Daniel Sydney Ayres (August 28, 1879 – September 9, 1916) best known professionally as Sydney Ayres, was a stage actor who went on to become a silent movie star known for his appearance as a handsome, dark wavy-haired leading man. That lead to his career as a screenwriter, and director of silent films, while simultaneously continuing to act.
According to IMDb, Ayres is credited with starring in 89 films between 1911 and 1916, director of 47 films from 1914 to 1916, and the writer of 17 films between 1911 and 1915. 2
Ayres was born August 28, 1879 in New York, to James Henry Ayres and Mary Amelia Birdsall (Ayres).
The 1900 census lists Ayres as a drama teacher while living with his parents at 264 - 11th Street. Among other things, Ayres was an experienced horse rider. 13 Those skills were probably helpful during his film career, as a number of the films were Westerns. 2
In January 1902 while on tour in Philadelphia, Ayres married Cecelie Elasser (Ayres). 8 The marriage did not last.
Ayres met lovely young Anna Franck (April 13, 1881 – May 19, 1968), the daughter of a prominent Oakland family. The two married in September 1912, but Ayres' first wife publicly claimed their divorce was not finalized and accused him of bigamy. Ayres provided proof he was divorced, stating the former wife had deserted him five years prior, and had not received service of the divorce papers. "I have nothing to say against the woman making this charge. She cannot harm me anymore, for I have done no wrong." 3
Anna and Sydney had a daughter, Ann Ayres (Wakefield) (January 27, 1914 – August 19, 1964).
Ayres began his professional acting career at age 17 in a production of Faust in the Oakland theater company of Lewis Morrison. 5 He became celebrity in Oakland, and a leading man at Oakland's Ye Liberty Playhouse. This was followed up by a North American tour with the famed Orpheum Theater as one of their featured actors.
In 1910 or 1911, Ayres signed with the Selig Stock Company to play the leading man in a number of films. 16,19 The first films listed with Ayres are from 1911, starting with Slick's Romance released on August 8, 1911. All are short films, but 1911 included an amazing 17 films. 2
Ayres corresponded and met with Jack London regarding possible stage and film adaptations of John Barleycorn and Valley of the Moon. The Ayres visited Jack London's ranch in Glen Ellen in 1913. 15
The 1914 directory lists the Ayres living in Santa Barbara. He worked with the American Film Company (Flying "A" Feature Films), then in November 1914 moved to work with Universal. 11,14
The last movie released that Ayres starred in was The Sting of Conscience, released in 1916. While filming it in the Bear Lake area, he caught a cold which developed into bronchitis. 17,18
Death and Burial
Ayres was in a serious car accident, but produced his February 1916 film project from a wheel chair. 4 He returned to Oakland, and in April 1916 suffered a "nervous collapse." 11
On September 9, 1916, Ayres died in Oakland at the Franck family home (some sources say at Merritt Hospital, and some say Oakland Fifth Avenue Hospital, which may refer to the short-lived John Scott Barker Hospital on 5th Avenue), just days after his 37th birthday. The obituary in the Tribune says he died "following an illness of several months, due to a nervous breakdown." 5
Wikipedia and IMDb state that Ayres died of multiple sclerosis. While Bay Area historian Michael Colbruno, who has researched Ayres extensively, has not found substantiation or source for that cause of death, a commenter on Colbruno's website says that Ayres' death certificate describes the cause of death as "paralysis associated with multiple sclerosis affecting the spinal cord." 2,10
Daniel Sydney Ayres is buried in Mountain View Cemetery, along with his second wife Ann Franck Ayres and daughter Ann Ayres Wakefield, in Plot 27, Lot 64, in the Franck family plot.
Links and References
- New Actors For Liberty Theater Oakland Tribune June 4, 1909
- Sydney Ayres Who Will Make Debut in Vaudeville Today San Francisco Call, June 16, 1912
- Reel Life (1913)
Photo and Artifacts of Bill's Sweetheart CSULB.edu Department of RGRLL
- Sidney Ayres Is Accused of Bigamy Oakland Tribune, October 31, 1912
- Actor Ayres In Wheel Chair Produces Film Oakland Tribune February 17, 1915
- Sydney Ayres Succumbs To Illness Oakland Tribune September 10, 1916
- Sydney Ayres To Open Question Box At Orpheum On Tribune Morning Oakland Tribune September 7, 1912
- Sydney Ayres Wikipedia
- The Call Boy's Sunday Gossip Philadelphia Inquirer February 2, 1902
- Dog and Deer to Take Part in Outdoor Play San Francisco Call May 30, 1910
- Sydney Ayres (1879-1916) – Silent Movie Actor; Director Lives of the Dead by Michael Colbruno
- Sydney Ayres Suffers Nervous Collapse Oakland Tribune April 12, 1916
- Sydney A. Ayres Dies; Had Been Ill Six Months Santa Barbara Daily News and The Independent September 11, 1916
- Sydney Ayres Took Six Hundred Mile Ride On Horseback During Vacation Alameda Evening Times-Star July 21, 1910
- Sydney Ayres New Director For Powers Universal Weekly November 14, 1914
- The Letters of Jack London Stanford University Press
- With the Western Producers The Moving Picture World January-July 1911
- Notes From All Over Motography January 15, 1916
- ad The Moving Picture Weekly June 24, 1916
- Sydney Ayres Is Dead in Oakland, California Motion Picture News Volume 14, Number 13