Esther Louise Worth
September 17, 1902
Bar Harbor, Maine, U.S.
|Died||January 14, 1994 (aged 91)|
Ventura, California, U.S.
(m. 1926; div. 1934)
(m. 1935; div. 1938)
(m. 1939; div. 1954)
|Relatives||Bob Ralston (nephew)|
Early life and career
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Ralston was born Esther Louise Worth in Bar Harbor, Maine,[a] one of five siblings. She was the older sister of actor Howard Ralston (July 25, 1904 – June 1, 1992), who appeared in nine films between 1920 and 1924.
She began her career as a child actress in a family vaudeville act which was billed as "The Ralston Family with Baby Esther, America's Youngest Juliet". From this, she appeared in a few small silent film roles, including a role alongside her brother in the 1920 film adaptation of Huckleberry Finn. Ralston later gained attention as Mrs. Darling in the 1924 film version of Peter Pan.
In the late 1920s, she appeared in many films for Paramount, at one point earning as much as $8,000 per week, and garnering much popularity, especially in United Kingdom. She appeared mainly in comedies, often portraying spirited society girls, but received good reviews for her forays into dramatic roles.
Retirement and later years
Despite making a successful transition to sound films, she mainly was relegated to supporting roles by the mid-1930s. Her last leading role was in To the Last Man in 1933, directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Randolph Scott with a supporting cast featuring Noah Beery Sr., Buster Crabbe, Shirley Temple and John Carradine. In his book, The Hollywood Western: Ninety Years of Cowboys and Indians, Train Robbers, Sheriffs and Gunslingers, film historian William K. Everson discusses the film, writing:
To the Last Man was almost a model of its kind, an exceptionally strong story of feuding families in the post-Civil War era, with a cast worthy of an "A" feature, excellent direction by Henry Hathaway, and an unusual climactic fight between the villain (Jack LaRue) and the heroine (Esther Ralston, in an exceptionally appealing performance).
Ralston made her final film Tin Pan Alley in 1940 and chose to retire from films. She continued working on the stage and in radio throughout the 1940s, including being the leading lady for part of the run of Woman of Courage.
She returned to the screen in the early 1950s with guest roles on television series, including a Kraft Television Theatre version of Daphne Du Maurier's "September Tide" and an episode of Tales of Tomorrow titled "All the Time in the World." In 1962, she had a leading role in the short-lived daytime drama Our Five Daughters, her final onscreen role (all five of the actresses playing her daughters resembled Ralston in her heyday).
In 1985, Ralston released her autobiography Some Day We'll Laugh. In the book, she mentions that her career was sabotaged by Louis B. Mayer when she refused to sleep with him at the beginning of a swiftly abortive contract at his studio. She was graylisted and soon found herself toppled from the height of the industry to predominately relegated to supporting roles, mainly at minor studios, solving the mystery of why her career faltered at the dawn of sound despite her having had a lifetime of theatrical stage experience and a superb speaking voice.
- On December 25, 1925, Ralston married her manager, actor George Webb Frey (1897–1943) in Manhattan, New York. He was credited in films as George Webb. They had a daughter, Mary Esther (born 1931), who, at birth was known as the "$100,000 Baby" because her mother turned down a substantial film contract while pregnant. George and Esther divorced in 1934. George filed for bankruptcy in Los Angeles in March 1934.
- On June 16, 1935, Ralston married actor Will Morgan (Wilburt Whitfield Morgan), then a former New York stage actor and singer. They divorced in 1938. Morgan led the saxophone section for eight years for Fred Waring.
- On August 6, 1939, Ralston married radio announcer and columnist Ted Lloyd (Theodore Allen Lloyd; 1915–1961) in Greenwich, Connecticut. Music publisher Jack Robbins (John Jacob Robbins; 1894–1959) was Lloyd's best man. The couple had two children, Judy (born 1942) and Ted, Jr. (born 1943). Ted and Esther divorced in 1954. Before marrying Ralston, Lloyd had worked for newspapers and Radio News. In 1942, Lloyd became director of radio for 20th Century Fox. In 1946, with Hal Horne and Armand Deutsch, Lloyd formed Ted Lloyd, Inc. to manage personalities and to produce radio (later TV) programs. He produced several radio dramas, including My True Story for the NBC Red Network, Adventures of the Abbotts on NBC Red Network (18 episodes in 1955), Whispering Streets for CBS Radio, and Escape for CBS-TV.
On January 14, 1994, Ralston died of a heart attack at age 91 in her home in Ventura, California. The family held services on January 17, 1994 in Ventura, California, the day of the Northridge earthquake.
|1915||The Deep Purple||Bit, extra...as an Angel||Uncredited|
|1918||The Doctor and the Woman||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|For Husbands Only||Bit part||Uncredited|
|1920||Huckleberry Finn||Mary Jane Wilks|
|The Peddler of Lies||Minor Role|
|The Butterfly Man||Uncredited|
|Whispering Devils||Rose Gibbard|
|To Please One Woman|
|1921||The Kid||Extra in Heaven Scene||Uncredited|
|What Do Men Want?||Uncredited|
|Crossing Trails||Helen Stratton|
|1922||Daring Danger||Ethel Stanton|
|Pals of the West||Nina|
|Youth to Youth|
|The Lone Hand||Lost film|
|Oliver Twist||Rose Maylie|
|1923||The Prisoner||Marie||Lost film|
|The Phantom Fortune||Mary Rogers||Lost film|
|The Victor||Chewing Gum Baron's Daughter|
|Blinky||Mary Lou Kileen|
|The Wild Party||Bess Furth||Lost film|
|Pure Grit||Stella Bolling|
|1924||The Marriage Circle||Miss Hofer|
|Jack O'Clubs||Queenie Hatch|
|Fight and Win||Holly Malloy|
|The Heart Buster||Rose Hillyer||Lost film|
|Wolves of the North||Madge Chester||Lost film|
|Peter Pan||Mrs. Darling|
|$50,000 Reward||Carolyn Jordan|
|1925||The Little French Girl||Toppie Westmacott||Lost film|
|The Goose Hangs High||Dagmar Carroll|
|Beggar on Horseback||Cynthia Mason|
|The Lucky Devil||Doris McDee|
|The Trouble with Wives||Dagmar||Lost film|
|The Best People||Alice O'Neil||Lost film|
|A Kiss for Cinderella||Fairy Godmother|
|1926||The American Venus||Mary Gray||Lost film|
|The Blind Goddess||Moira Devens||Lost film|
|The Quarterback||Louise Mason|
|Fashions for Women||Céleste de Givray and Lola Dauvry||Lost film|
|1927||Children of Divorce||Jean Waddington|
|Ten Modern Commandments||Kitty O'Day||Lost film|
|Figures Don't Lie||Janet Wells||Lost film|
|The Spotlight||Lizzie Stokes / Olga Rostova|
|1928||Love and Learn||Nancy Blair||Lost film|
|Something Always Happens||Diana Mallory||Lost film|
|Half a Bride||Patience Winslow||Lost film|
|The Sawdust Paradise||Hallie||Lost film|
|1929||The Case of Lena Smith||Lena Smith||Short film|
|The Wheel of Life||Ruth Dangan|
|The Mighty||Louise Patterson|
|1931||Lonely Wives||Madeline Smith|
|The Prodigal||Antonia Farraday|
|1932||Rome Express||Asta Marvelle|
|After the Ball||Elissa Strange|
|1933||Black Beauty||Leila Lambert|
|To the Last Man||Ellen Colby||Alternative title: Law of Vengeance|
|By Candlelight||Baroness von Ballin|
|1934||Sadie McKee||Dolly Merrick|
|Romance in the Rain||Gwen de la Rue|
|The Marines Are Coming||Dorothy Manning|
|1935||Mister Dynamite||Charmian Dvorjak|
|Ladies Crave Excitement||Miss Winkler|
|Shadows of the Orient||Viola Avery|
|Streamline Express||Elaine Vincent|
|Together We Live||Jenny|
|Streamline Express||Elaine Vincent|
|Forced Landing||Ruby Anatole|
|1936||The Girl from Mandalay||Mary Trevor|
|Hollywood Boulevard||Flora Moore|
|We're in the Legion Now!||Louise Rillette|
|1937||As Good as Married||Miss Danforth|
|Jungle Menace||Valerie Shield||Serial, [Chs. 1, 3, 6, 7, 15]|
|The Mysterious Pilot||Vivian McNain||Serial, [Chs.10-11]|
|1938||The Spy Ring||Jean Bruce|
|Letter of Introduction||Mrs. Sinclair||Uncredited|
|Slander House||Ruth De Milo|
|1940||Tin Pan Alley||Nora Bayes|
|The San Francisco Docks||Frances March|
|1952||Kraft Television Theatre||Episode: "September Tide"|
|Tales of Tomorrow||The Collector||Episode: "All the Time in the World"|
|1953||Broadway Television Theatre||Mrs. Bancroft||Episode: "The Noose"|
|1962||Our Five Daughters||Helen Lee||(final appearance)|
- Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
- "You asked for them, and here they are" (PDF). Movie and Radio Guide. 9 (21): 11. March 2, 1940.
- Everson, William K. The Hollywood Western: Ninety Years of Cowboys and Indians, Train Robbers, Sheriffs and Gunslingers. New York. Citadel Press, 1992, First edition 1969.
- Coons, Robbin (October 15, 1940). "Former Star Is Satisfied To Play Bits". Toledo Blade. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 726. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
Woman of Courage, soap opera.
- Mayne, Judith (1994). Directed by Dorothy Arzner. Indiana University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-253-20896-3.
- Thomas, Dan (March 4, 1929). "Home Wins Esther Ralston". San Jose News. p. 4. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "Esther Ralston, Filmstar of Yesteryear, Enjoys Active and Happy Live in Salem," by Beatrice McKinney, Times Record (Troy, New York), June 10, 1970, pg. 38
- "Esther Ralston Wins Divorce for Cruelty". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal. March 6, 1934. p. 12. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "George Webb Frey Files Bankruptcy, Hollywood," Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), March 23, 1934
- "Breaks Her Splice". The Leader-Post. May 10, 1938. p. 6. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "Actress Esther Ralston Wed to Ted Lloyd, Radio Man". The Milwaukee Journal. August 7, 1939. p. 2. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- Collins, Glenn (January 27, 1994). "Esther Ralston, 91, A Featured Actress of Silent-Film Era". nytimes.com. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "Hollywood Star Walk". latimes.com. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
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