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Esther Ralston

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Esther Ralston
Ralston in Photoplay Magazine, 1930
Esther Louise Worth

(1902-09-17)September 17, 1902
DiedJanuary 14, 1994(1994-01-14) (aged 91)
Years active1915–1962
George Webb
(m. 1926; div. 1934)
Will Morgan
(m. 1935; div. 1938)
Ted Lloyd
(m. 1939; div. 1954)
RelativesBob Ralston (nephew)

Esther Ralston (born Esther Louise Worth, September 17, 1902[citation needed] – January 14, 1994) was an American silent film star. Her most prominent sound picture was To the Last Man in 1933.

Early life and career[edit]

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.[citation needed]

With Cyril Chadwick in Peter Pan (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.

Ralston in 1925
With Raymond Hatton in Fashions for Women (1927)

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 usually with her name billed above the title, often portraying spirited society girls, and also received good reviews for her forays into dramatic roles.

On radio, Ralston portrayed Kathy Marsh in Portia Faces Life[1] and Marcella Hudnall in Our Gal Sunday.[2]

Retirement and later years[edit]

Ralston in 1934

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,[3] 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 in 1941

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,[4] including being the leading lady for part of the run of Woman of Courage.[5]

Ralston, 1930s
Ralston (seated, left) in Our Five Daughters (1961); all five of the actresses playing her daughters resembled Ralston in her heyday

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.[6] 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 being predominantly 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 in Manhattan, New York.[7] 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.[8] George and Esther divorced in 1934.[9] George filed for bankruptcy in Los Angeles in March 1934.[10]
  • 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.[11] Morgan led the saxophone section for eight years for Fred Waring.[citation needed]
  • On August 6, 1939, Ralston married radio announcer and columnist Ted Lloyd (Theodore Allen Lloyd) in Greenwich, Connecticut.[12] Music publisher Jack Robbins (John Jacob Robbins) was Lloyd's best man. The couple had two children, Judy and Ted, Jr. 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.[citation needed]


On January 14, 1994, Ralston died of a heart attack at age 91 in her home in Ventura, California.[13] The family held services on January 17, 1994, in Ventura, California, the day of the Northridge earthquake.[citation needed]

Esther Ralston cover art from Picture-Play Magazine

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Esther Ralston had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6664 Hollywood Boulevard.[14]


Tom Mix and Ralston in 1924
Ford Sterling and Ralston in 1927
Ralston and Neil Hamilton in 1928
Lobby card, 1928
Lobby card, 1931
Year Title Role Notes
1915 The Deep Purple Bit, extra...as an Angel Uncredited
Lost film
1918 The Doctor and the Woman Minor Role Uncredited; Lost film
For Husbands Only Bit part Uncredited
Lost film
1920 Huckleberry Finn Mary Jane Wilks
The Peddler of Lies Minor Role Lost
The Butterfly Man Uncredited
Lost film
Dangerous Love
Whispering Devils Rose Gibbard Lost film
To Please One Woman Presumed lost
1921 The Kid Extra in Heaven Scene Uncredited
What Do Men Want? Uncredited
Incomplete film
Crossing Trails Helen Stratton Lost film
1922 Daring Danger Ethel Stanton Lost film
Remembrance Beatrice Lost film
Pals of the West Nina
Youth to Youth Lost film
The Lone Hand Lost film
Oliver Twist Rose Maylie
1923 The Prisoner Marie Lost film
The Phantom Fortune Mary Rogers Lost film
Railroaded Joan Dunster Lost film
The Victor Chewing Gum Baron's Daughter Lost film
Blinky Mary Lou Kileen Lost film
The Wild Party Bess Furth Lost film
Pure Grit Stella Bolling Lost film
1924 The Marriage Circle Miss Hofer
Jack O'Clubs Queenie Hatch Lost film
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 Lost film
Beggar on Horseback Cynthia Mason Incomplete film
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
Womanhandled Molly Martin
1926 The American Venus Mary Gray Lost film
The Blind Goddess Moira Devens Lost film
The Quarterback Louise Mason
Old Ironsides Esther
1927 Fashions for Women Céleste de Givray and Lola Dauvry Lost film
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 Lost film
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 Lost film
Betrayal Vroni Lost 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
Strange Wives Olga
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
Reunion Janet Fair
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
Year Title Role Notes
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



  1. ^ The birth certificate of Esther Louise Worth indicates that she was born in Eden, Maine, which – until March 3, 1918 – had been the name of Bar Harbor


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ "You asked for them, and here they are" (PDF). Movie and Radio Guide. 9 (21): 11. March 2, 1940.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Coons, Robbin (October 15, 1940). "Former Star Is Satisfied To Play Bits". Toledo Blade. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Mayne, Judith (1994). Directed by Dorothy Arzner. Indiana University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-253-20896-3.
  7. ^ Thomas, Dan (March 4, 1929). "Home Wins Esther Ralston". San Jose News. p. 4. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  8. ^ "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
  9. ^ "Esther Ralston Wins Divorce for Cruelty". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal. March 6, 1934. p. 12. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  10. ^ "George Webb Frey Files Bankruptcy, Hollywood," Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), March 23, 1934
  11. ^ "Breaks Her Splice". The Leader-Post. May 10, 1938. p. 6. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "Actress Esther Ralston Wed to Ted Lloyd, Radio Man". The Milwaukee Journal. August 7, 1939. p. 2. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  13. ^ Collins, Glenn (January 27, 1994). "Esther Ralston, 91, A Featured Actress of Silent-Film Era". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  14. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 1, 2013.


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