Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vera Ralston and Lon Chaney, Jr.

Who was born on this date:

Actress Vera Ralston was born on July 12, 1919 (the year is questionable) in Prague, Czchoslovakia. She competed at the 1936 European Figure Skating Championships and placed 15th. Later that season, she competed at the 1936 Winter Olympics, where she placed 17th. During the games, she personally met and insulted Adolf Hitler. Hitler asked her if she would like to "skate for the swastika." As she later recalled, "I looked him right in the eye, and said that I'd rather skate on the swastika. She immigrated to the United States in the early 1940s and became a naturalized citizen in 1946 and moved to Hollywood with her mother. She signed a contract Republic Pictures in 1943.

During her film career she was known as both Vera Hrubá Ralston and later Vera Ralston. She normally played an immigrant girl, because of her limited English skills. Her film credits include Storm over Lisbon (1944), Dakota (1945) and The Fighting Kentuckian with John Wayne (1949), A Perilous Journey (1953), and Fair Wind to Java (1953). She retired from films in 1958.

In 1952 Ralston married the head of Republic Studio’s, Herbert Yates. Yates was nearly 40 years her senior, and had left his wife and children to be with Ralston. Yates used his position to obtain roles for Ralston, and at one point was sued by studio shareholders for using company assets to promote his wife. Yates died in 1966, leaving his $10 million estate to Ralston. She suffered a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter, then remarried and lived quietly in southern California until her death from cancer on February 9, 2003. She is buried at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

Who died on this date:

On July 12, 1973, actor Lon Chaney, Jr., died. He was born Creighton Tull Chaney on February 10, 1906 in Oklahoma City and is the son of silent film legend, Lon Chaney. He is best known for his roles in monster movies. From an early age, he worked hard to get out of his famous father's shadow. In young adulthood, his father discouraged him from show business, and he attended college and became successful in a Los Angeles appliance corporation. It was only after his father's death that Chaney started acting in movies, beginning with an uncredited role in the 1932 film Girl Crazy. He appeared in films under his real name until 1935, when he began to be billed as "Lon Chaney, Jr."

Chaney first achieved film stardom and critical acclaim in the 1939 feature film version of Of Mice and Men, in which he played Lennie Small. In 1941, Chaney starred in the title role of The Wolf Man for Universal Pictures, a role which would typecast him for the rest of his life. He maintained a career at Universal over the next few years, replaying the Wolf Man in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Frankenstein's monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, Kharis the mummy in The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost and The Mummy's Curse. He also played the title character in Son of Dracula. Chaney is thus the only actor to portray all four of Universal's major monsters: the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, and the vampire son of Count Dracula. Universal also starred him in a series of psychological mysteries associated with the Inner Sanctum radio series. He also established himself as a favorite of producer Stanley Kramer, taking key supporting roles in the western High Noon (1952), Not as a Stranger (1955), and The Defiant Ones (1958). In later years, he battled throat cancer and chronic heart disease after decades of heavy drinking and smoking and died on July 12, 1973 in San Clemente, California. His body was donated to medical research.

http://www.michaelthomasbarry.com/, author of "Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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