Ralph Bellamy (June 17, 1904 – November 29, 1991) was an American actor whose career spanned 62 years on stage, screen and television. During his career, he played leading roles as well as supporting roles, garnering acclaim and awards.
Bellamy was born Ralph Rexford Bellamy in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Lilla Louise (née Smith), a native of Canada, and Charles Rexford Bellamy. He ran away from home when he was fifteen and managed to get into a road show. He toured with road shows before finally landing in New York. He began acting on stage there and by 1927 owned his own theatre company. In 1931, he made his film debut and worked constantly throughout the decade first as a lead then as a capable supporting actor. Bellamy was cast in the lead role in the film Straight from the Shoulder (1936) and also in the film It Can't Last Forever (1937) with Edward J. Pawley.
Film and television career
and Bellamy in a publicity shot for His Girl Friday
Bellamy received 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 the sophisticated Grant 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.
In 1949, Bellamy starred in the drama Man Against Crime on the DuMont Television Network; the program lasted until 1956, when the lead role was taken by Frank Lovejoy, who thereafter starred in NBC's Meet McGraw detective series. Bellamy was a regular panelist on the CBS television game show To Tell the Truth during its initial run. He also starred in the television detective series Follow That Man (aka "Man Against Crime"). 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 appeared too on the NBC anthology series, The Barbara Stanwyck Show. In 1950 Bellamy became a member of The Lambs, an actors club located in New York.
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.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
inSunrise at Campobello
Bellamy appeared on Broadway in one of his most famous roles, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello. He later starred in the 1960 film version. In the summer of 1961, Bellamy hosted nine original episodes of a CBS Western anthology series called Frontier Justice, aDick Powell Four Star Television production.
Highly regarded within the industry, he was a founder of the Screen Actors Guild and served as as a four-term President of Actors' Equity from 1952–1964. On film, Bellamy also starred in the Western The Professionals (1966) as an oil tycoon opposite adventurers Burt Lancaster andLee Marvin, and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) as an evil physician, before turning to television during the 1970s.
An Emmy Award nomination for the mini-series The Winds of War (1983) – in which Bellamy reprised his Sunrise at Campobello role of Franklin Roosevelt – brought him back into the spotlight. This was quickly followed by his role as Randolph Duke, a conniving billionaire commodities trader in Trading Places (1983), alongside Don Ameche. The 1988 Eddie Murphy film, Coming to America, included a brief cameo by Bellamy and Don Ameche, reprising their roles as the Duke brothers.
In 1984, Bellamy was presented with a Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild, and in 1987 received an Honorary Academy Award "for his unique artistry and his distinguished service to the profession of acting". In 1988, he again portrayed Franklin Roosevelt in the sequel to The Winds of War, War and Remembrance.
Among his later roles was a memorable appearance as a once-brilliant but increasingly forgetful lawyer sadly skewered by the Jimmy Smits character on an episode of L.A. Law. Bellamy continued working regularly and gave his final performance in Pretty Woman (1990).
Throughout the 1930s and '40s, Bellamy was regularly seen socially with a select circle of friends known affectionately as the Irish Mafia. 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 was married four times, first to Alice Delbridge (1927–1930), then Catherine Willard (1931–1945). He was married to organist Ethel Smith (1945–1947). On the occasion of his second marriage, 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." and, finally, to Alice Murphy (1949–1991 his death).
A Democrat, Bellamy was in attendance at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Bellamy opened the popular Palm Springs Racquet Club in Palm Springs, California with fellow actor Charles Farrell in 1934.
Bellamy died on November 29, 1991, 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.