Vera Hruba Ralston was a Czech-born ice-skating star whose B-movie career at Republic Pictures in the 1940s and '50s never equaled her performances on the ice.
As Vera Hruba (pronounced roo-bah), Ralston was a featured attraction with the Ice Capades when she caught the attention of Herbert J. Yates, the head of Republic Pictures.
In 1941, he featured Ralston and the other members of the company in "Ice-Capades," a musical built around their skating acts. The studio followed it up a year later with "Ice-Capades Revue."
In 1943, Ralston signed a long-term contract with Republic, where she became the married Yates' protegee and later his wife.
Her first leading role was in "The Lady and the Monster," a 1944 thriller costarring Erich von Stroheim and Richard Arlen. Over the next 14 years, she appeared in 23 other Republic films, including "Lake Placid Serenade," "Storm Over Lisbon," "I, Jane Doe," "Dakota," "The Fighting Kentuckian," "The Plainsman and the Lady" and "Fair Wind to Java."
She added the surname Ralston — taken from the name of a popular breakfast cereal — because Americans had difficulty pronouncing Hruba. By 1946, after Hruba had been frequently misspelled on theater marquees, she was being billed simply as Vera Ralston.
Although Yates lavished money and attention on Ralston's films and career, most of her movies fared poorly at the box office.
Early reviews mention her woodenness and less-than-ideal command of the English language. But although her English and her acting soon improved, she never lost her Czech accent. "It was," she once said, "something I just couldn't lose, no matter how hard I tried."
Joseph Kane, who directed Ralston in a dozen films, once said in an interview that, given her relationship with Yates, "she could have made it rough on everyone," but she "never took advantage of that situation." Although Kane thought that Ralston never became a good actress, he said she was cooperative, hard-working and eager to please.