Actor Ralph Bellamy

Ralph Rexford Bellamy (June 17, 1904 – November 29, 1991) was an American actor whose career spanned 62 years on stage, film, and television. During his career, he played leading roles as well as supporting roles, garnering acclaim and awards, including a Tony Award for Best Dramatic Actor in Sunrise at Campobello and Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for The Awful Truth (1937).

Early life

Bellamy was born in Chicago. He was the son of Lilla Louise (née Smith), a native of Canada, and Charles Rexford Bellamy. He ran away from home when he was 15 and managed to gain employment in a road show. He toured with road shows before finally landing in New York City. He began acting on stage there and by 1927 owned his own theater company. In 1931, he made his film debut and worked constantly throughout the decade both as a lead and as a capable supporting actor. He co-starred in five films with Fay Wray.

Film and television career

His film career began with The Secret Six (1931) starring Wallace Beery and featuring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. By the end of 1933, he had already appeared in 22 movies, including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1932) and the second lead in the action film Picture Snatcher with James Cagney (1933). He played in seven more films in 1934 alone, including Woman in the Dark, based on a Dashiell Hammett story, in which Bellamy played the lead, second-billed under Fay Wray. Bellamy kept up the pace through the decade, receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, and played a similar part, that of a naive boyfriend competing with Grant’s sophisticated character, in His Girl Friday (1940). He portrayed detective Ellery Queen in a few films during the 1940s, but as his film career did not progress, he returned to the stage, where he continued to perform throughout the 1950s. Bellamy appeared in other movies during this time, including Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) with Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball, and the horror classic The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Evelyn Ankers. He also appeared in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) with Chaney and Bela Lugosi.

In 1949, Bellamy starred in the television noir private eye series Man Against Crime (also known as Follow That Man) on the DuMont Television Network; initially telecast live in its earliest seasons, the program lasted until 1956 and was simulcast for a season on Dumont and NBC, and ran on CBS during a different year. The lead role was taken by Frank Lovejoy in 1956, who subsequently starred in NBC’s Meet McGraw detective series.

Bellamy appeared on television in numerous roles over the following years. He was a regular panelist on the CBS television game show To Tell the Truth during its initial run. Bellamy starred as Willard Mitchell, along with Patricia Breslin and Paul Fix, in the 1961 episode “The Haven” of CBS’s anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. About this same time, he also appeared on the NBC anthology series, The Barbara Stanwyck Show. In December 1961, he portrayed the part of Judge Quince in the episode “Judgement at Hondo Seco” on CBS’s Rawhide.

During the 1963–1964 television season, Bellamy co-starred with Jack Ging in the NBC medical drama The Eleventh Hour, in the role of a psychiatrist in private practice. Wendell Corey had appeared in the first season of the series.

Bellamy appeared on Broadway as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello, winning a Tony Award for the role in 1957. He reprised the role in the 1960 film version.

In the summer of 1961, Bellamy hosted nine original episodes of a CBS Western anthology series called Frontier Justice, a Dick Powell Four Star Television production. In 1950, Bellamy became a member of The Lambs, an actors club located in New York.

Bellamy appeared in the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days (“The Vintage Years”, 1962) as Daniel Quint, a minister. In the story line, a young woman whom Quint befriends on a stagecoach ride, Lorna Erickson (Merry Anders), sets him up to be robbed by her paramour, Johnny Meadows (William Bryant).

Highly regarded within the industry, Bellamy served as a four-term President of Actors’ Equity from 1952 to 1964. On film, Bellamy also starred in the Western The Professionals (1966) as an oil tycoon married to Claudia Cardinale opposite adventurers Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin, and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) as an evil physician, before turning to television during the 1970s. Among many roles in numerous shows, sometimes as a series regular, Bellamy portrayed Adlai Stevenson in the TV-movie The Missiles of October (1974), a treatment of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was a member of the cast of the short-lived CBS espionage drama Hunter in 1977.

An Emmy Award nomination for the mini-series The Winds of War (1983) – in which Bellamy reprised his Sunrise at Campobello role of Franklin D. Roosevelt – brought him back into the spotlight. This was quickly followed by his role as Randolph Duke, a conniving millionaire commodities trader in Trading Places (1983) alongside Don Ameche. The Eddie Murphy film, Coming to America (1988), included a brief cameo by Bellamy and Don Ameche, reprising their roles as the Duke brothers. Around this time, he again portrayed Franklin Roosevelt in the sequel to The Winds of War, War and Remembrance (also 1988).

Among his later roles was an appearance as a once-brilliant but increasingly senile lawyer sadly skewered by Jimmy Smits’ character on an episode of L.A. Law. Bellamy continued working regularly and gave his final performance in Pretty Woman (1990).

Personal life

Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Bellamy was regularly seen socially with a select circle of friends known affectionately as the “Irish Mafia,” although they preferred the less sensational “Boy’s Club.” This group consisted of a group of Hollywood A-listers who were mainly of Irish descent (despite Bellamy having no Irish family connections himself). Others included James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Spencer Tracy, Lynne Overman, Frank Morgan and Frank McHugh. Bellamy opened the Palm Springs Racquet Club in Palm Springs, California, with fellow actor Charles Farrell in 1934.

Bellamy was married four times: first to Alice Delbridge (1927–1930), then to Catherine Willard (1931–1945). On the occasion of his marriage to organist Ethel Smith (1945–1947), Time magazine reported, “”Ralph Bellamy, 41, veteran stage (Tomorrow the World) and screen (Guest in the House) actor; and Ethel Smith, 32, thin, Tico-Tico-famed cinema electric organist (Bathing Beauty); he for the third time, she for the second; in Harrison, N.Y.” She was in fact 42 years old at the time. Bellamy’s fourth wife was Alice Murphy (1949–1991; his death).

A Democrat, Bellamy was in attendance at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

On November 29, 1991, Bellamy died from a lung ailment at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. He was 87 years old. Bellamy was buried in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Awards and honors

In 1984, Bellamy was presented with a Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild, and in 1987, he received an Honorary Academy Award “for his unique artistry and his distinguished service to the profession of acting”. Bellamy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6542 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1992, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.

In a 2007 episode of Boston Legal, footage of a 1957 episode of Studio One was used. The episode featured Bellamy and William Shatner as a father-and-son lawyer duo. This was used in the present day to explain the relationship between Shatner’s Denny Crane character and his father in the show.


Year Title Role Notes
1931 The Secret Six Johnny Franks
1931 The Magnificent Lie Bill Childers
1931 West of Broadway Mac – The Ranch Foreman
1931 Surrender Captain Ebbing
1932 Forbidden Holland
1932 Disorderly Conduct Captain Tom Manning
1932 Young America Judge Blake
1932 The Woman in Room 13 John Bruce
1932 Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Dr. Ladd
1932 Almost Married Deene Maxwell
1932 Wild Girl Jack Marbury
1932 Air Mail Mike Miller
1933 Second Hand Wife Carter Cavendish
1933 Parole Girl Joseph B. ‘Joe’ Smith
1933 Below the Sea McCreary
1933 Destination Unknown Stowaway
1933 Picture Snatcher McLean
1933 The Narrow Corner Eric Whittenson
1933 Flying Devils ‘Speed’ Hardy
1933 Headline Shooter Hal Caldwell
1933 Blind Adventure Jim Steele
1933 Ace of Aces Captain / Major Blake
1933 Ever in My Heart Jeff
1933 Before Midnight Inspector Steve Trent
1934 Spitfire George Fleetwood
1934 Once to Every Woman Dr. Barclay
1934 This Man Is Mine Jim Dunlap
1934 The Crime of Helen Stanley Inspector Steve Trent
1934 One Is Guilty Inspector Steve Trent
1934 Girl in Danger Inspector Steve Trent
1934 Woman in the Dark John Bradley
1935 Helldorado J.F. Van Avery
1935 Rendezvous at Midnight Commissioner Robert Edmonds
1935 Gigolette Terry Gallagher
1935 The Wedding Night Fredrik Sobieski
1935 Eight Bells Steve Andrews
1935 Air Hawks Barry Eldon
1935 The Healer Dr. Holden
1935 Navy Wife Dr. Quentin Harden
1935 Hands Across the Table Allen Macklyn
1936 Dangerous Intrigue Tony Halliday
1936 Roaming Lady Daniel S. ‘Dan’ Bailey
1936 The Final Hour John Vickery
1936 Straight from the Shoulder Curt Hayden
1936 The Man Who Lived Twice Dr. James Blake / ‘Slick’ Rawley
1936 Wild Brian Kent Brian Kent
1936 Counterfeit Lady Johnny Pierce
1937 Let’s Get Married Kirk Duncan
1937 It Can’t Last Forever Russ Matthews
1937 The Awful Truth Daniel Leeson
1938 The Crime of Dr. Hallet Dr. Paul Hallet
1938 Fools for Scandal Phillip Chester
1938 Boy Meets Girl C. Elliott Friday
1938 Carefree Stephen Arden
1938 Girls’ School Michael Hendragin
1938 Trade Winds Ben Blodgett
1939 Smashing the Spy Ring John Baxter
1939 Let Us Live Lieutenant Everett
1939 Blind Alley Dr. Shelby
1939 Coast Guard Lt. Raymond ‘Ray’ Dower
1940 His Girl Friday Bruce Baldwin
1940 Flight Angels Bill Graves
1940 Brother Orchid Clarence P. Fletcher
1940 Queen of the Mob FBI Agent Scott Langham
1940 Dance, Girl, Dance Steve Adams
1940 Public Deb No. 1 Bruce Fairchild
1940 Meet the Wildcat Lt. Brad Williams
1940 Ellery Queen, Master Detective Ellery Queen
1941 Footsteps in the Dark Dr. Davis
1941 Ellery Queen’s Penthouse Mystery Ellery Queen
1941 Affectionately Yours Owen Wright
1941 Dive Bomber Lance Rogers
1941 Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime Ellery Queen
1941 Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring Ellery Queen
1941 The Wolf Man Colonel Montford
1942 The Ghost of Frankenstein Erik Ernst
1942 Lady in a Jam Stanley Gardner
1942 Men of Texas Major Lamphere
1942 The Great Impersonation Sir Edward Dominey / Baron Leopold von Ragenstein
1943 Stage Door Canteen Ralph Bellamy
1944 Guest in the House Douglas Proctor
1945 Delightfully Dangerous Arthur Hale
1945 Lady on a Train Jonathan Waring
1955 The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell Congressman Frank R. Reid
1960 Sunrise at Campobello Franklin Delano Roosevelt
1961 Rawhide Judge Quince Episode “Judgment at Hondo Seco”
1961 Checkmate Governor Tom Barker Episode “Portrait of a Running Man”
1966 The F.B.I. Captain Jennerson Episode “The Death Wind”
1966 The Professionals Grant
1968 The F.B.I. Dryden Episode “The Butcher”
1968 Rosemary’s Baby Dr. Abraham Sapirstein
1971 Doctors’ Wives Jake Porter
1972 Cancel My Reservation John Ed
1974 The Missiles of October U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson television film
1975 The Log of the Black Pearl
1976 Once an Eagle Ed Caldwell TV miniseries
1977 Testimony of Two Men Dr. Jim Spaulding TV miniseries
1977 Oh, God! Sam Raven
1978 Wheels Lowell Baxter TV miniseries
1980 The Memory of Eva Ryker William E. Ryker
1980 Condominium Lee Messenger Television film
1983 Trading Places Randolph Duke
1983 Little House on the Prairie Dr. Marvin Haynes
1984 Terror in the Aisles Archival footage)
1984 The Winds of War Franklin D. Roosevelt TV miniseries
1987 Disorderlies Albert Dennison
1987 Amazon Women on the Moon Mr. Gower (segment “Titan Man”)
1988 War and Remembrance Franklin D. Roosevelt TV miniseries
1988 Coming to America Randolph Duke (cameo)
1988 The Good Mother Frank – Grandfather
1990 Pretty Woman James Morse (final film role)

Short subjects

  • Screen Snapshots Series 15, No. 7 (1936)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 12 (1937)
  • Breakdowns of 1938 (1938)
  • What’s My Line?, the “mystery guest” three times (in March 1952, January 1958 and September 1960)
  • Radio appearances

    Year Program Episode/source
    1944 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre Phantom Lady

    External Links

    Actor Ralph Bellamy – Wikipedia

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