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MGM's mystery-thriller Fingers at the Window (1942) stars Lew Ayres as a young Chicagoan who suspects that a series of ax murders in his city are being committed by people under the spell of an evil hypnotist. This was Ayres' last film until the end of World War II since he announced that he was a conscientious objector - an event that sent shock waves through his home studio, MGM, where Ayres had established himself as a sensitive young actor in the Dr. Kildare series. Public outrage, at a time when other film stars including MGM "King" Clark Gable were heading off to war, meant that Ayres' acting opportunities vanished. Exhibitors refused to show his films, and they were withdrawn from circulation. Some felt that his pacifist leanings could be traced to his greatest role, the disillusioned young German soldier in Lewis Milestone's anti-war All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).
Ayres, well cast as a doctor because of early medical training, volunteered for non-combatant duties during the war, working as a medic and distinguishing himself under fire. He later served as a chaplain's aide. Partly appeased, the public accepted him in films again after the end of the war. He claimed a few good roles and was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a kindly doctor in Johnny Belinda (1948); but old resentments seemed to die hard, and much of his work until his death in 1996 was in minor film and TV productions.
Laraine Day, Ayres' leading lady (and a potential ax-murder victim) in Fingers at the Window, had also played his love interest, Nurse Mary Lamont, in the Dr. Kildare films. Because MGM was grooming her for bigger roles, she was written out of the series in Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941) - a tragic one because the bride is killed off on the eve of the big event! Day later married baseball manager Leo Durocher and was known for a time as "the First Lady of Baseball."
Director: Charles Lederer
Producer: Irving Starr
Screenplay: Lawrence P. Bachmann, Rose Caylor
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, William Ferrari
Costume Design: Howard Shoup
Cinematography: Charles Lawton Jr., Harry Stradling Sr.
Editing: George Boemler
Original Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Lew Ayres (Oliver Duffy), Laraine Day (Edwina Brown), Basil Rathbone (Cesar Ferrari, alias Dr. Santelle), Walter Kingsford (Dr. Cromwall), Miles Mander (Dr. Immelman), Charles D. Brown (Inspector Gallagher).
by Roger Fristoe