When the Smoke Hit the Fan,
By Ralph Bellamy, Doubleday, 1979
Amiable Soon-to-Lose-the-Girl Rebound Guy
Ralph Bellamy began acting as soon as he was able, running away from his Chicago home to join a repertory company right after high school. On the road he did every kind of theater work, from tent shows to the Chautauqua circuit. By the time he was 23, he ran his own troupe and performed all over the country, eventually landing on Broadway. His work on the stage landed him offers from Hollywood studios and off he went.
Bellamy made his film debut in 1931 as a gangster in a Wallace Beery picture called The Secret Six and worked steadily as a second lead until he got tired of being typecast as the dopey "new man" of the female lead -- even though he was so damned good at it!
He took a break from movies and split his time between Broadway and television during those great early days when "Playhouse" and "Studio" programs brought drama to the small screen. During this period, Bellamy became a founder and board member of the Screen Actor's Guild and served as a much-reelected president of Actor's Equity. In that role, he helped navigate the troubled waters of the McCarthy Era by drafting guidelines for protecting actors against unfounded charges of Communist sympathies. He is also credited for making the tax code more just for actors whose earnings tend to fluctuate wildly between gigs.
The last of his 100+ film roles was as Richard Gere's powerful business associate in Pretty Woman (1990), a silly movie, but a successful one, and not a bad note to end on.
Ralph Bellamy died on November 29, 1991 after a long illness at the age of 87.