Agnes Ayres

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Agnes Ayres
Born Agnes Eyre Henkel
(1898-04-04)April 4, 1898
Carbondale, Illinois, U.S.
Died December 25, 1940(1940-12-25) (aged 42)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cerebral hemorrhage
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Other names Agnes Eyre
Occupation Actress
Years active 1914–1937
Spouse(s) Captain Frank P. Schuker
(1921 – 1921)
S. Manuel Reachi
(July 13, 1924 – June 10, 1927) 1 daughter

Agnes Ayres (April 4, 1898 – 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.

Early life and career[edit]

Born as Agnes Eyre Henkel in Carbondale, Illinois to Solon and Emma (née Slack) Henkel on April 4, 1898. She had an older brother, Solon William Henkel, who was a decade her senior. 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.

After moving to 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.[1] It was during this time that Ayres married, and quickly divorced, Captain Frank P. Schuker, an army officer whom she had wed during World War I. She also began a romance with Lasky.[2]

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 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 epic The Ten Commandments (1923).

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. The couple had a daughter before divorcing in 1927.[3]

In 1929, Ayres lost her fortune and real estate holdings in the Crash of ’29. 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. Unable to secure starring roles and somewhat overweight, Ayres appeared in mostly uncredited bit parts and finally retired from acting for good in 1937.[3]

Later years and death[edit]

After her retirement, Ayres became despondent and was eventually committed to a sanatorium. She also lost custody of her daughter to Reachi, in 1939.[3]

She died from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 25, 1940 at her home at the age of 42.[4] She is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

For her contribution to motion pictures, Agnes Ayres has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6504 Hollywood Boulevard.

Selected filmography[edit]

Agnes Ayres as Helen Allen in the 1920 film Go and Get It - Munsey’s Magazine, 1920
Year Title Role Notes
1914 Masked Wrestler, TheThe Masked Wrestler Uncredited
1915 His New Job Extra, Secretary Alternative title: Charlie's New Job
1917 Motherhood The Mother Credited as Agnes Eyre
1917 The Debt Countess Ann Credited as Agnes Eyre
1917 Mrs. Balfame Alys Crumley Credited as Agnes Eyre
1917 Hedda Gabler Credited as Agnes Eyre
1917 The Mirror undetermined Credited as Agnes Eyre
1917 The Dazzling Miss Davison Lillian, Miss Davison's sister Credited as Agnes Eyre
1917 Defeat of the City, TheThe Defeat of the City Alicia Van Der Pool Credited as Agnes Eyre
1918 Purple Dress, TheThe Purple Dress Maida
1918 Enchanted Profile, TheThe Enchanted Profile Ida Bates
1918 Sisters of the Golden Circle Mrs. James Williams
1918 One Thousand Dollars Margarett Hayden
1919 Girl Problem, TheThe Girl Problem Helen Reeves
1919 Stitch in Time, AA Stitch in Time Lela Trevor
1919 In Honor's Web Carson
1919 Gamblers, TheThe Gamblers Isabel Merson
1920 Modern Salome, AA Modern Salome Helen Torrence
1920 Inner Voice, TheThe Inner Voice Barbara
1920 Go and Get It Helen Allen
1920 Held by the Enemy Rachel Hayne
1921 The Love Special Laura Gage
1921 Too Much Speed Virginia MacMurran
1921 Cappy Ricks Florrie Ricks
1921 The Affairs of Anatol Annie Elliott
1921 Sheik, TheThe Sheik Lady Diana Mayo
1922 Lane That Had No Turning, TheThe Lane That Had No Turning Madelinette
1922 Bought and Paid For Virginia Blaine
1922 The Ordeal Sybil Bruce
1922 A Daughter of Luxury Mary Fenton
1922 Clarence Violet Pinney
1923 The Heart Raider Muriel Gray (a speed girl)
1923 Racing Hearts Virginia Kent
1923 The Ten Commandments The Outcast
1923 The Marriage Maker Alexandra Vancy
1923 Don't Call It Love Alice Meldrum
1923 Hollywood Herself (cameo)
1924 When a Girl Loves Sasha Boroff
1924 Bluff Betty Hallowell
1924 The Guilty One Irene Short
1924 Detained Short film
1924 The Story Without a Name Mary Walsworth
1925 Tomorrow's Love Judith Stanley
1925 Her Market Value Nancy Dumont
1925 The Awful Truth Lucy Satterlee
1925 Morals for Men Bessie Hayes
1926 Son of the Sheik, TheThe Son of the Sheik Lady Diana
1927 Eve's Love Letters The Wife
1928 Into the Night Billie Mardon
1928 The Donovan Affair Lydia Rankin
1936 Small Town Girl Catherine Uncredited
1937 Maid of Salem Bit Part Uncredited
1937 Midnight Taxi Society woman Uncredited
1937 Souls at Sea Bit Role Uncredited
1937 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 1-59393-605-2. 


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Katz, Ephraim (1994). The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume. HarperCollins She is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, CA. Publishers. p. 68. ISBN 0-06-273089-4. 
  • 5.1900 United States Federal Census, Cobden, Union, Illinois; Roll: T623_346; Page: 24B; Enumeration District: 95.
  • 6.1910 United States Federal Census, Chicago Ward 34, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T624_281; Page: 8B; Enumeration District 1461.

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