Congratulations to VERA MILES who was 89 on 23rd August, 2018.
Born Vera Ralston, for obvious reasons, Vera changed her name when she came to Hollywood. Her first husband was actor/stuntman Bob Miles and Vera kept that surname for the rest of her career.
Vera’s first major role in 1952, THE ROSE BOWL STORY, a Monogram film, with Natalie Wood and Marshall Thompson.
Prior to this film, she had minor roles in WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME (1950) and TWO TICKETS TO BROADWAY (1951).
Short lived contracts at RKO and Fox left Vera without a studio behind her and she quickly got into TV in 1954. She appeared in the 1955 pilot “Revenge” for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.
Vera played the traumatised wife of Ralph Meeker in ‘Revenge’ which had a typical Hitchcock twist at the end.
In 1957, Vera was signed under personal contract by Alfred Hitchcock and was cast opposite Henry Fonda in THE WRONG MAN (1957), again playing a woman who is traumatised by her husband’s wrongful arrest for burglary.
Described above as his “new find”, was Hitchcock looking for a Grace Kelly replacement in Vera?
Unfortunately, other than “The Wrong Man” and “Psycho”, Vera’s contract with the great director didn’t produce a series of starring roles for Vera.
She was set to play opposite James Stewart in VERTIGO, but lost the role to Kim Novak . Vera was expecting a baby with her second husband, Gordon Scott. (They had costarred in “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle” in 1955 and married in 1956.)
We’ll never know if Vera could have surpassed Kim Novak’s mesmerising performance in Vertigo. Or whether it would have led to further Hitchcock films such as North By Northwest or The Birds or Marnie.
As Janet Leigh’s sister in “Psycho.”
There’s a brief interview with Vera on You Tube from 1983 when she was doing PSYCHO 2. She said she had got to know and like Anthony Perkins on the set of this sequel, stating that on the original 1960 “Psycho”……”the nature of Hitchcock’s set does not lend itself to people becoming acquainted.”
(Wish we had heard more of her thoughts on Hitchcock!)
In 1955, Vera appeared in Joel McCrea’s WICHITA, But she had little to do and was only in a few scenes.
The film itself, the story of Wyatt Earp becoming a lawman, is rather dull, only enlivened by spotting all the great supporting actors in it – Walter Sande, Harry Lauter,Wallace Ford,Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, Robert Wilke,I.Standord Jolley, Carl Benton Reid.
In addition to McCrea and Miles, the film also had Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and John Smith.
Now that’s a cast. A pity the script was disappointing.
The only scene in the film that caught my attention was the scene in the saloon when the black-clad Graves and Smith appear, seemingly ready to gun down Earp. Turns out they’re his brothers come to help him.
Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, Lloyd Bridges.
Keith Larsen played ‘Bat Masterson’ in “Wichita “ and became Vera’s third husband.
1956 was a busy year for Vera – she was in THE SEARCHERS, AUTUMN LEAVES and 23 PACES TO BAKER STREET.
Her part in “Autumn Leaves” , as Cliff Robertson’s ex-wife,wasn’t big but she did get to be nasty to Joan Crawford!
She had a substantial role in the thriller , “23 Paces to Baker Street”, opposite Van Johnson.
BEAU JAMES (1957) , set in 1920s New York, tells the story of NY mayor Jimmie Walker (played by Bob Hope).
Vera plays singer/dancer Betty Compton who became Walker’s second wife. Dubbed by Imogene Lynn, she sings ‘Someone to Watch over me’ and does some nifty dancing!
Incidentally, having seen this film for the first time recently, it was interesting to see Bob Hope in a non-comedic role. Unfortunately I didn’t think it worked for him. I can understand why he wanted to do it but he didn’t seem comfortable in the character, even though he was able to do some musical numbers.
In 1958 a magazine quote about Vera said that she “seems to be replacing June Allyson as everybody’s favourite wife.”
And that was definitely a part she played as James Stewart’s wife in THE FBI STORY.
Vera shaved off her hair and went to Italy for FIVE BRANDED WOMEN (1960), set during the Second World War. Haven’t seen this one.
I enjoyed catching up on A TOUCH OF LARCENY (1960) which has Vera, James Mason and George Sanders. I suppose the film , set in London, would be described as a romantic comedy , as desk-bound naval commander James Mason tries to steal Vera away from Sanders by concocting a scheme to make money.
I bet Vera relished the change of character in BACK STREET in which she played the heavy drinking wife of John Gavin who wants a divorce so he can marry Susan Hayward.
In the scene above, Vera is about to stumble up the stairs and show Susan Hayward what John Gavin has to deal with!
Vera made a few films for Walt Disney ,including FOLLOW ME BOYS (1966) which I like a lot.
Vera reunited with John Ford for “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” in 1962. A good role for Vera who has to choose between Wayne and James Stewart.
Vera played John Wayne’s estranged wife in “HELLFIGHTERS” (1968)
Over the years ,from 1954, Vera may have created some kind of record for the number of her appearances in TV shows. And it could be argued she received more varied roles on TV.
One TV appearance I’d like to see is ‘The Forms of Things Unknown’, an 1964 episode of “The Outer Limits”.
Vera starred in a classic “Twilight Zone” episode called ‘Mirror Image’ in 1960.
In all my searches online, the above photo is the only evidence I could find of Vera doing stage work. “The Country Girl” was an off- Broadway production in 1960.
I would love to hear what other plays she did.
Vera appeared three times in “Murder She Wrote”. I like the quote from ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia” –
“Vera booked several stays at that television retirement village for old Hollywood stars – ‘Murder She Wrote.’
From the time Vera Miles retired in 1995, she made no public appearances and gave no interviews. But we have so many examples of her talent on film in her four decade career.
Vienna! So glad that you published pictures of Vera Miles in both “Psycho” and “Five Branded Women.” A bit of trivia… It’s been noted that Miles’s hair – and hair line specifically – looked odd in “Psycho.” That’s because she had to wear a wig. Her head had been shaved for “Five Branded Women” and had not fully grown in by the time she reported for the “Psycho” filming. Hence, the wig for “Psycho.”
Yes, I read about that. I bet Hitchcock wasn’t too pleased! I also read that Barbara Bel Geddes (one of the Five Women) refused to have her head shaved.
A very worthy and well researched tribute.
The only thing I disagree with is calling WICHITA “dull” I found it a totally action packed
Western,although not a great role for Vera.
Thanks, John. I generally like all Joel McCrea westerns, so maybe I need to watch Wichita again!
Vienna, I so enjoyed your really good tribute to the wonderful Vera Miles. Vera conveys such intelligence through her striking beauty. She was a remarkably consistent and versatile working actress, whose talents were, I think underused. Through it all, she had a long and very interesting career.
I liked all the photographs that you used and I especially liked the first one, of course; also, the Hitchcock directing her and Henry Fonda; the close-cropped hair from 5 BRANDED WOMEN; John Gavin giving her the look in BACK STREET; COLUMBO , “Lovely, but Lethal”; and from 1985’s “Jessica Behind Bars” episode of MURDER SHE WROTE.
Thanks, Walter. A pity no one has written a Vera Miles biography.
Vienna, you are so right about it being a pity no biography has been written about Vera. She never really had a big movie role that set her apart, but on TV she was excellent. She was guest starring in so many classic TV shows in the 1950’s, ’60’s, ’70’s, and ’80’s and she always shinned in ways that her movie work never really did.
So right, Walter. Far more opportunities on TV
As you say Vienna Vera worked non stop on tv as did Anne Baxter until her untimely death. A number of Vera’s TV shows got shown theatrically in the UK. One Of Our Spies Is Missing (The Man From Uncle) Sergeant Ryker edited from a 1963 two parter to cash in on the sudden fame of Lee Marvin. Kona Coast a failed pilot with Richard Boone and ditto Baffled!
Leonard Nimoy and Susan Hampshire as paranormal investigators, filmed in England. Vera was also in a really frightening UK TV play Matakitas Is Coming locked in a spooky library at night!
So much more of Vera to look out for. Thanks Jim.
Jim, added some more good TV work of Vera’s. I remember the UK TV play “Matakitas Is Coming.” Here in the USA, I saw it on the syndicated thriller series JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN(1969), which was produced by UK’s legendary Hammer Films. I remember the eerie whistling opening sequence of a roller coaster in an amusement park. Vera is really good as a journalist in a library doing research, when she comes across a story of a murdering strangler who had stalked his victims only yards away from the very library she’s in! I won’t give away any more. If my memory serves me right, Joan Crawford presided as the hostess in the introductions of the USA syndication.
KONA COAST(1968) is an un-picked up TV pilot that was later released as a feature movie. The pilot was filmed in the Summer of 1967. Instead, CBS picked up the HAWAII FIVE-O pilot. Anyway, KONA COAST was expanded and released as a feature. I must say, Vera was at her loveliest here.
I would like to add SMASH-UP ON INTERSTATE 5(1976), which was a made for TV disaster movie, but because of the way the story was told, it was more than just a typical disaster pile-up. Vera is a divorcee who find’s new love with trucker David Groh. Also, I thought Buddy Ebsen and Harriet Nelson were rather good.
Vera was in a lot of Westerns over the years and her last Western performance was in “The Last Summer” episode of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE in 1983. Yes, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE is a Western. She portrays Ruthy Leland who returns to Walnut Grove wearing trousers stuffed into high boots, riding astride a horse, much to Mrs. Oleson’s disdain. This is a good story about friendship and love, although it is rather poignant. Another fine performance given by Vera.
I’m a longtime fan of Vera Miles and always will be.
Much appreciated,Walter. I haven’t seen the titles you mention but will watch out for them.