Saturday, September 17, 2011

Miss Agnes Ayres

It surprises me sometimes when I come across a personality I haven't covered, especially someone I have visited at the cemetery. Case in point: Agnes Ayres.

I just got the coolest book ever from Amazon. It's called Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard Luck Girls of the Silent Screen by Michael G. Ankerich. And what is really amazing about this book is that it covers some of my favorite, but lesser known actresses like Olive Borden, Martha Mansfield, Barbara La Marr, and even Lucille Ricksen. I am really diggin' the book right now, I am up to the part about Grace Darmond. It has so much info about these girls, I highly recommend it.

Anyways, I was reading the first chapter on Agnes Ayres and I realized that I have visited her resting place (niche, if you will) twice but hadn't done an entry about her. And of course watched and loved her in the Sheik movies with Valentino. She had a hard time dealing with Hollywood, but she was able to be strong through it...for the most part.

Agnes Ayres was born Agnes Eyre Henkel on April 4, 1892 in Carbondale, Illinois. She joined her father, Solon, mother, Emma, and brother Solon Jr. Her father died when she was still a child.

Agnes made her first screen appearance in 1914 as an extra in a scene for Essanay Studios. She really caught the acting bug after that, and moved to New York City with her mother to work in the movies.

Lucky girl she was, she was spotted by actress Alice Joyce who thought Agnes looked like her (we can kinda see it). Alice asked that Agnes be given the part of her sister in a 1917 film, and she slowly began to rise on the stardom staircase.

It wasn't her appearance in the film that helped make her a name, but rather another person who spotted her. This time, the spy was Paramount Studio head Jesse Lasky and he was interested in her for more than just her acting abilities. He helped to get her a starring role in one of Cecile B. DeMille films, 1920's Held the Enemy, a civil war film.

Her biggest break came in 1921, when she appeared in The Sheik with the man himself, Rudolph Valentino. Although the two never had a romance off screen, they did become good friends.

Agnes followed up that great film role with more great film roles. She appeared in Forbidden Fruit in 1921 with another screen idol, Wally Reid, and DeMille's Ten Commandments in 1923. But as fast as her star had risen, it began to fall almost as quick when her relationship with Lasky soured. Go figure.

She did appear in The Son of the Sheik in 1926 as a favor to her friend, Valentino. She reprised her previous role as Diana.

She appeared briefly in a few films later in life, but her last credited role was in 1929. She had lost her money in the stock market crash and was looking for work to try and get her money back, but she couldn't earn what she used to anymore. She finally retired from film and stage in 1937 after failing at a real comback.

Agnes Ayres passed away on Christmas Day, 1940 at her home of a cerebral hemmorhage. She was 48 years old. She had been in a sanatorium briefly before her death and had been in ill health since.

She was cremated and interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The lighting the room where she was placed isn't aces. I had to use my cell phone as a light to find her niche in the corner of the room. So, keep that in mind if you ever visit.

Agnes was married twice. Her first husband was Captain Frank Schuker, whom she married during WWI (I don't know the exact date). She divorced him in 1921, and shortly after began her affair with Lasky. The affair with him eventually ended when she realized that even though he wasn't happily married to his wife, he was not going to divorce her. Her second and last marriage was to a Mexican diplomat named Manuel Reachi in 1924. They divorced three years later, and Agnes was quoted as saying, "Latin men make excellent lovers, not husbands." They did have a daughter together named, Maria, who had the lucky distinction of having Valentino and Pola Negri as god-parents.

Agnes truly adored her friend Valentino. He was godfather to her daughter, and she named her dog Tino after him. While she was touring the country speaking about her life in the movies, she always would talk about him and say that there will never be another Valentino. So true.

She used to share a dressing room with Gloria Swanson during her early acting days.

She was a victim of the "too fat" stigma from studio heads, even when she brought in photographic proof that she hadn't gained any weight. Stupid men.


  1. She died too young as so many did. She left a great legacy though...I am very interested in that book! I will see if I can get it:)

  2. I really and truly enjoy hearing that people enjoy my blog. Believe me, I love everyone of my readers. I think it is very groovy to find more people who love silent film.

    Very true Birgit. The title of the book is correct, that these girls did deal with some hard luck. Some made it through, others didn't. It is a great book so far, definitely recommend it.

  3. Hi! I run a website at for Aygnes Ayres so if anyone would like to visit that would be great! Love your blog!

  4. Hi, Jessica. I'm new to your site and loving it. It's hard to find others that love silent films. I discovered them back in 1991, and it was hard to find them back then! Now, it's easier.

    I just finished a bio of Olive Thomas, which was fair, and I ordered the book you mentioned - thanks for the tip, it looks really good. Also found a couple of others. I want to get a bio that I've seen around about Alma Rubens, but it's a bit pricey - between $40 and 50, but I will eventually get it.

    I got the one on Florence Lawrence which did come out in 2000 - I was in Hollywood at the time, and that was a tragedy (very good book). The Olive Thomas case reminded me of Florence, except that Olive was at the top of her game at the time of her death.

    If you want to go for film restoration, that's great, try to get a PAID internship or something. I was offered an internship at the George Eastman House in Rochester and I'm not far from that area (originally), but it was unpaid, and right after college, I was broke. I couldn't do anything unpaid! I'll tell you more about that if you'd like me to....

    Love your site!!! Keep writing!!!!

  5. I will definitely check out the Agnes site, thank you!

    Teresa, thank you too for stopping by. You will enjoy "Dangerous Curves" a lot. I wrote to the author about how much I loved it, and he is actually gonna let me interview him for an entry, so stay tuned for that for sure!

    Olive and Florence I think are so intriguing (at least to me) because they were so beautiful and seemed to have it all, but they both lost it in such tragic ways. If you are talking about the Olive bio I think you are talking about, I agree...just fair. You can't really knock it because it is the only bio of her out there, but......yeah.....I like the topics the author writes about, but she seems to miss the mark. I didn't know there was an Alma bio out there, that would be a good read too I bet!

    I looooved the Eastman house, it was like Mecca lol Do you still work in a field of film or restoration?

  6. Thank you so much for saying that you'll check out my Agnes Ayres site Jessica! I really appreciate it! I look forward to your interview with the author of "Dangerous Curves". That is such a great book! I look forward to your future posts! You blog is fantastic! Have a great day! :)

  7. I love your site! The graphics are beautiful and the information is great on there too! You really got a lot about Maria. Do you know when she passed away? (I am assuming she has passed). Beautiful site, great job!! I will do an entry about great sites to check out, yours will be included of course!

    Do you have any questions you want to ask Michael Ankerich the author? That goes for anyone if they have questions.

    Thanks again for reading! I wish I could post all day everyday, but and school. Blah! I love all my readers!! Thanks guys! :)

  8. Hi Jessica,

    No, I never did work in film restoration because I couldn't afford it. I have an aunt who lives in Rochester. When I was done with my undergrad degree I wrote to Eastman regarding opportunities, and the next day I got a call back! It was from that guy Pablo, the one who wrote about restoration in a book. I really wanted to do it, but it was all for free on their part. I had just had just finished school and needed some money; I had a place to stay - at my aunt's - but this was a 40 hour a week unpaid internship. I just couldn't afford it at the time. I would have loved to do it!!!

  9. Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for your nice comments about my Agnes Ayres site! I appreciate them so much! :) Thank you so much also for saying that you will include my site when you do an entry about great sites to check out! That is so nice! Yes, sadly Maria passed away on July 5, 2009. I really wish I had started the site earlier. It would have been fascinating to have had a chance to ask Maria some questions about her mother and about her life. Thank you for the nice offer of asking if I have any questions for Michael Ankerich. If you are able could you possibly ask him if he knows if Maria had any children? That would be so interesting to learn too. Thank you so much again for everything! I really appreciate it! Wishing you a fantastic day! :)

  10. Oh Teresa, I know what you mean. I looked at their page and it looks like it is still unpaid and for 40 hours! I mean, if my dad was Donald Trump or I was a Hilton, then sure! But, uh...I don't think so lol Too bad. I am hoping I can sneak in to a place somehow and do some restoration work with my job as a librarian. *crosses fingers*

  11. Miss GlamourChic- I wish I had been born earlier (for many reasons) but because I would have been able to interview a lot of stars I admire. I mean, close, like you said! I will definitely ask Michael about Maria in regards to her having children. He really has a gift for research, so I am sure he will have some idea. :)

  12. Thank you so much Jessica! That will be so wonderful to learn. I really appreciate it so much! I totally agree about being born earlier! I think I definitely belong somewhere in the 1920s! lol :) Hope that you have a great day! Thanks again for your wonderful blog! :)

  13. Love your site buying yourbook recommendations read it every night before going to sleep

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you do enjoy the books. And please forgive some of the pictures being down on some of the pages. I am working on fixing them. :)

  14. Thank you Jessica! Once again great job...Ms Agnes Ayers is one that really gets to me...such a beautiful and sad soul.. Thanks for keeping her memory alive..Don't you know this ladies would love that.


    1. Thank you so much, Dee! It seems like Agnes is an under appreciated actress from the silent era so I am glad that you, and other readers of my blog know and love her and help to keep her memory alive.