02 July, 2008

Ralph Bellamy

Ralph Rexford Bellamy was an American actor with a career spanning sixty-two years.

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 to establish himself as a capable supporting actor. Bellamy received the lead role in the 1936 film Straight from the Shoulder.

He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Awful Truth opposite Irene Dunne and Cary Grant and played a similar part in His Girl Friday. 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.

On Broadway he appeared in one of his most famous roles, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello. He later starred in the 1960 film version. On film, he also starred in Rosemary's Baby as a devilish physician, before turning to television during the 1970s. An Emmy Award nomination for the mini-series The Winds of War - in which Bellamy reprised his Sunrise at Campobello role of Franklin Roosevelt - brought him back into the limelight. This was quickly followed by his role as Randolph Duke, a conniving billionaire alongside Don Ameche in Trading Places.

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 homeless and living on the streets. Prince Akeem gives them a paper bag filled with money, which they gratefully accept and exclaim "We're back!"

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".

He continued working regularly and gave his final performance in Pretty Woman (1990).
He died on November 29, 1991 as a result of a lung ailment at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and was buried in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

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