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Ralph Rexford Bellamy (June 17, 1904 – November 29, 1991) was an American actor with a career that spanned sixty-two years.

Early life

Bellamy was born in Chicago, Illinoismarker, the son of Lilla Louise Smith, a native of Canadamarker, and her husband Charles Rexford Bellamy. He began his acting career on stage, 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 than to establish himself as a capable supporting actor. Bellamy was cast in the lead role in the 1936 film Straight from the Shoulder.

Film and television career

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.

Throughout the 1930s and '40's, 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.

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 . 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.

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.

in Sunrise at Campobello (1960)

He appeared on Broadwaymarker 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, 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 in Trading Places (1983), alongside Don Ameche.

In the 1988 Eddie Murphy film, Coming to America, Bellamy and co-star Don Ameche reprised a one-scene cameo of their roles as the Duke brothers. After Randolph and Mortimer Duke lost their enormous fortune at the end of Trading Places, in Coming to America, the brothers are shown homeless and living on the streets. Prince Akeem (Murphy) gives them a paper bag filled with money, which they gratefully accept, exclaiming, "We're back!"

Final years

In 1984, he 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".

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).

Personal life

Bellamy was married 4 times, first to Alice Delbridge (1927-1930), then Catherine Willard (1931-1945). He was married to organist Ethel Smith from 1945 to 1947, and, finally, to Alice Murphy (1949-1991).

He opened the popular Palm Springs Racquet Club in Palm Springs, Californiamarker with fellow actor Charles Farrell.

Bellamy died on November 29, 1991, at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Californiamarker, from a lung ailment. He was 87 years old. Bellamy was buried in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemeterymarker in Los Angeles.

Awards and honors

Bellamy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 6542 Hollywood Boulevard.

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-son duo of lawyers. This was used in the present-day to explain the relationship between Shatner's Denny Crane character and his father in the show.



  • The Secret Six (1931)
  • The Magnificent Lie (1931)
  • West of Broadway (1931)
  • Surrender (1931)
  • Forbidden (1932)
  • Disorderly Conduct (1932)
  • Young America (1932)
  • The Woman in Room 13 (1932)
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1932)
  • Almost Married (1932)
  • Wild Girl (1932)
  • Air Mail (1932)
  • Second Hand Wife (1933)
  • Parole Girl (1933)
  • Below the Sea (1933)
  • Destination Unknown (1933)
  • Picture Snatcher (1933)
  • The Narrow Corner (1933)
  • Flying Devils (1933)
  • Blind Adventure (1933)
  • Headline Shooter (1933)
  • Ace of Aces (1933)
  • Ever in My Heart (1933)
  • Before Midnight (1933)
  • Spitfire (1934)
  • Once to Every Woman (1934)
  • This Man Is Mine (1934)
  • Crime of Helen Stanley (1934)
  • One Is Guilty (1934)
  • Girl in Danger (1934)
  • Woman in the Dark (1934)
  • Helldorado (1935)
  • Rendezvous at Midnight (1935)
  • Gigolette (1935)
  • The Wedding Night (1935)
  • Eight Bells (1935)
  • Air Hawks (1935)
  • The Healer (1935)
  • Navy Wife (1935)
  • Hands Across the Table (1935)
  • Dangerous Intrigue (1936)
  • Roaming Lady (1936)
  • The Final Hour (1936)
  • Straight from the Shoulder (1936)
  • The Man Who Lived Twice (1936)
  • Wild Brian Kent (1936)
  • Counterfeit Lady (1936)
  • Let's Get Married (1937)
  • It Can't Last Forever (1937)
  • The Awful Truth (1937)
  • The Crime of Dr. Hallet (1938)

Short Subjects

  • Screen Snapshots Series 15, No. 7 (1936)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 12 (1937)
  • Breakdowns of 1938 (1938)


  1. rootsweb entry
  2. Richard Lamparski, Whatever Became Of ....? , Third Series, Crown Publishers, Inc., NYC, 1970

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