Agnes Ayres

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Agnes Ayres
Agnes Ayres (Sep 1921).png
Ayres, 1921
Agnes Eyre Henkel

(1891-04-04)April 4, 1891
DiedDecember 25, 1940(1940-12-25) (aged 49)
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
Other namesAgnes Eyre
Agnes Rendleman
Years active1914–1929, 1936–1937
Frank Schuker
(m. 1918; div. 1921)

S. Manuel Reachi
(m. 1924; div. 1927)

Agnes Ayres (born Agnes Eyre Henkel; April 4, 1891[citation needed] – December 25, 1940) was an American actress who rose to fame during the silent film era. She was known for her role as Lady Diana Mayo in The Sheik opposite Rudolph Valentino.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Agnes Eyre Henkel was born on April 4, 1891, in Carbondale, Illinois, the second child to Solon Augustus Henkel and Emma Slack Rendleman. She had an older brother, Solon William Henkel. After her father's death, her mother remarried to Franklin "Frank" Rendleman, a farmer, in 1895.[citation needed] She left school after completing the 8th grade,[citation needed] and the family moved to Chicago when Ayres was a teenager. She had ambitions to study law, and in 1910 she was working as a bookkeeper.[citation needed]

She began her career in 1914 when she was noticed by an Essanay Studios staff director and cast as an extra in a crowd scene.[1] After moving to Manhattan, New York City with her mother to pursue a career in acting, Ayres was spotted by actress Alice Joyce. Joyce noticed the physical resemblance the two shared which eventually led to Ayres being cast in Richard the Brazen (1917), as Joyce's character's sister. Ayres' career began to gain momentum when Paramount Pictures founder Jesse Lasky began to take an interest in her. Lasky gave her a starring role in the Civil War drama Held by the Enemy (1920), and also lobbied for parts for her in several Cecil B. DeMille productions.[2] During this period Ayres divorced Franklin "Frank" Schucker, an army officer whom she had wed during World War I.[citation needed] She also began a romance with Lasky.[3]

Agnes Ayres as Helen Allen in the 1920 film Go and Get It - Munsey's Magazine, 1920

In 1921, Ayres shot to stardom when she was cast as Lady Diana Mayo, an English heiress, opposite "Latin lover" Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik. Ayres later reprised her role as Lady Diana in the 1926 sequel The Son of the Sheik. Following the release of The Sheik, she went on to have major roles in many other films including The Affairs of Anatol (1921) starring Wallace Reid, Forbidden Fruit (1921), and Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923).

Ayres, c. 1921

By 1923, Ayres' career began to wane following the end of her relationship with Jesse Lasky. She married Mexican diplomat S. Manuel Reachi in 1924.[4] The couple had a daughter,[5] before divorcing in 1927.[6]

Ayres lost her fortune and real estate holdings in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.[1] That same year, she also appeared in her last major role in The Donovan Affair, starring Jack Holt. To earn money, she left acting and played the vaudeville circuit. She returned to acting in 1936, confident that she could make a comeback — but, unable to secure starring roles, and somewhat overweight, Ayres appeared in mostly uncredited bit parts and finally retired from acting for good in 1937.[4]

Later years and death[edit]

After her retirement, Ayres became despondent and was eventually committed to a sanatorium. In 1939, she also lost custody of her daughter to Reachi.[4]

She died from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 25, 1940, at her home in Hollywood, California, at the age of 49; she had been ill for several weeks.[1][7] She is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In 1960, Ayres was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a motion pictures star at 6504 Hollywood Boulevard for her contributions to the film industry.[8]

Her daughter Maria Reachi had a small part in the movie East Side, West Side (1949).[9]

Selected filmography[edit]

Ayres on a lobby card for The Sheik
Year Title Role Notes
1914 The Masked Wrestler Uncredited
1915 His New Job Extra, Secretary Alternative title: Charlie's New Job
1917 Motherhood The Mother Credited as Agnes Eyre
Lost film
The Debt Countess Ann Credited as Agnes Eyre
Lost film
Mrs. Balfame Alys Crumley Credited as Agnes Eyre
Hedda Gabler Credited as Agnes Eyre
The Mirror undetermined Credited as Agnes Eyre
Lost film
The Dazzling Miss Davison Lillian, Miss Davison's sister Credited as Agnes Eyre
Lost film
The Defeat of the City Alicia Van Der Pool Credited as Agnes Eyre
The Bottom of the Well Alice Buckingham
1918 The Purple Dress Maida
The Enchanted Profile Ida Bates
Sisters of the Golden Circle Mrs. James Williams
One Thousand Dollars Margarett Hayden
1919 The Girl Problem Helen Reeves
A Stitch in Time Lela Trevor
In Honor's Web Carson
Sacred Silence
The Gamblers Isabel Merson
1920 A Modern Salome Helen Torrence Lost film
The Inner Voice Barbara
Go and Get It Helen Allen
Held by the Enemy Rachel Hayne Lost film
1921 The Love Special Laura Gage
Forbidden Fruit Mary Maddock
Too Much Speed Virginia MacMurran Unknown/presumably lost
Cappy Ricks Florrie Ricks Incomplete film
The Affairs of Anatol Annie Elliott
The Sheik Lady Diana Mayo
1922 The Lane That Had No Turning Madelinette Lost film
Bought and Paid For Virginia Blaine Lost film
The Ordeal Sybil Bruce Lost film
A Daughter of Luxury Mary Fenton
Clarence Violet Pinney Lost film
1923 The Heart Raider Muriel Gray (a speed girl)
Racing Hearts Virginia Kent Lost film
The Ten Commandments The Outcast
The Marriage Maker Alexandra Vancy Lost film
Don't Call It Love Alice Meldrum
Hollywood Herself (cameo) Lost film
1924 When a Girl Loves Sasha Boroff
Bluff Betty Hallowell
The Guilty One Irene Short
Detained Short film
The Story Without a Name Mary Walsworth Lost film
1925 Tomorrow's Love Judith Stanley
Her Market Value Nancy Dumont
The Awful Truth Lucy Satterlee
Morals for Men Bessie Hayes
1926 The Son of the Sheik Lady Diana
1927 Eve's Love Letters The Wife
1928 Into the Night Billie Mardon
1929 The Donovan Affair Lydia Rankin
Bye, Bye, Buddy Glad O'Brien
1936 Small Town Girl Catherine Uncredited
1937 Maid of Salem Bit Part Uncredited
Midnight Taxi Society woman Uncredited
Souls at Sea Bit Role Uncredited
Morning Judge Mrs. Kennedy

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael G. Ankerich (2010). Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. BearManor. ISBN 978-1-59393-605-1.


  1. ^ a b c d "Agnes Ayres, Star Of Silent Pictures. Actress Who Played Opposite Rudolph Valentino in 'Sheik' Dies in Hollywood, Calif. Lost Her Fortune In 1929. Tried to Make Comeback in the Talkies. Had Small Role in Cooper-Raft Film in '37". The New York Times. Associated Press. December 26, 1940.
  2. ^ Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 23. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9.
  3. ^ Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols (3 ed.). Contemporary Books. p. 93. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2.
  4. ^ a b c Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols (3 ed.). Contemporary Books. p. 94. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2.
  5. ^ "Agnes Ayres Has a Daughter". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 27, 1926.
  6. ^ "Agnes Ayres Gets Divorce". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 25, 1927.
  7. ^ Katz, Ephraim (1994). The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume. HarperCollins. pp. 68. ISBN 0-06-273089-4.
  8. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame – Agnes Ayres". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  9. ^ Kevin Sweeney, James Mason: A Bio-bibliography (Greenwood Publishing, 1999), p. 118

External links[edit]