On Frank Morgan’s Older Brother Ralph

We are nothing if not thorough on Travalanche. But only reasonably thorough. Frank Morgan had ten siblings but we shan’t be doing posts on them all. It’s just that his older brother Ralph (Raphael Kuhner Wuppermann, 1883-1956) was somewhat important in his own right. We probably would have gotten ’round to him even if Frank (best remembered now for playing the title character in The Wizard of Oz) had never existed. Ralph was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild, serving as its first President. He was a successful Broadway star prior to going into the movies, and naturally his prior fame is the entire reason Frank went into show business to begin with.

The Morgans were the well-heeled, well educated children of George Wupperman, distributor of Angostura bitters. Ralph graduated from Columbia with a law degree and practiced for two years before succumbing to the call of the stage. He’d initially been bitten by the bug at school, where’d he participated in theatricals. He performed with stock companies and made his Broadway debut in 1909 in Clyde Fitch’s The Bachelor. Morgan was on Broadway stages pretty much constantly through 1930, most notably in Lightnin’ (1918-21) and the original production of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude (1928-29). After a decade in Hollywood he returned to the New York stage several times in the 1940s and early ’50s.

Prior to to the Hollywood move he also appeared in a handful of silent films between stage productions, starting with The Seeds of Jealousy (1914) and ending with The Man Who Found Himself (1925), which starred Thomas Meighan and also featured his brother Frank. Ralph Morgan played supporting roles in over a hundred talking features including the screen version of Strange Interlude (1932), Rasputin an the Empress (1932), The Power and the Glory (1933), Will Rogers’ Doctor Bull (1933), Stand Up and Cheer! (1934), Little Men (1934), Magnificent Obsession (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), General Spanky (1936) with Spanky MacFarland of the Little Rascals, The Life of Emil Zola (1937), and Wells Fargo (1937). In the 1940s he performed a lot on radio and most of his motion picture work was in B movies like The Mad Doctor (1941), Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941), Gang Busters (1942), Hitler’s Madman (1943), Weird Woman (1944), The Monster and the Ape (1945), and The Creeper (1948). These were years in which his younger brother was starring in prestige pictures.

Frank passed away in 1949. Ralph’s last movie was the Monogram western Gold Fever (1952). That year he also appeared on Broadway one last time in Three Wishes for Jamie, which also featured old timer Bert Wheeler. His last professional credit was on the TV show Your Favorite Story (1953).