Movie Star Mystery Photo

Sept. 14, 2009, Mystery Photo
Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Our mystery guest is Esther Ralston, above, in 1923.

Esther Ralston; Silent Era ‘American Venus’

 January 21, 1994


Esther Ralston, the beautiful blonde “American Venus” of silent films, has died at the age of 91.

Miss Ralston, who appeared in about 150 films, died last Friday in her Ventura home after a short illness, her brother, Carleton Ralston of Los Angeles, announced Wednesday.

One of Miss Ralston’s last public appearances was in September at the Silent Movie Theater in
Hollywood for a showing of “Old Ironsides,” a patriotic film set in the early 1800s that she made in 1926.

She had been designated to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Southern California
Motion Picture Council on April 8, her brother said.

A native of Bar Harbor, Me., Miss Ralston began performing at the age of 2 with
prominent billing in the family theatrical troupe, the Ralston Family
Metropolitan Entertainers With Baby Esther, America’s Youngest Juliet.

She made her screen debut in 1916 in “Phantom Fortunes” and took several
small roles until she was picked to play Mrs. Darling in the 1925
version of “Peter Pan.”

Miss Ralston soon became one of the highest-paid actresses in silent films. She was publicized as the “American Venus,” the title of a film she made in 1926. She also earned
the appellation of “Paramount Clotheshorse,” known for her extravagant
lifestyle, which included riding about in a Rolls-Royce with a
chauffeur uniformed in whatever color matched her dress.

Her credits included “Huckleberry Finn,” “Oliver Twist,” “Beggar on
Horseback,” “A Kiss for Cinderella” and “Children of Divorce.”

Miss Ralston played the Palace twice, headlining in the top vaudevillian venue as the “Golden Girl of the Silver Screen.”

Unlike many silent actresses, Miss Ralston moved easily into “talkies” and continued her film career until the early 1940s.

Later, she acted occasionally in radio soap operas. But after three failed
marriages and the loss of her film fortune, she also supported herself
working in a department store, a talent agency and an Upstate New York
utility company.

Miss Ralston married and divorced George Webb,  a publicist and agent; Will Morgan, who was with Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, and newspaper columnist Ted Loyd.

In addition to her brother, she is survived by three children, Mary, Judy and Ted,
five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Just a reminder on how this works: I post the mystery photo on Monday and
reveal the answer on Friday … or on Saturday if I have a hard time
picking only five pictures; sometimes it’s difficult to choose. To keep
the mystery photo from getting lost in the other entries, I move it
from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday, etc., adding a photo every day.

I have to approve all comments, so if your guess is posted immediately,
that means you’re wrong. (And if a wrong guess has already been
submitted by someone else, there’s no point in submitting it again).

If you’re right, you will have to wait until Friday. There’s no need to
submit your guess five times. Once is enough. The only prize is
bragging rights.

The answer to last week’s mystery star: Lance Fuller!

Sept. 15, 2009, Mystery Photo

Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Esther Ralston in “The Best People,” 1925.

Here’s another photo of our mystery guest. I have snipped out something to keep the playing field level.

Sept. 16, 2009, Mystery Photo

Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Esther Ralston in “Mister Dynamite,” 1935.

Here’s another picture of our mystery guest. Please congratulate Eve Golden, Suzy Q and Mary Mallory for identifying her! Tilting a portrait to turn it into a one-column mug shot was standard procedure at The Times for decades.

Sept. 17, 2009, Mystery Photo

Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Esther Ralston in an undated photo, modeling a hat she designed.

Here’s another photo of our mystery guest. Please congratulate Mike Hawks for identifying her!

Sept. 18, 2009, Mystery Photo Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Esther Ralston in 1979.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo, Obituaries. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Movie Star Mystery Photo

  1. Howard Decker says:

    I just want to know what the lady was actually wearing before the Times’ Art Department did their 1920’s-or-so version of “Photoshopping” on the pic.


  2. Eve says:

    Hmm, she is so retouched and painted over I can’t tell. It is from about 1920, give or take a year, but I will hold off till I see another photo.


  3. Lana says:

    Mabel Normand


  4. Paul Cardinal says:

    Fay Bainter


  5. Suzy Q says:

    Edna Purviance


  6. Nick Santa Maria says:

    Miriam Hopkins?


  7. Donna Hill says:

    I’ll hazard a guess, Mary Miles Minter, but I think I’m wrong and should wait for another photo.


  8. SandyReed says:

    Picture has been retouched so much it’s hard to tell but I’ll guess Lois Wilson.


  9. Mary mallory says:

    Betty Compson.


  10. Eve says:

    Gee whiz. In that second photo, she looks like a very young Esther Ralston.


  11. Allison Berntsen says:

    Anita Page?


  12. Suzy Q says:

    Esther Ralston


  13. Claire Lockhart says:

    Looks a lot like Penny Singleton when she was Dorothy McNulty but she was a brunette back then…


  14. Mary mallory says:

    Esther Ralston.


  15. Rosemarie Keenan says:

    Fannie Ward


  16. Carol Gwenn says:

    Jean Arthur?


  17. margie says:

    natalie moorhead


  18. Mike Hawks says:

    The lady is Esther Ralston.


  19. Patty says:

    Carole Lombard?


  20. David Warheit says:

    Dorothy Mackaill.


  21. Stacia says:

    Aw, you blocked out the still code! She looks familiar but without a huge hint (like the still code, the co-star that was cropped out, or someone just flat-out telling me the answer) I’ll never get this one.


  22. Gregory Moore says:

    Ruth Roland?


  23. Rogét-L.A. says:

    Edna Purviance?


  24. Christa says:

    mary nolan


  25. Joan Y. Compagno says:

    Barbara Pepper


  26. Joan Compagno-Wright says:

    June Preisser


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