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Lew Ayres
Hollywood's Conscientious Objector

By Lesley L. Coffin
Foreword By Marya E. Gates

224 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 50 b&w photographs, foreword, filmography, appendix, bibliography, index

978-1-61703-637-8 Cloth $35.00T

978-1-61703-638-5 Ebook $35.00

Cloth, $35.00

Ebook 978-1-61703-638-5, $35.00


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

Lew Ayres (1908-1996) became known to the public when he portrayed the leading character in the epic war film All Quiet on the Western Front. The role made him a household name, introduced him to his closest friends, brought him to the attention of his first two wives, and would overshadow the rest of his career. To be a movie star was his first and only ambition as a child, but once he found success, he was never fully satisfied in his choice of profession. Although lacking a formal education, Ayres spent the rest of his life pursuing dozens of intellectual studies, interests, and hobbies. He even considered ending his acting career after just a few years to pursue a more "respectable and fulfilling" path as a director.

Ayres was given not one but two comeback opportunities in his acting career in 1938 and 1945. He was cast in the film series Dr. Kildare where he showed his abilities in comedy and his unique strength at bringing a level of sincerity to even the most outlandish or idealistic character. But he was willing to give up his star status in order to follow his moral compass, insisting he serve as a noncombat medic in conscientious objection to World War II. His case made history and was a public relations disaster for the armed forces. To everyone's surprise, he was welcomed back to Hollywood with open arms and new opportunities despite his objector status.

Biographer Lesley L. Coffin presents the story of a man of quiet dignity, constantly searching for the right way to live his life and torn between the public world of Hollywood and secluded life of spiritual introspection.

Lesley L. Coffin, Astoria, New York, is an independent scholar and M.A. graduate in biographical studies at New York University.

224 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 50 b&w photographs, foreword, filmography, appendix, bibliography, index