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Esther Ralston
Esther Ralston Stars of the Photoplay.jpg
Ralston in Photoplay Magazine, 1930
Esther Louise Worth

(1902-09-17)September 17, 1902
Died January 14, 1994(1994-01-14) (aged 91)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1915–1962
George Webb
(m. 1926; div. 1934)

Will Morgan
(m. 1935; div. 1938)

Ted Lloyd
(m. 1939; div. 1954)
Children 3
Relatives Bob Ralston (nephew)

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

Early life and career

Ralston was born Esther Louise Worth in Bar Harbor, Maine, 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.

Mr. and Mrs. Darling (Cyril Chadwick and Esther Ralston) discover Peter Pan's Shadow in the film Peter Pan (1924)
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.

Esther Ralston, film actress (SAYRE 8013)
Ralston in 1925
Esther Ralston Fashions for Women 1927
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 and Marcella Hudnall in Our Gal Sunday.

Retirement and later years

Esther Ralston Sadie McKee
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.

Esther Ralston 1941
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, including being the leading lady for part of the run of Woman of Courage.

Esther Ralston - 1930s
Ralston, 1930s
Our Five Daughters cast 1961
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. 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. 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) in Greenwich, Connecticut. 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.


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.

Esther Ralston cover art from Picture-Play Magazine (March 1926 to August 1926) (page 633 crop)
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.


Heart Buster poster
Tom Mix and Ralston in 1924
Figures Don't Lie lobby card
Ford Sterling and Ralston in 1927
Something Always Happens lobby card
Ralston and Neil Hamilton in 1928
Sawdust Paradise lobby card 2
Lobby card, 1928
Sawdust Paradise lobby card
Lobby card, 1928
Prodigal lobby card
Lobby card, 1931
Year Title Role Notes
1915 The Deep Purple Bit, an Angel Uncredited
Lost film
1918 The Doctor and the Woman Minor Role Uncredited
For Husbands Only Bit part Uncredited
Lost film
1920 Huckleberry Finn Mary Jane Wilks
The Peddler of Lies Minor Role
The Butterfly Man Uncredited
Dangerous Love
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
Remembrance Beatrice Lost film
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
Railroaded Joan Dunster
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
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
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 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 (final appearance)

See also

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