Oscar Actors: Bellamy, Ralph–The Awful Truth

Career Summary:

Oscar Nominations: 1

1937: Supporting Actor: The Awful truth

Ralph Bellamy was born June 17, 1904 in Chicago.

He died November 29, 1991, at age 87.

Out of high school, Ralph Bellamy began an intensive apprenticeship for a stage career–acting, directing, producing, designing sets, and handling props with 15 different traveling stock companies during a tenyear stint.

In 1927, he started his own company, the Ralph Bellamy players. Two years later he made an inauspicious Broadway debut in a short-lived play. In Hollywood from the early 1930s, he played leads in dozens of B pictures, including the title role in the Ellery Queen’s detective series.

Concurrently, he became typecast as the other manwho loses the girl to the hero in a string of sophisticated comedies, stating with “The Awful Truth” (1937), for which he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in that film.

After the mid-1940s, he worked primarily on the stage, appearing in such Broadway plays as “Tomorrow the World,” “State of the Union,” “Detective Story,” and his most memorable role, that of FDR in “Sunrise at Campobello” (1958), for which he received the Tony and the New York Drama Critics awards.  In 1960, Bellamy repeated the role in the film version.

Between 1940 and 1960 he served on the State of California Arts Commission. He served four terms as president of Actors’ Equity.

In 1986, Bellamy was awarded an Honorary Oscar for his unique artistry and his distinguished service to the profession of acting.

He wrote the book, “When the Smoke Hit the Fan” (1979).

Oscar Alert

In 1937, Ralph Bellamy competed against Thomas Mitchell in “The Hurricane,” Joseph Schildkraut, who won, in “The Life of Emile Zola,” H.B. Warner in “Lost Horizon,” and Roland Young in “Topper.”

Ralph Rexford Bellamy was an American actor whose career spanned 62 years on stage, film, and television. During his career, he played lead as well as supporting roles, garnering acclaim and awards, including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for The Awful Truth (1937).

He ran away from home when he was 15 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 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.

His film career began with The Secret Six (1931) starring Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable.

By the end of 1933, he had already appeared in 22 movies, most notably Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1932) and the second lead in the actioner Picture Snatcher with James Cagney (1933).

He played in 7 more films in 1934, 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.

He played a similar part, that of a naive boyfriend competing with the sophisticated Grant, 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 was a regular panelist on the CBS television game show To Tell the Truth during its initial run.

Bellamy appeared on Broadway in one of his most famous roles, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello. He reprised that role in the 1960 film version.

In 1961, Bellamy hosted 9 original episodes of a CBS Western anthology series, Frontier Justice, a Dick Powell Four Star TV production.

Bellamy served 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 married to Claudia Cardinale opposite adventurers Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin. He played in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) an evil physician.

Bellamy portrayed Adlai Stevenson in the 1974 TV-movie The Missiles of October, about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He earned an Emmy Award nomination for the mini-series The Winds of War (1983), in which he reprised his Sunrise at Campobello role of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was followed by his role as Randolph Duke, a conniving millionaire 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.

Bellamy gave his final performance in Pretty Woman (1990).

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Bellamy was a member of the “Irish Mafia,” or “Boy’s Club” despite having no Irish family connections himself. Members 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 to Catherine Willard (1931–1945), then to organist Ethel Smith (1945–1947). Bellamy’s fourth wife was Alice Murphy (1949–1991; his death).

A Democrat, Bellamy attended 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.

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