I mean, did he withdraw from his romantic partners more and more, spending time in his own head? Or was it simply that he was a homebody and preferred close friends and family gatherings to parties and going out on the town? He seems such a warm personality, it makes me wonder at his shyness or solitude. Perhaps like Henry Fonda, the person who shone out through the camera lens was a little different than the real life Lew Ayres?
As his intellectual interests grew, he became more of loner, often going days without seeing people. He has a small group of friends, but even they (such as William Bakewell and Ida Lupino) spoke of his tendency to be alone. But enjoying one's privacy and solitude is not the same as shyness, which he didn't appear to afflict him.
Did he keep up on his music as he aged? Was he able to continue playing for enjoyment?
He essentially gave up the banjo and guitar because he considered them pedestrine and only had interest in the organ and piano. He did however compose some music and even had it performed publicly. He also wrote religious music later in life.
If interested in seeing his musical abilities, they are full display in Holiday.
Did he keep in touch with anyone from his days as a medical corp volunteer, or any of the people he met during the war? Did he think of this as his real life's work, rather than acting?
He had a considerable interest in emergency medical work before even being cast as Dr. Kildare. He remained very close to a minister he met in the Pacific, Rev Paul Yinger, but did not have a lifelong relationship with others in the military.
He always considered his life's work to be the documentary series he made "Alters of the East" which he spent over a decade working on and re-edited into "Alters of the World," which won a Golden Globe.
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JackFavell
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by JackFavell »

Thanks again, Lesley!

Can you tell me about his relationship with Ida Lupino in more detail? Maybe some anecdotes or things that she said about him or he said about her? How did they meet? What kept their friendship going?
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Lesley, I find during some research that Lew Ayres was listed as producer, director, writer, and editor of Altars of the World,1976, and on Altars of the East, 1955, he was also listed as narrator in addition to the four production duties.

Why do you think he was so intent on seeing this project come to fruition? And what are the major differences between between the two documentaries besides time and the final Golden Globe winning effort?

I think I recall seeing one of these on PBS in the late 70s or early 80s and his voice was so perfectly suited to the calm nature of his subject, and I know I would enjoy revisiting this documentary that Lew Ayres was so passionate about.

I have also been doing a big a research on the Barrymores lately, and I especially revere Lionel and Ethel. Any comments about Lew's relationship with Lionel during his Dr. Kildare years?

Again, thanks for your time and consideration.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by PinkPeril »

Lew Ayres will always be Dr. Kildare to me. I love those movies. It was so unusual to see all the same characters and actors getting to be in the series. I think it was a good call by the studio to not recast Kildare and just have the series go on as Dr. Gillespie.

Dr. Kildare had the same love interest throughout the series. I had read that when the Nurse Mary and the good Dr were to finally tie the knot, Laraine Day was sick of the character and wanted out permanently. So the character was killed off. Did Lew have any opinions on whether or not Nurse Mary stuck around for more movies?

Also in photos from the early 1940's, Lew looks so sickly skinny. Was he ill?

Thank you in advance for your time and help!
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by filmbiographer »

Always a pleasure,JackFavell
Can you tell me about his relationship with Ida Lupino in more detail? Maybe some anecdotes or things that she said about him or he said about her? How did they meet? What kept their friendship going?
Lew and Ida were neighbors when she was just starting in Hollywood and still living with her mother and sister. They were complete opposites but became friends through William Bakewell. One of the most notorious stories retold is the night they played a prank on Ida (a prank she didn't even notice), re-organizing her living room because she'd forgotten to lock the door.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

Post by filmbiographer »

Sue Sue Applegate

Alters of the East was not so much a single documentary, but a series of short films he presented as a traveling show (similar to Al Gore's original powerpoint presentation with an Inconvenient Truth). It wasn't until he re-edited the films and included a new segment on Christianity that it was released as a single documentary in theaters. Most likely, the version you saw on television was this theatrical documentary, which won the Gold Globe.

He maintained that once starting the project, the films were his life's work and he only stopped working on them after Alters of the World was complete.
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