Ralston, Esther (1902–1994)

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Ralston, Esther (1902–1994)

American actress. Name variations: The American Venus. Born Esther Ralston in Bar Harbor, Maine, on September 17, 1902; died in Ventura, California, in February 1994; daughter of vaudevillians, billed as "The Ralston Family"; married George Webb (a director-actor), in 1925 (divorced 1933); married Will Morgan (a singer), in 1934 (divorced 1938); married Ted Lloyd (a journalist), in 1939 (divorced 1954).


Phantom Fortunes (1916); Huckleberry Finn (1920); Crossing Trails (1921); Pals of the West (1922); Remembrance (1922); Oliver Twist (1922); Railroaded (1923); Blinky (1923); The Wild Party (1923, not Dorothy Arzner 's talkie film); Pure Grit (1923); The Marriage Circle (1925); Peter Pan (1925); Goose Hangs High (1925); The Little French Girl (1925); Beggar on Horseback (1925); The Lucky Devil (1925); The Trouble with Wives (1925); The Best People (1925); A Kiss for Cinderella (1925); Woman-handled (1925); The American Venus (1926); The Blind Goddess (1926); The Quarterback (1926); Old Ironsides (1926); Dorothy Arzner's Fashions for Women (1927); Children of Divorce (1927); Arzner's Ten Modern Commandments (1927); Figures Don't Lie (1927); The Spotlight (1927); Love and Learn (1928); Something Always Happens (1928); Half a Bride (1928); The Sawdust Paradise (1928); The Case of Lena Smith (1931); Betrayal (1931); The Wheel of Life (1931); The Mighty (1929); Lonely Wives (1931); The Prodigal (1931); Rome Express (1932); After the Ball (1933); Black Beauty (1933); To the Last Man (1933); Sadie McKee (1934); Romance in the Rain (1934); The Marines Are Coming (1934); Strange Wives (1935); Mr. Dynamite (1935); Ladies Crave Excitement (1935); Hollywood Boulevard (1936); Reunion (1936); As Good as Married (1937); Shadows of the Orient (1937); Letter of Introduction (1938); Tin Pan Alley (1940); San Francisco Docks (1941).

At age two, Esther Ralston joined her parents on stage for her debut in vaudeville with "The Ralston Family." She was billed as Baby Esther, "America's Youngest Juliet." At 14, Ralston made her screen debut in a Hoot Gibson western, while her first sizeable role was in the Lon Chaney production of Oliver Twist (1922). Playing the wholesome blonde heroine, Ralston became a highly paid silent-screen star. She appeared as Mrs. Darling in the silent version of Peter Pan (1925) and shared the lead with Clara Bow in Children of Divorce (1927). Her first talkie was with Richard Dix in The Wheel of Life (1931). The tide turned for the successful Ralston in 1933, when she signed with MGM during the reign of Louis B. Mayer. Mayer deemed Ralston uncooperative and lent her out to other studios for a long line of inferior scripts. Her only important film of this period was Sadie McKee (1934), starring Joan Crawford . In 1936, Ralston was in Reunion with the Dionne Quintuplets . Following three more forgettable films, she took on her last important role in the movie Tin Pan Alley, starring Alice Faye , in which Ralston portrayed the vaudevillian Nora Bayes .

In 1941, Ralston retired from films to raise her children and play the title role on "Woman of Courage," a radio soap opera (1941–42). Later, she worked at B. Altman's department store in Manhasset, Long Island (1956–61), then took a running part on "Our Five Daughters" for NBC-TV (1961–62). For a number of years, Ralston held an executive position with the Kerr Talent Agency and with an electric company in upstate New York. Her autobiography Some Day We'll Laugh was published in 1985.