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

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

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Sue Sue Applegate
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?
They adored one another almost immediately and became good friends until Lionel's death. They shared a love of classical music, painting, reading, and Lew was an admirer of his commitment to acting. Barrymore, likewise, showed great appreciation to Ayres acting, comparing him to Spencer Tracy in one interview. Once Laraine Day joined the group, it was a happy family.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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PinkPeril
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?
By the time Laraine Day left, Ayres had made it known to MGM that he planned to be a conscientious objector, so it was generally known Lew wouldn't be with the series very long. Despite Day's complaints that she wasn't getting opportunities at MGM, she always got along with Ayres and Barrymore.
Also in photos from the early 1940's, Lew looks so sickly skinny. Was he ill?
That depends on when. Towards the end of the war and when he returned he was very thin, primarily because he contracted an illness in the Pacific.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Lesley,thanks for answering all my questions! I am enjoying your visit here, and hope you will revisit us from time to time. :lol:
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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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.
Thanks for your response. With all that I've read about the making of the film, I've never seen a reference to this and it seemed such a natural that I just had to have my suspicion confirmed. Oddly enough, since posting the question, I saw on another message board that Mr. Ayres supposedly claimed that he would have liked to have played Renfield in the 1931 version of Dracula. Now that would have been really interesting and as I pointed out in a response, the highest billed player in Doorway to Hell lost the role to the last person on the cast list, Dwight Frye.

I will be picking up your book, I've long admired Mr. Ayres as an actor and even more as a person of high moral character.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Great question about Lew Ayres and Ashley Wilkes, clore!

I will also be picking up a copy of this fascinating book.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Core,

You are correct about Dracula. But Universal wanted to use him in romantic melodramas (often B pictures). Doorway to Hell was done as a loan to Warner Bros, and one of his more unusual roles.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Thank you all for the wonderful questions. Its fun to visit your site.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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You are correct about Dracula. But Universal wanted to use him in romantic melodramas (often B pictures). Doorway to Hell was done as a loan to Warner Bros, and one of his more unusual roles.
I got to see that film recently on TCM and enjoyed it very much. Many years ago on AMC, I got to see two of his early Universal films, THE IRON MAN and NIGHT WORLD. I especially enjoyed the latter, sort of a GRAND HOTEL set in a night club and one could say an ancestor of THE COTTON CLUB. Very fast moving, barely an hour long and I regret not recording it as it hasn't aired since then.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Great questions, Clore. I wish that Lew had been Ashley too! For anyone interested in Night World (1932) there's a clip from this movie found here with a knockout montage.

Lesley, I also wondered if, since Lew Ayres was interested in directing, did he have particular directors he learned from during his career? Were any of them part of his circle of friends?

Several times I've read interviews with Ayres when the subject of some of his work comes up, such as his movies with James Whale and others. He seems to have had a tendency to say things like "I wasn't ready for him then" when critiquing his own work with challenging directors.

Do you think that Lew felt that he was a good actor? Did he understand how much his films affected people?
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Thank you Moira - and thanks for the link too.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Night World is one of those gems of a movie. I especially like seeing people like Boris Karloff playing the club owner, for people only familiar with him as toughs or in monster movies, he's very charming and easy. Lew Ayres and Mae Clarke had just worked on the film Impatient Maiden and had wonderful chemistry. But I prefer their appearance as the chorus girl and drunk playboy in Night World over that film (or their film Silk Hat Kid). They had wonderful energy and spark in their scenes together.
I should note that because it was a cheaper movie, several things in the movie were re-used in other Universal films, including the opening shot of the club in Lew's film Okay America.

Clarke starred in Lew's only feature film as director of Hearts in Bondage. Lew took time to apprentice at Republic Pictures before making this film, which was very unusual for an actor to even transition into directing.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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Several times I've read interviews with Ayres when the subject of some of his work comes up, such as his movies with James Whale and others. He seems to have had a tendency to say things like "I wasn't ready for him then" when critiquing his own work with challenging directors.

Do you think that Lew felt that he was a good actor? Did he understand how much his films affected people?
When he worked with James Whale, he was very new to acting and uncertain of his skills. He got very little input from men like Whale, which he needed to feel confident in his work. One type of directing he didn't like however was being shown how to play a role or having a director act things out for him (one of the reasons he clashed with George Cukor on All Quiet on the Western Front).

It took time for him to get confident in his acting and develop his abilities. But he was only moderately pleased with his career and skills as an actor. Late in life, he was usually dismissive of his contributions and went through periods when he regretted becoming an actor.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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The film Lew directed Hearts in Bondage in 1936 is in the public domain and can be viewed for free online


Other films available as public domain titles on Internet Archive are Murder with Pictures, King of the Newsboys , The Secret of Doctor Kildare, New Mexico, Dr. Kildare's Strange Case, and, The Capture.
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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In addition to what Lesley has posted about video links, there is a Lew Ayres Playlist here:


Image
One more question: I recently saw noirish The Capture (1950) with Lew Ayres, Teresa Wright, Victor Jory and Barry Kelley in a story directed by a young John Sturges. It was based on a screenplay by Niven Busch (who was also the producer). Was this independent movie filmed entirely in Mexico?
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Re: All About Ayres: The Q & A with Lew Ayres' Biographer

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One more question: I recently saw noirish The Capture (1950) with Lew Ayres, Teresa Wright, Victor Jory and Barry Kelley in a story directed by a young John Sturges. It was based on a screenplay by Niven Busch (who was also the producer). Was this independent movie filmed entirely in Mexico?
The majority of The Capture was filmed at CBS studios (where a number of westerns were filmed for TV) in Los Angeles. His next film, New Mexico was primarily filmed on location around New Mexico.
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