Thursday, July 6, 2017

Born Today July 6: Ralph Morgan


Well honed Hollywood character actor Ralph Morgan was born Raphael Kuhner Wupperman In New York City on this day.  He was the older brother of Frank Morgan.  As noted in my post on his brother, both were children (2 of 11 total) of well off parents, with their father being wildly successful in the importation and sale of Angostura Bitters from Barbados.  Ralph was extremely well schooled for a man who would ultimately chose acting as a career.  He attended Trinity School in New York, then Riverview Military Academy, and finally graduated from Columbia with a degree in law.  He got his first taste of acting at Columbia, appearing in the school's annual Varsity Show.  Bored after just two years of law practice, he suddenly quit and became a traveling actor instead.  It turns out that he possessed serious talent as a thespian.  He soon became a local stock actor, and then quickly there after made his Broadway debut. Although several sources cite his film debut as coming in the year 1915, it seems that he actually appeared in film for the first in 1914 in Seeds Of Jealousy, a dramatic short that he made for Balboa Amusement.  He would go on to appear in several films in the 1910's, but found silent work not to his taste and returned to the stage, working very sporadically in film during the rest of the silent era.  The last silent film that he made an appearance in came in 1925 with the melodrama The Man Who Found Himself made for Famous Players.  He would return to film work in 1930 with the full sound Vitagraph short Excuse The Pardon.  His first full sound feature length film appearance came in 1931 in Honor Among Lovers, starring Claudette Colbert and directed by female director Dorothy Arzner.  He would step up his film work from here on out, and return less and less to the live stage.  His value as a character actor became evident in 1930's and he would go on to play a whole host of fun and delicious villainous types in mysteries and B-horror.  He appeared along side a number of other actors that also specialized in those genres, such as Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr.  One of my personal favorites is his turn in the William Powell/Mary Astor vehicle The Kennel Murder Case (1933) directed by Michael Curtiz.  Morgan made his television debut in 1951 on the series Celanese Theater--which he appeared on twice.  His last filmed appearance also came on broadcast television in the episode The Crime Of Sylvester Bonnard on the comedic drama anthology series Your Favorite Story in 1953.  He then retired and relocated back to his birthplace: New York City.  He died there, on the 11th of June in 1956 at the age of 72.  He is interred, along with his extended family, including his brother Frank, at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  One of Morgan's most important contributions in the world of acting came when he became one of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild, of which he was a charter member and served several times as President.  

Showing his and his brother Frank's memorial (Ralph being on the left).

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