Lew Ayres

  1. David Manners, Dracula, 1930.      Ayres, the universal soldier of All Quiet On The Western Front, was James Whale’s first choice as John  Harker.   Once switched to another Universal project, he was replaced by Robert Ames, who in turn was replaced by Manners.  The  bisexual Ayres’ lovers included Ginger Rogers (second of his three wives) and…   Spencer Tracy.
  2. Frank Mitchell, Stand Up and Cheer! 1933.      Early idea for as Senator Danforth in the Hollywood musical built on the premise that President Roosevelt (an impersonated voice-off) appointing a Secretarty of Amusement to find ways to cheer up the depressed US. Film managed that by giving a first starring rôle to a five-year-old called Shirley Temple. Not forgetting Stepin’ Fetchit as… George Bernard Shaw.
  3. Philip Holmes, Caravan, 1933.     A new Lieutenant von Tokay for the mindless romp through the Hungarian vineyards and royals… falling under the spell of the only decent performer, Charles Boyer, He also headed the French-lingo version. Naturellement. German Erik Charell never won another directing gig.
  4. John Howard, Touchdown, Army, 1937.     First Ayres, then Howard was selected for the hot tempered West Point cadet – Brandon Culpepper, no less. And Robert Cunmmings’ rival for the favours of the colonel’s daughter, Mary Carlisle.
  5. Leslie Howard, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  6. Van Heflin, HM Pulham, Esq, 1940.    In the  mix for Bill King in the John P Marquand story – the basis of co-star Hedy Lamarr’a favourite movie. 

  7. Philip Dorn, Calling Dr Gillespie, 1942.
    Or Born To Be when shooting finished. Whereupon, Ayres, aka the young Dr Kildare, announced he was a conscientious objector when the US entered WWII.and confined to an internment camp. “To me, war was the greatest sin.” (He had learned much from his All Quiet On The Western Front). Fearing a backlash from the fans, MGM reshot all his scenes from the tenth Kildare chapter with Dorn. Introduced as Dr Gillespie’s New Assistant, Van Johnson then took over for four as Dr Ames. The fans preferred Ayres and James Craig as Dr Coalt was the final nail in the coffin in 1946. Ayres returned to acting after the war. But offers were unfairly few – considering he had made amends. He changed his war status to non-combatant in order  to serve – with distinction  – in the Army Medical Corps as a medical corps sergeant and chaplain’s assistant in the Pacific.

  8. William Bishop, The Killer That Stalked New York, 1950.   Two years earlier, Ayres was set for Dr Ben Wood, headlining the thriller inspired by (or exploiting?) the New York smallpox scare of 1946.
  9. Thomas E Breen, The River/Le fleuve, France-India-USA, 1951.    The legendary French realisateur Jean Renoir, at the end of his US career, planned a three month shoot in India that lasted six. He spent a full year on the editing, without ever hiding the fact that Tommy Breen was way out of his depth as Captain John.
  10. Juliette Caton, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988.   Paul Schrader wrote the angel/devil as an Arabboy – “that brought connotations” is how director Martin Scorsese put it. In his1983 cast, he selected Ayres. By 1988, however, he followed Italian directors Mario Bava and Federico Fellini by making the devil a girl – aged 13.  When she spoke, the voice was a combination of Scorsese and…  Peeping Tom scenarist Leo Marks and Scorsese.




 Birth year: 1908Death year: 1996Other name: Casting Calls:  10