Agnes Ayres was an American actress who rose to fame during the silent film era.
Born as Agnes Eyre Henkel in Carbondale, Illinois, 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, as Joyce’s character’s sister. Ayres’ career began to gain momentum when Paramount Pictures founder Jesse Laksy began to take an interest in her. Lasky gave her a starring role in the Civil War drama Held by the Enemy, and also lobbied for parts for her in several Cecil B. DeMille productions. 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 Paramount executive Jesse Lasky.
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. Aryes would later reprise her role as Lady Diana in the 1926 sequel Son of the Sheik. Following the release of The Shiek, she went on to have major roles in many other films including The Affairs of Anatol starring Wallace Reid, Forbidden Fruit, and Cecil B. DeMille’s epic The Ten Commandments. 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. 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, Ayres appeared in mostly uncredited bit parts and finally retired from acting for good in 1937.