Born: August 23, 1929, in Boise City, Oklahoma
Having won the swimsuit competition in the 1948 Miss America pageant, Miss Kansas prepared for the talent competition. Her peers sang and danced, but Miss Kansas chose to give an oration on acting. “I have no talent,” she said, to the surprise of the judges and audience, “my only talent would be raising children.” Although Miss Kansas went on to raise four children, she also had a film and television career that spanned six decades.
Vera Ralston was born August 23, 1929, in Boise City, Oklahoma, to Tom and Bernice Ralston. The family moved to Pratt, then Vera’s father left for Alaska. Her mother moved Vera and her four siblings to Wichita. Ralston was 14 when her mother moved to Colorado for work. She wanted to stay in Wichita, so she moved into the YMCA. Ralston served breakfast in the YWCA cafeteria, went to school until 3 p.m., and worked at Western Union until midnight.
While attending Wichita North High School, Ralston was a reporter for the school newspaper. She approached a local modeling agency about buying an ad. “The manager promised me the ad,” Ralston told a Wichita Beacon reporter in 1964, “if I would agree to enter a beauty contest . . . I won the contest and competed for Miss Wichita in 1948.”
Ralston won the Miss Wichita and Miss Kansas competitions and went on to the Miss America pageant. She caught the eye of Hollywood producer Howard Hughes, who signed her to a contract with RKO. In Hollywood, Ralston met and married Robert Miles. Vera Miles won small roles in film and on television, including an episode of Medic. Director Alfred Hitchcock saw the show and signed Miles to a five-year contract.
Miles was widely publicized as the successor to Grace Kelly, who had retired from films to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Hitchcock cast Miles opposite Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man and planned to cast her as Jimmy Stewart’s costar in Vertigo. Miles announced she and her second husband, Gordon Scott (star of Tarzan films), were expecting their first child. Hitchcock gave the role to Kim Novak. He later cast Miles in Psycho as Lila Crane, sister to Janet Leigh’s character. Miles also starred in John Ford’s The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
In 1955 Miles costarred with Joel McCrea in Wichita, a film about Wyatt Earp. According to the Wichita Morning Eagle, Wichita Mayor L.A. Donnell and wife visited Miles on the set during the filming of the film. “I’m glad my first starring role is about my home town,” she said. “Nobody knew I was from Wichita when I signed for the part.”
Miles made her first return visit to Wichita in 1964. She toured Wichita North High School and learned that her former boyfriend, Kent Frizzell, was president of the school board. Frizzell went on to be a Kansas state senator and state attorney general.
After divorcing third husband Keith Larsen in 1971, Miles remained single. She lives in California and has maintained a low profile since her retirement in 1995.
Entry: Miles, Vera
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: July 2011
Date Modified: July 2011
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.