“I have had a very long and brilliant life, and I am very very grateful.” – Esther Ralston
Esther Ralston was a good friend Randolph Scott who persuaded Paramount to hire her as his co-star in a To the Last Man. I think this was an act of kindness on Scott’s part to help Esther whose career was now in decline. But I don’t believe Esther was a weak person in any way. She definitely had a spiritual side that gave her strength – and her ‘out of a suitcase’ Vaudeville upbringing also taught her how to survive. She also looks to have been a bit of a Tom Boy? – her toughness shows through in her character in To the Last Man. (But maybe people from that era were just tough?) She went through the ‘Movies Mills’ and 3 marriages (three children) before ultimately losing her money in the stock market crash and ending up in a trailer park.
I couldn’t help but notice some startling parallels between certain negative experiences you had and current events of today/2017. I point to your troubles with gay Director Dorothy Arzner and movie mogul Louis B. Mayer (Metro/Goldwyn/Mayer/MGM) which directly mirror current controversy’s.
From Why Do All My Husbands Want to Kill Me? Part II Copyright Robert J. Avrech “Open about her homosexuality, director Dorothy Arzner, during production of Fashions for Women and Ten Modern Commandments, 1927, is in the habit of dragging Esther into her lap and groping her breasts. Esther rejects Arzner’s crude advances and Arzner takes revenge by browbeating Esther, making her perform take after take of a single scene. Ironic, because Esther was known as One-Take Ralston.” This amounts to sexual assault in my book, yet it appears Arzner was neither charged – nor fired. No wonder people get away with it – for years.
From: “My Love of Hollywood” http://myloveofoldhollywood.blogspot.ca/2010/10/esther-ralston-1902-1994.html= “Esther Ralston Facts: She (Ralston) worked in England during 1932 and upon returning to Hollywood she was loaned out by Louis B. Mayor after denying his sexual advances. (She had worked at Paramount prior to this) This does answer the question as to why a previously successful actress would be cast in B rated movies that led to her early retirement.” It’s astounding that someone would destroy someone’s career, because they rebuffed. Yet it’s a certainty that this kind of thing goes on all the time.
It would nice to think that will live in an enlightened age where such behavior and abuses will stop. But they won’t.
My own brief experience in the Film Industry saw this kind of kind of thing first hand. The power and money floating around in Big Time entertainment assures there are a plenty of people who care ONLY about 3 things: Money, Power, and Sex – not necessarily in that order. ART is not on the list.
And any Movie Set, I’d guess there a mere handful of folks who are care about the creative/Art aspect – the Director and the Actors mainly. A lot of other people (most?) are just there for the money – or whatever else they can get. It was not an uplifting experience.
I’ve been stuck for over a month. This time on Esther Ralston. My problem is the incredible number of awesome images of her. Many of which needed some editing. Finally I’ve got something to put up.
Esther has over 40 years of portrait pics (taken by anonymous Artists) – hundreds. If you ever wondered that Portrait Photography was a worthy Artform – here is the proof. I’m sure there’s some good Portrait Photographers around these days, but they’d be hard put to equal many of these photos. Like I said, it almost seems a lost Artform.
I have so many that I’m posting these pics 3 installments.
17 September 1902 – 14 January 1994
Herself, almost unknown these days, Esther Ralston was a major Movie Star from 1915 to 1940 – appearing in 44 movies. She Starred and co-starred with the likes of Randolph Scott, Charlie Chaplin, Hoot Gibson, Lon Chaney, Jackie Coogan, William Desmond, Tom Mix, Wallace Beery, Clara Bow, Gary Cooper, Richard Dix, Basil Rathbone, Paul Lukas, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable … and others. Quite a career. Her last leading role was in To the Last Man / 1933 with Randolph Scott.
Esther 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, Esther appeared in a few small silent films including a role alongside her brother in the 1920 film adaptation of Huckleberry Finn …
Esther in the middle
In the late 1920’s Esther appeared in many films for Paramount, at one point earning as much as $8000 a week (!!!), and garnering much popularity, especially in Britain. She appeared mainly in comedies, often portraying spirited society girls, but received good reviews for her forays into dramatic roles. Several of Ralston’s films from the 1920’s are ‘lost’.
Now … where was I? Oh yeah, To the Last ManCasting. I’ll get back to Shirley in a minute because she’s worthy of a lot more space.
Our Hero, 35 year-old Randolph was a pretty terrible Actor in 1933 – very wooden. But became very good later on and is indisputably one of the greatest Western Movie Actors of all time – Starring in over 50 Westerns.
Esther Ralston plays a pretty hard bitten gal in the movie (guess that’s how Grey wrote it). But she’s not short on looks.
Noah Beery is a back shooting badguy – again – with his hillbilly partner John Carradine.
Colorized Lobby Cards.
Some bad karma chases our hero all the way back to his youth.