How much did you know about young Dr. Kildare?
Yup, that’s the fictional medico played by Lew Ayres for MGM in nine movies from 1938 to 1942. Importuning the character (above) is Laraine Day, who portrays his faithful nurse, Mary Lamont.
In addition, Ayers played James Kildare on a 1950s radio series. The actor was again offered the part for the 1960’s tv series, but reportedly turned it down because he wasn’t assured the series would not run any cigarette advertising. The series, from 1961 to 1966, made a star of Richard Chamberlain.
As you might have guessed, Ayers was a man of principle. In March of 1942, with World War II raging, he declared himself a conscientious objector. The move took some guts because back then, the declaration hurt him both professionally and personally.
As it turned out, Ayers did serve in WW2, as a non-combatant medic from 1942 to 1946, seeing combat in the Pacific Theater, and walking away with three battle stars. Ok, on to our Lew Ayers Quiz answers:
1) Question: The movie that made Ayers’ career remains a classic directed by Lewis Milestone about the horrors of war. Which picture is it? a) A Walk in the Sun; b) Pork Chop Hill; c) Halls of Montezuma; or d) All Quiet on the Western Front.
1) Answer: d) 1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Ayers plays a raw German recruit traumatized by the horrors of World War I. The picture remains one of the big screen’s most powerful commentaries on war.
2) Question: Before he became an actor and broke into movies, Ayers had a fairly successful mini-career doing what? a) Selling life insurance; b) Performing as a circus acrobat; c) As a big band musician; or d) As a carnival barker.
2) Answer: c) A high school dropout, Ayers had a fairly successful run as a musician, playing banjo and guitar for various big bands in he 1920’s.
3) Question: Ayers married three times to a pair of actresses and a former airline stewardess. Who was the most famous of the trio? (Hint: She is associated with Fred Astaire.)
3) Answer: Wife No. 2 was Ginger Rogers. They connected during the production of 1933’s Don’t Bet On Love. She and Ayers were married for seven years during the 1930s. Ayers first wife was actress Lola Lane; wife No. 3 was former stewardess Diana Hall.
4) Question: Ayers’ second most famous role in both movies and radio was as which one of these of a classic movie doctors. a) Dr. James Kildare; b) Dr. Henry Frankenstein; c) Dr. Hugo Hackenbush; or d) Dr. Anton Phibes.
4) Answer: As noted in our introduction, the medico was a) James Kildare.
5) Question: Ayers was hired as an actor by a succession of Hollywood’s classic movie studios. Which one of the following did he NOT sign with? a) MGM; b) Paramount; c) Republic; or d) Universal.
5) Answer: Sorry, another of our trick questions. Ayers got around in his career, and worked at various times at all four studios.