At the start of World War II, Olympic athlete Vera Ralston found herself without a country. The Nazis invaded her home country of Czechoslovakia while she was touring in the United States with ice skating shows. The United States became her home, and she turned to acting as her ice skating contemporaries Sonja Henie and Belita had.
Born Vera Hrubá, Vera studied ballet as a child and turned to ice skating when she was 10 years old, according to her 2003 Los Angeles Times obituary.
She competed for Czechoslovakia in the women’s figure skating singles in the 1936 Winter Olympics, which are now famous because of Adolf Hitler’s attendance. Vera came in 17th place at the Olympics.
She was the youngest athlete in the first Winter Olympics, the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals, and one of Hollywood’s top-grossing stars.
Norwegian athlete turned actress Sonja Henie skated across the silver screen in 12 films, bringing a novelty to movies and helping popularize figure skating in the United States.
“People would go out and buy skates, costumes and take lessons because of her. Ice skating developed in the United States because of her,” Henie’s former skating partner Geary Steffen said in the documentary “Sonja Henie: Queen of the Ice” (1995).
Born in Norway in 1912, Henie’s father, Wilhelm, was the track cycling World Champion of 1894, setting two world records, and he was a speed skater. Because of his athletic interest, Wilhelm encouraged his children Leif and Sonja to become involved with sports, according to the documentary.
It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals. In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
Sonja Henie, Don Ameche, Adolph Menjou, Jean Hersholt, Ned Sparks, June Wilkins, the Ritz Brothers
Tad Spencer (Menjou) is broke and takes his female band (including his wife) to the Swiss Alps. They come to an inn run by Henriech Muller (Hersholt) and his daughter Greta (Henie). Greta is a figure skater training for the Winter Olympics. Henriech lost out on a figure skating medal in 1908 and has been training his daughter as a skater. Tad sees dollar signs when he see her skate and wants him in her act. The only problem is Greta is being paid for a nightclub act would hurt her amateur standing in the games. Bob Harris (Ameche) and his photographer Danny Simpson (Sparks), also arrives at the hotel to investigate a fire that may have been an assassination attempt.