Ralph Bellamy (1904-1991)

Ralph Bellamy
Ralph Bellamy

Ralph Bellamy was a well-known face on the cinema screen but few could give him a name. He made a career of being the 'other man' in a support role to the leading man. Over a long career he left a rich legacy of over 100 movie appearances plus many roles on television and stage. In 1937 he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 'The Awful Truth' with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, and, in his other best known movie role, in 1940 he again played the part of a naive boyfriend victim of the worldly-wise Cary Grant character, in 'His Girl Friday'.

It was because Ralph Bellamy was such a fresh-faced, open-hearted likable fellow with a measured but charming style of dialogue delivery that he was usually cast as the nice-but-dim guy who doesn't get the girl or the above-suspicion witness who turns out to be the killer, as in 'Lady on a Train' in 1945. As an actor, as a human being, and as a member of the Hollywood community, Bellamy was much respected, and he was a founder of the Screen Actors Guild and served as President of Actors' Equity for 12 years from 1952, helping set up the first pension fund for actors.

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Ralph Bellamy was born on June 17, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois and after a period as a stage actor with his own traveling troupe he hit Broadway in 1929. He made his film debut as a snarling gangster in 'The Secret Six' in 1931. He then appeared in a host of largely forgettable movies during the 1930's, most notably in 'The Wedding Night' in 1935, supporting Gary Cooper and Anna Sten. He initially played starring roles, as in 1932's 'Air Mail', 'Below the Sea' the following year and 'Spitfire' in 1934, but it was in 'The Awful Truth' in 1937 that Bellamy established a style that was to be copied by others and repeated by himself in a number of films over a period of years. Guided by the gifted Leo McCarey (who won an Oscar for his direction), Bellamy personified the simple-minded nice guy who was dependable and dignified - and who didn't have a hope of winning the girl. Bellamy continued to play variations on this role for several years in movies such as 'Fools For Scandal' and 'Carefree' in 1938, 'His Girl Friday' in 1940 and 'Lady in a Jam' in 1942.

He gravitated to more civilized roles such as the pipe-smoking, earnest psychiatrist in 'Blind Alley' in 1939 and 'regular Joe' sleuth Ellery Queen in a mystery series that began with Ellery Queen, Master Detective' in 1940.

Underused at Universal studios in the 1940's, where he met the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster (both played by Lon Chaney Jr.) he temporarily abandoned movies for TV and Broadway, starting in 1949 when he starred in the drama 'Man Against Crime' on the DuMont Television Network and he continued in the show until 1956. Bellamy also appeared regularly on the panel of the CBS TV game show 'To Tell the Truth' and he starred in the television detective series 'Follow That Man'. From 1963-1964 Bellamy co-starred with Jack Ging in the TV medical drama 'The Eleventh Hour'.

In the 1960's Bellamy returned to the cinema by recreating his great stage success as Franklin D. Roosevelt in 'Sunrise at Campobello' in 1960. Thereafter, he was seen to advantage as a humorless cattle baron in 'The Professionals' in 1966, a twinkling Satanist obstetrician in 'Rosemary's Baby' in 1968, and a tyrannical tycoon in 'Trading Places'.

Bellamy married 4 times. His wives were: Alice Delbridge (1927-1930), Catherine Willard (1931 -1945), Ethel Smith (1945-1947), and Alice Murphy (1949-1991).

Off screen, Bellamy was ever a champion of actors' rights and as one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild he was much respected within the industry. His peers acknowledged his efforts with an honorary Academy Award in 1987 for his services to the acting profession.

Well into his 80's he continued to make cameo appearances in films such as 'Disorderlies' in 1987 and 'The Good Mother' in 1988. He made his final movie appearance in 1990 in 'Pretty Woman'.

Ralph Bellamy died on November 29, 1991 in Santa Monica, California, from a lung ailment. He was 87 years old.

Ralph Bellamy Academy Awards

No Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Supporting Actor ... The Awful Truth 1938

Ralph Bellamy Filmography

The Secret Six
The Magnificent Lie
West of Broadway
Disorderly Conduct
Young America
The Woman in Room 13
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Almost Married
Wild Girl
Air Mail
Second Hand Wife
Parole Girl
Below the Sea
Destination Unknown
Picture Snatcher
The Narrow Corner
Flying Devils
Blind Adventure
Headline Shooter
Ace of Aces
Ever in My Heart
Before Midnight
Once to Every Woman
This Man Is Mine
Crime of Helen Stanley
One Is Guilty
Girl in Danger
Woman in the Dark
Rendezvous at Midnight
The Wedding Night
Eight Bells
Air Hawks
The Healer
Navy Wife
Hands Across the Table
Dangerous Intrigue
Roaming Lady
The Final Hour
Straight from the Shoulder
The Man Who Lived Twice
Wild Brian Kent
Counterfeit Lady
Let's Get Married
It Can't Last Forever
The Awful Truth
The Crime of Doctor Hallet
Fools for Scandal
Boy Meets Girl
Girls' School
Trade Winds
Smashing the Spy Ring
Let Us Live
Blind Alley
Coast Guard
His Girl Friday
Flight Angels
Brother Orchid
Queen of the Mob
Dance, Girl, Dance
Public Deb No. 1
Meet the Wildcat
Ellery Queen, Master Detective
Footsteps in the Dark
Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery
Affectionately Yours
Dive Bomber
Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime
Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring
The Wolf Man
The Ghost of Frankenstein
Lady in a Jam
Men of Texas
The Great Impersonation
Guest in the House
Delightfully Dangerous
Lady on a Train
The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell