PERFORMING ARTS

Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector

. 2012. 224p. 978-1-61703-637-8. 35.
COPY ISBN
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.

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