Esther Ralston

Active - 1915 - 1946  |   Born - Sep 17, 1902   |   Died - Jan 14, 1994   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

In vaudeville with her parents from childhood, blonde, silent-movie leading lady Esther Ralston was in films from 1916. Her first important role was the heroine in the 12-chapter Universal serial The Phantom Fortune. A major star at Paramount in the 1920s, Ralston was touted as "The American Venus" after appearing (with a bare-minimum wardrobe) in a 1926 film of the same name. Ever seeking out a variety of parts, Ralston played Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist (1923), Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan (1924), and the Fairy Godmother in A Kiss for Cinderella (1925); she was at her best when exuding an air of highly defendable virtue in films like Old Ironsides (1926). Ralston prepared for talkies by training at Edward Everett Horton's California-based stock company. She continued playing worthwhile roles in features of various importance until her first retirement in 1941, and thereafter briefly acted on radio soap operas. After the breakup of her marriage, Ralston found the financial going rough and took whatever jobs she could; in the mid-'50s she toiled as a Manhattan department store saleswoman, denying that she was Esther Ralston to customers who thought they recognized her. Also in that decade, she briefly managed the career of her daughter, a nightclub singer. Esther Ralston returned before the cameras on the 1962 NBC TV daytime drama Our Five Daughters.

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