Monday, June 17, 2013


I have to admit that even though I try to see every classic movie I have the opportunity or time to watch that there are a few stars that slip through my viewings. One of those stars is birthday boy Ralph Bellamy. I have seen him as the man trying to steal Ginger Rogers from Fred Astaire in Carefree (1938), and of course I have seen him as the millionaire tycoon in Eddie Murphy's Trading Places (1983), but that is about it. After researching this article, I think I am due to watch more of his films.

He was born Ralph Rexford Bellamy in Chicago, Illinois on June 17, 1904, 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 City, 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.

Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and Bellamy in a publicity shot for His Girl Friday (1940). He 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 fifties. Highly regarded within the industry, he was a founder of the Screen Actors Guild and served as President of Actors' Equity from 1952-1964.

He 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, a Dick Powell Four Star Television production.

On film, he also starred in the Western The Professionals (1966) as an oil tycoon 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. 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 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. He continued working regularly and gave his final performance in Pretty Woman (1990).

Married four times, Bellamy died on November 29, 1991, at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, from a lung ailment. He was 87 years old....


  1. Poor Ralph...he was always the guy who lost his girl to the lead actor! He "lost" some great girls too...Irene Dunne, Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russell...

  2. Happy Birthday, Ralph Bellamy! He was often the chump in the movies, but he did it with class, and he almost made you feel a bit sorry that the leading lady didn't choose him instead.