Lew Ayres: Hollywood's Conscientious Objector

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A biography of the accomplished actor and staunch pacifist who changed the way America considers grounds for conscientious objection
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Lew Ayres: Hollywood's Conscientious Objector

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A biography of the accomplished actor and staunch pacifist who changed the way America considers grounds for conscientious objection
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Famous for playing the lead role in All Quiet on the Western Front and the "Dr. Kildare" series, as well as his touching portrayal as Katharine Hepburn's alcoholic brother in Holiday, Lew Ayres also made headlines when he became a conscientious objector during World War II. Independent scholar Coffin delves into Ayres's life as he resisted the call to combat in 1942 (he served as a noncombatant medic until 1945) and shows him also as husband to Lola Lane and Ginger Rogers, a frustrated actor disappointed in the lackluster roles the studio system forced him to take, and a performer ambivalent about his profession. Ayres's decision to become a conscientious objector created considerable public controversy at the time; he served with distinction in the Pacific theater, and this helped smooth his return to Hollywood, but he made few films after the war. VERDICT This well-written book looks at Ayres's entire life but provides extensive information about his actions during World War II. Recommended for readers interested in celebrity biographies, World War II, and conscientious objectors.—Sally Bryant, Pepperdine Univ. Lib., Malibu, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617036378
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 10/18/2012
  • Series: Hollywood Legends Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 994,073
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lesley L. Coffin is an independent scholar and M.A. candidate in biographical studies at New York University.
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Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Foreword xi

Preface and Acknowledgments xv

Chapter 1 Grandma's Boy 3

Chapter 2 Young Musician in Search of a Movie 8

Chapter 3 The Kind of Role that Casts a Shadow 17

Chapter 4 A New Kind of Star 25

Chapter 5 Romantic Comedy 43

Chapter 6 At the Helm 53

Chapter 7 A Short Stay on Poverty Row 59

Chapter 8 "The Comeback King of 1938" 66

Chapter 9 Introducing Dr. Kildare 72

Chapter 10 A Doctor, A Comic 84

Chapter 11 Echoes of War 90

Chapter 12 Lew Ayres, Conscientious Objector 97

Chapter 13 A Camp in Oregon 102

Chapter 14 "Like a Bomb Was Dropped" 105

Chapter 15 Public Debate 116

Chapter 16 Basic Training 120

Chapter 17 In Search of Something 124

Chapter 18 A Hero Returns to Hollywood 134

Chapter 19 The Comeback of 1946 140

Chapter 20 Awards and Affairs 146

Chapter 21 The Return of Dr. Kildare 151

Chapter 22 Magnificent Obsession 155

Chapter 23 A Man of Honor and Faith 160

Chapter 24 The Older Gentleman 165

Chapter 25 Altars of the World 169

Chapter 26 As Time Goes By 175

Chapter 27 Reaching for the Butterfly 181

Appendix 186

Notes 194

Filmography 214

Selected Bibliography 236

Index 237

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2014


    [ A•O•miss ]
    &tau<_>h&epsilon S&rho&epsilon<_>c&iota&epsilon<_>s~
    Humans || ...
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    Mermaids || Soft voiced and playful. They thrive in all waters.
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    Nymphs || Nature Spirits. Hate most humans. They live in all nature.
    Eagles* || Great feathered beasts. They are loyal to their kind and swift in flight.
    Draconians || Half dragons, half humans. They are sly and strong.
    Faes || The great spirits of nature.
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    [ * The starred creatures cannot speak in usual tongue to humanoid creatures. They can speak to their own kind and those with the 'gift': all elves, dragons, and nymphs and a few select humans ]
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  • Posted October 20, 2012

    Highly Recommended Portrait of a Complex Actor & Human Being

    This well-researched book should generate a reappraisal of Lew Ayres (1908-1996), one of American films’ most enduring and interesting figures on screen and off. With unprecedented access to private papers, oral histories, and interviews with those who knew the actor, the author, Lesley Coffin creates a balanced portrait of a complex man, whose yearning to be at the center of the spotlight in movies in the studio era seems to contradict his inner search for peace throughout his life. From his surprising beginnings as a member of a traveling band to his experiences as an actor with varying successes and failures, and his memorable, principled decision to be a non-combatant in WWII, the arc of this deeply curious man's life is conveyed in this book. Beginning work at the end of the silent era into the dawn of the internet age, Ayres' played a vast range of characters. From Paul, the doomed German youth destroyed by war in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT to the highly influential DR. KILDARE movies to his Oscar-nominated role in JOHNNY BELINDA and his years of work on television, the author captures the kaleidoscopic journey of Lew Ayres as an unusually sensitive actor, writer, director, producer, lifelong student and human being.

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