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The First Ayesha on Film - 1908

Florence Auer

Florence Auer playing Ayesha in 1908

Florence Auer had a long and successful career in films spanning five decades in which her portrayal of Ayesha is sadly lacking except in listings such as the IMDB!

Ayesha - 1911

Marguerite Snow

Thanhauser announcement

Probably the nearest to a film poster that will ever be seen as Thanhauser* tended to keep things close to their chests - image sourced from the excellent and very informative

* Today, Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc., run by the grandson of the company’s founders, is even more important, being devoted to the acquisition and preservation of silent films.

Marguerite Snow as Ayesha

'She' was the Thanhouser Film Company's first two-reel production, released on December 26th, 1911. A popular subject during the silent era, the broad palette of H. Rider Haggard's adventure story is here reduced to a handful of coastal locations in breezy upstate New York, and a cast of barely a dozen players. In just a few short years, epics like the Italian 'Cabiria' or D.W. Griffith's 'Birth of a Nation' would sound the death knell for small-scale treatments as this. Audiences would become less tolerant of such economy as they grew more accustomed to the genuine spectacle that cinema was now able to offer.

Edwin Thanhouser founded his studio in New Rochelle, New York in 1909, and it had grown by 1911 into a successful and prolific organisation. The principal cast and crew were all part of  Thanhouser's regular stock company, appearing collectively in dozens of the thousand-plus films the studio produced during its eight years of activity.

Thanhouser's Ayesha, Marguerite Snow, joined the studio in 1910. She braved outdoor filming in the freezing New York winter for her first role in 'Baseball and Bloomers', but after a few months returned to the New York stage she came from. By the next winter she was back with Thanhouser, her popularity confirmed by a contest in the New York Morning Telegraph that year which voted her the second most popular screen actress behind Florence Turner. Mary Pickford came third.

Miss Snow, who was allegedly born in 1889 (Thanhouser's current bio suggests that the date may have been nudged forwards once or twice) married co-star James Cruze in 1913 (Cruze, who would star in 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' a month after 'She' was completed, went on to a distinguished career as a director in the twenties). In similarly incestuous fashion,Viola Alberti (Amenartes) married director George Nichols a few years after 'She' was made.

George Nichols' work on 'She' has a perfunctory quality characteristic of a time when films were completed on a weekly basis. Despite (or because of?) a lack of any obvious flair, he continued to work throughout the next decade, most notably directing and performing in a series of comedy shorts for Fatty Arbuckle. He had a small role in Erich Von Stroheim's 'The Wedding March' shortly before his death in 1927.

Thanhouser was one of the old guard of film studios, where 'quality' was perhaps measured in terms of workmanship rather than artistic merit. As a result, 'She' has not aged as well as its title character. The film is worthwhile as a period piece, but the flat camera work, minimal sets and stagey gesticulations of the cast don't offer much for the casual viewer. The studio survived the sale of  its founder's controlling interest to Mutual Films in 1912, and later a devastating fire (on the 13th day of 1913). Many creditable features were produced in the following years, including the highly successful 'Million Dollar Mystery' serial of 1914, but a later slump in the film industry, exacerbated by the war in Europe, forced Thanhouser to close it's doors for good in 1917.

Ayesha - 1916

Alice Delysia

Alice Delysia as Ayesha

A very rare likeness of Alice Delysia from the 1916 film sourced from

Delysia as Ayesha in 1917

Alice Henriette Lapize (3 March 1889 – 10 February 1979), better known by her stage name, Alice Delysia, was a French actress and singer who made her career in English musical theatre. In 1916, she made her film début, and took a leading role in SHE, an adaptation of the Rider Haggard story, about a woman's passion for a young traveller.

Ayesha - 1917

Valeska Suratt

The moment the remains are recealed

Facsimile of the poster

Images of Valeska Surrat and film poster sourced from IMDB

Ayesha - 1925/6

Betty Blythe

Film Review of She in 1926

Betty Blythe as Ayesha

Betty Blythe Film poster 1925

1925 Film poster featuring Betty Blythe as 'Ayesha' - image sourced from IMDB

Ayesha - 1935

Helen Gahagan

Helen Gahagan 1935 Shee Poster

Ayesha - 1965

Ursula Andress

IMDB 1965 Film poster of She

Ayesha - 1968

Olga Schoberová

Olinka or Ursula as She

Pather Poster for Vengeance of She

British Pathé posters of Olinka Berova (note simplification of name) as a clone look-a-like of Ayesha as portrayed by Ursula Andress in 1966 - images sourced from IMDB

Ayesha - 1984 (1982)

Sandahl Bergman

A female Road Warrior

Well this sort of explains this sub-standard and forgettable adaptation of H Rider Haggards 'She' - he must be turning in his grave amongst the evil mutants!

Ayesha - 2001

Ophélie Winter

Music CD cover of Ayesha 2001

With Christoph Waltz in the line up you might have thought it would be easy to source images of this film/DVD release but the best I can do at present is the image from the Music CD

There have been eight (!) movies based on or inspired by H. Rider Haggard's novel 'She', according to The Internet Movie Data base (IMDb).

She was filmed in 1935, 1965, and 1984. The other five versions were silent movies, filmed in USA unless otherwise noted, made in 1908, 1911, 1916 (UK), 1917, and 1925 (UK/Germany).

She (1908) stars Florence Auer as Ayesha.

She (1911) stars Marguerite Snow as Ayesha.

She (1916) stars Alice Delysia as Ayesha.

She (1917) stars Valeska Suratt as Ayesha.

She (1925) stars Betty Blythe as Ayesha. The most faithful adaptation of the book. Available on YouTube

She (1935) stars Helen Gahagan as She, Randolph Scott as Leo Vincey, Nigel Bruce as Horace Holly, and Helen Mack as Tanya Dugmore. The setting is moved from Africa to the arctic (!), Leo is an American, the character of Ustane is transformed into Tanya, but much of the plot involving She is true to the book.

She (1965) stars Ursula Andress as Ayesha, Peter Cushing as Major Horace Holly, John Richardson as Leo Vincey, Rosenda Monteros as Ustane, and Christopher Lee as Billali. The story diverges in numerous ways from the book, yet the characters remain fairly intact. (Note - There's also The Vengeance of She (1968) starring Olga Schoberová)

She (1984) stars Sandahl Bergman as Ayesha. This version appears to be an odd and very unfaithful adaptation. There were Nazis in a post apocalyptic world. Definitely a B movie, if not a turkey. Rider Haggard is credited as a 'writer' (novel)! Available in all its awfulness on You Tube

She (2001) stars Ophélie Winter as Ayesha. According to the IMDB Synopsis this version holds true to the original but is set in the present and Leo travels with his girlfriend Roxane to try to solve the riddle. Ian Duncan as Leo Vincey, Marie Bäumer as Roxane, Götz Otto as Attila and Christoph Waltz as Michael Vincey


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