Vera Miles (born August 23, 1930) is an American film actress who gained popularity for starring in films such as The Searchers, The Wrong Man, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Psycho and Psycho II.
Miles was born as Vera June Ralston in Boise City, Oklahoma, the daughter of Burnice (née Wyrick) and Thomas Ralston. She grew up in Pratt, Kansas, and later, in Wichita, Kansas, where she worked nights as a Western Union operator-typist and graduated from Wichita North High School in 1947. She was crowned Miss Kansas in 1948, placing third in the Miss America contest.
She moved to Los Angeles where, in 1950, she landed small roles in film and television. These included a minor part as a chorus girl in Two Tickets to Broadway (1951), a musical starring Janet Leigh, with whom Miles would go on to co-star nine years later in the classic Alfred Hitchcock film, Psycho. Attracting the attention of several producers, the actress was put under contract at various studios where she posed for cheesecake and publicity photographs, as was standard procedure for most up-and-coming Hollywood starlets of the era.
Under contract to Warner Bros., Miles was cast in films such as The Charge At Feather River in 3-D, but lost out on doing a big 3-D hit starring Vincent Price, House of Wax, for which she was considered. She once recalled: "I was dropped by the best studios in town." In Tarzan's Hidden Jungle, filmed in 1954 and released in 1955, she played Tarzan's love interest (not named "Jane" in this film). In 1954, she married her Tarzan co-star, Gordon Scott; they divorced in 1959.
Film director John Ford chose Miles to star as Jeffrey Hunter's love interest in The Searchers (1956), starring John Wayne. A year later, Miles began a five-year personal contract with Alfred Hitchcock and was widely publicized as the director's potential successor to Grace Kelly. Miles' new mentor directed her in the role of the emotionally troubled new bride of Ralph Meeker in the pilot episode of his popular television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (titled "Revenge"). Suitably impressed, Hitchcock directed her on the big screen alongside Henry Fonda (who played a New York musician falsely accused of a crime) in The Wrong Man (1956). New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther singled out Miles' performance, writing that she "does convey a poignantly pitiful sense of fear of the appalling situation into which they have been cast". Hitchcock undertook a reinvention of his new star through grooming and wardrobe supervised by Oscar-winning costume designer Edith Head.
Production delays and her pregnancy (a son, Michael, with then-husband Gordon Scott) cost Miles the dual leading role opposite James Stewart in Vertigo (1958), the project Hitchcock designed as a showcase for his new star. The director replaced Miles with Kim Novak, with whom he clashed. When asked several years later about Miles by director François Truffaut for the book Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitchcock explained their professional falling-out this way: "She became pregnant just before the part that was going to turn her into a star". "After that, I lost interest. I couldn't get the rhythm going with her again." Miles reflected, "Over the span of years, he's had one type of woman in his films, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and so on, before that, it was Madeleine Carroll. I'm not their type and never have been. I tried to please him but I couldn't. They are all sexy women, but mine is an entirely different approach".
In 1959, Miles and Van Johnson worked together again in Web of Evidence, which was adapted from A. J. Cronin's novel, Beyond This Place. A year later, Hitchcock cast her as Lila Crane in Psycho (1960), in which her character discovers the truth about Norman Bates and his mother. Miles, while making the thriller, called it "the weirdy of all times".
In 1957, Miles guest starred on NBC's The Steve Allen Show. On January 9, 1958, Miles she appeared on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.
On January 7, 1960, Miles appeared as Jenny Breckenridge in the "Miss Jenny" episode of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater Western television series on CBS, opposite Ben Cooper in the role of Darryl Thompson and Jack Elam as Little Jimmy Lehigh. The following month she starred in the classic Twilight Zone episode "Mirror Image".
She co-starred with Susan Hayward and John Gavin in a glossy remake of the melodrama about adultery, Back Street (1961), directed by David Miller and based on the much-filmed 1931 novel by Fannie Hurst.
Then came another role in a John Ford western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), with Stewart and John Wayne (who compete for her attention). Miles won a Bronze Wrangler citation from Western Heritage Awards, which she shared with director Ford, writer James Warner Bellah and her fellow actors, including Lee Marvin and Edmond O'Brien. She would play opposite Wayne again in Hellfighters (1968). She also appeared in the TV Western The Virginian.
In 1966 she would co-star in the movie Follow Me, Boys! alongside Fred MacMurray.
In 1962 and 1963, she appeared on NBC's medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour, in two episodes entitled "Beauty Playing a Mandolin Underneath a Willow Tree" as Kate Sommers and in "Ann Costigan: A Duel on a Field of White" as the title character. She also appeared in an episode of The Outer Limits ("The Forms of Things Unknown") in 1964.
She did a great deal of television work, including appearances as an amnesiac in an episode of Ironside ("Barbara Who", 1968) and as a homicidal beauty-products mogul in one of the Columbo episodes, before reprising her most famous role of Lila Crane in Psycho II (1983). Throughout the 1980s and thereafter, Miles continued to work in both television and film until her retirement in 1995.
Miles resides in California and refuses any public relations offers, including interviews and public appearances and has maintained a low profile since her retirement.
Miles' first husband was Bob Miles; they were married from 1948–1954 and had two daughters: Debra Miles, born in 1950, and Kelley Miles, born in 1952.
After their divorce, she was married to Gordon Scott from 1954 until 1959, and they had one son, Michael Scott, born in 1957.
After their divorce, she was married to actor Keith Larsen from 1960 until 1971, and they had one son, Erik Larsen, born in Burbank, California on April 30, 1961. Keith remarried after their divorce in 1971, but Vera remains single