Ralph Bellamy was what many would call a “dependable” player: always there (nearly 100 movies), always capable, (almost) always losing the girl. Why Bellamy never became a major movie star is beyond me – especially considering that guys like James Stewart, Fred MacMurray, Dick Powell, Don Ameche, Joseph Cotten, etc. were top leading men of that era.
Perhaps Bellamy was just both too good-looking and too intelligent-looking to keep Ginger Rogers from Fred Astaire (Carefree), Irene Dunne and Rosalind Russell from Cary Grant (The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday, respectively), and Anna Sten from Gary Cooper (The Wedding Night). All four films – in addition to 11 other Ralph Bellamy movies – will be presented on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, Aug. 14, '11, as part of TCM's “Summer Under the Stars” film series.
Unfortunately, there are no TCM premieres, but included are a few lesser-known titles, e.g., Otto Brower's watchable mix of adventure, comedy, and romance, Headline Shooter (1933), with William Gargan and Frances Dee; Harry Beaumont's West of Broadway (1931), starring a fast-fading John Gilbert and Lois Moran; and Alfred E. Green's The Narrow Corner (1933), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Though not a good movie, West of Broadway is well worth checking out as a historical curiosity: John Gilbert delivers a – for lack of a better word – strange performance; watching his newly married millionaire I felt like I was watching the actual, troubled John Gilbert in front of the camera. Also, West of Broadway turned out to be Lois Moran's last appearance in a Hollywood feature. A popular leading lady in the late '20s, Moran was the inspiration for the character of Rosemary in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night.
Vincent J. Donehue's Sunrise in Campobello (1960) suffers from the same Broadway syndrome that plagued many other adaptations of stage hits of that period, e.g., The Bad Seed, Tea and Sympathy, A Hatful of Rain — excessive theatricality. Ralph Bellamy is quite grandiose as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the scene-stealer in this drama is glamorous Greer Garson cast against type as plain jane Eleanor Roosevelt.
Bellamy must have been quite disappointed after being bypassed for that year's Best Actor Oscar, as his performance is the very core of the film and the role had earned him a Tony ten years earlier. Garson, for her part, may have been a little surprised to have been shortlisted, as this was her first Best Actress nod in 15 years.
Bellamy did receive a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for The Awful Truth, one of the funniest screwball comedies of the late '30s; he lost to Joseph Schildkraut in The Life of Emile Zola. Additionally, in 1987 Bellamy was given an Honorary Oscar “for his unique artistry and his distinguished service to the profession of acting.” A founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, Bellamy was later president of Broadway's Actors' Equity for twelve years (1952-1964), standing strong against the far-right opportunists of the McCarthy era.
For the record: The five Best Actor nominees of 1960 were Burt Lancaster, the eventual winner for Elmer Gantry; Trevor Howard for Sons and Lovers; Spencer Tracy for Inherit the Wind; Laurence Olivier for The Entertainer; and Jack Lemmon for The Apartment. The Best Actress winner that year was Elizabeth Taylor for surviving a tracheotomy/pneumonia and, to a lesser extent, for Butterfield 8.
Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:
6:00 AM CAREFREE (1938) A psychiatrist falls in love with the woman he's supposed to be nudging into marriage with someone else. Dir.: Mark Sandrich. Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 83 min.
9:00 AM HEADLINE SHOOTER (1933) A newsreel photographer neglects his love life to get the perfect shot. Dir.: Otto Brower. Cast: William Gargan, Frances Dee, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 61 min.
10:15 AM PICTURE SNATCHER (1933) An ex-con brings his crooked ways to a job as a news photographer. Dir.: Lloyd Bacon. Cast: James Cagney, Ralph Bellamy, Patricia Ellis. Black and white. 77 min.
11:45 AM THE WEDDING NIGHT (1935) A married author falls for the beautiful farm girl whose inspiration has saved him from writer's block. Dir.: King Vidor. Cast: Gary Cooper, Anna Sten, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 83 min.
4:45 PM THE PROFESSIONALS (1966) A corrupt rancher hires four soldiers of fortune to rescue his wife from kidnappers. Dir.: Richard Brooks. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan. Color. 118 min. Letterbox Format.
6:45 PM THE WOLF MAN (1941) A British nobleman undergoes a startling transformation when he's bitten by a gypsy werewolf. Dir.: George Waggner. Cast: Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 70 min.
8:00 PM HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) An unscrupulous editor plots to keep his star reporter-and ex-wife-from re-marrying. Dir.: Howard Hawks. Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 92 min.
9:45 PM THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937) A divorced couple keeps getting mixed up in each other's love lives. Dir.: Leo McCarey. Cast: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 91 min.
11:30 PM SUNRISE AT CAMPOBELLO (1960) After a bout with polio, future president Franklin Roosevelt fights to save his political career. Dir.: Vincent J. Donehue. Cast: Ralph Bellamy, Greer Garson, Zina Bethune, Tim Considine, Alan Bunce. Color. 144 min. Letterbox Format.
2:00 AM THE NARROW CORNER (1933) A man on the run for murder tries to escape fate in the Pacific islands. Dir.: Alfred E. Green. Cast: Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Patricia Ellis, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 69 min.
3:15 AM GIRLS' SCHOOL (1938) A student accused of tattling fights to regain her classmates' trust. Dir.: John Brahm. Cast: Anne Shirley, Nan Grey, Ralph Bellamy. Black and white. 72 min.
4:30 AM WEST OF BROADWAY (1931) A millionaire doesn't remember getting married but can't forget how much he hates his new wife. Dir.: Harry Beaumont. Cast: John Gilbert, El Brendel, Lois Moran. Black and white. 66 min.
Ralph Bellamy movies' schedule via the TCM website.