Born in Dayton, Ohio, on April 22, 1909, actor Ralph Byrd was initially a singer. He began his film career in bit parts in the mid 1930s with the release of Universal's crime drama Chinatown Squad (1935; with Lyle Talbot), and for the next couple of years toiled mostly in poverty row films produced by Mascot, Grand National, and Columbia. Along the way, Byrd met and married B-movie starlet Virginia Carroll in 1936; the two costarred in the low-budget western A Tenderfoot Goes West (1936; with Jack La Rue). Byrd's big break came in Victory's 15-chapter serial Blake of Scotland Yard (1937; with Herbert Rawlinson), before Republic cast him in the 15-chapter serial thriller Dick Tracy (1937; with Smiley Burnette and Lee Van Atta).

Among other serials, including S.O.S. Coast Guard (1937; with Bela Lugosi), Byrd made a name for himself as the title character in the serials Dick Tracy (1937), Dick Tracy Returns (1938), Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939) and Dick Tracy Versus Crime Inc. (1941). Between serials, he also acted in several films, both as a star in such productions as PRC's Misbehaving Husbands (1940; with Harry Langdon and Betty Blythe) and in uncredited roles in bigger productions, such as Four Jills in a Jeep (1944; with Kay Francis and Carole Landis). Nevertheless, his career was going well at the onset of U.S. involvement in World War II. Byrd joined the Marines in 1943, and during this time RKO picked up the film rights to the Dick Tracy character. Morgan Conway assumed the role of Dick Tracy in Dick Tracy (1945; with Morgan Conway, Anne Jeffreys, and Mike Mazurki) and Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946; with Morgan Conway, Anne Jeffreys, and Dick Wessel). After Byrd returned from the war, he was in a serious auto accident that sidelined his career. His career momentum slid during his tenure in the Marines and as a result of his accident. When he was well enough to return to work, RKO cast him in the feature Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947; with Lyle Latell).

the films of ralph byrd

Down in 'Arkansaw' (1938)

Ralph Byrd

From Republic's comedy musical Down in 'Arkansaw'

Dick Tracy Returns (1938)

Ralph Byrd

From Republic's second Dick Tracy serial Dick Tracy Returns

Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939)

Jennifer Jones and Ralph Byrd

With Jennifer Jones (billed as Phyllis Isley) in Republic's third Dick Tracy serial Dick Tracy's G-Men

Misbehaving Husbands (1940)

Esther Muir, Ralph Byrd, and Luana Walters

From the PRC romantic comedy Misbehaving Husbands with Esther Muir and Luana Walters

Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (1941)

Ralph ByrdRalph ByrdRalph Byrd

From Republic's final Dick Tracy serial Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.. This serial was re-released around the time of Byrd's death in 1952 as Dick Tracy vs. the Phantom Empire

They Came to Blow Up America (1943)

Ralph Byrd and George Sanders

With George Sanders in the 20th Century Fox war drama They Came to Blow Up America

Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947)

Lyle Latell, Kay Christopher, and Ralph ByrdRalph ByrdRalph Byrd, Lyle Latell, and Wade Crosby

LEFT: With Lyle Latell and Kay Christopher in RKO's Dick Tracy's Dilemma. CENTER: Byrd's penultimate performance as hero Dick Tracy. RIGHT: With Lyle Latell and Wade Crosby

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947)

Ralph Byrd and June ClayworthBoris Karloff, Ralph Byrd, and Skelton Knaggs

From Byrd's final film outing as Dick Tracy in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome. LEFT: With June Clayworth. RIGHT: With Boris Karloff and Skelton Knaggs

Jungle Goddess (1948)

George Reeves

From Lippert's low-budget adventure Jungle Goddess with George Reeves and Wanda McKay and Ralph Byrd. This film aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during season two

Stage Struck (1948)

Audrey Long and Ralph Byrd

With Audrey Long in the Monogram crime drama Stage Struck

Thunder in the Pines (1948)

Ralph Byrd, Denise Darcel, and George Reeves

With Denise Darcel and George Reeves in the Lippert action flick Thunder in the Pines

later years

After a few poverty row programmers, such as Jungle Goddess (1948; with George Reeves and Wanda McKay) and Radar Secret Service (1950; with John Howard, Adele Jergens, and Tom Neal), Byrd's career was on shaky ground and, at this point, he was more than 40 years old. While it seemed he had put the Dick Tracy character behind him in with the release of RKO's Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947; with Lyle Latell) and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947; with Boris Karloff and Lyle Latell), by 1950 it appeared the character would be his career salvation. On September 11, 1950, the Dick Tracy TV series began airing on ABC, which was then a cash-strapped, struggling network often in last place. After a year, ABC canceled the Dick Tracy series in 1951 due to costs. However, the series made the shift to syndication for the following season. Before many episodes were in the can, however, Ralph Byrd died of a sudden heart attack on August 18, 1952, at the age of 43. He was survived by his wife, actress Virginia Carroll (1913-2009), and a daughter, Carol.

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Please note: This listing does not include uncredited performances
The Redhead and the Cowboy (1951) with Glenn Ford, Edmond O'Brien, Rhonda Fleming, Alan Reed, and Morris Ankrum
Radar Secret Service (1950) with John Howard, Adele Jergens, Tom Neal, Myrna Dell, Sid Melton, and Kenne Duncan
Thunder in the Pines (1948) with George Reeves, Greg McClure, Michael Whalen, Denise Darcel, and Lyle Talbot
Jungle Goddess (1948) with George Reeves, Wanda McKay, Armida, and Smoki Whitfield
Canon City (1948) with Scott Brady, Jeff Corey, Whit Bissell, and DeForest Kelley
Stage Struck (1948) with Kane Richmond, Conrad Nagel, Pamela Blake, Nana Bryant, Evelyn Brent, and Wanda McKay
The Argyle Secrets (1948) with William Gargan, Marjorie Lord, John Banner, Barbara Billingsley, and Peter Brocco
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947) with Boris Karloff, Anne Gwynne, and Lyle Latell
The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West (1947) with Ramsay Ames and Lyle Talbot
Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947) with Lyle Latell
Stallion Road (1947) with Ronald Reagan, Alexis Smith, and Zachary Scott
Guadalcanal Diary (1943) with Preston Foster, Lloyd Nolan, William Bendix, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, Richard Jaeckel, Lionel Stander, Reed Hadley, and John Archer
They Came to Blow Up America (1943) with George Sanders, Anna Sten, Ward Bond, and Sig Ruman
Three Cadets (1943) with Craig Stevens and Kent Smith
Time to Kill (1942) with Lloyd Nolan, Heather Angel, Doris Merrick, Sheila Bromley, and Morris Ankrum
Manila Calling (1942) with Lloyd Nolan, Carole Landis, Cornel Wilde, James Gleason, Ted North, and Elisha Cook Jr.
Careful, Soft Shoulder (1942) with Virginia Bruce, James Ellison, and Sheila Ryan
Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942) with George Montgomery, Maureen O'Hara, Laird Cregar, Shepperd Strudwick, Ward Bond, and Douglass Dumbrille
Moontide (1942) with Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains, and Jerome Cowan
Jungle Book (1942) with Sabu
Broadway Big Shot (1942) with Virginia Vale and Herbert Rawlinson
Duke of the Navy (1942) with Veda Ann Borg
Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (1941) with Michael Owen and Jan Wiley
A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941) with Tyrone Powe, Betty Grable, and John Sutton
Desperate Cargo (1941) with Carol Hughes
Here Comes the Cavalry (1941) with Richard Travis
Power Dive (1941) with Richard Arlen and Jean Parker
Wings of Steel (1941) with Herbert Anderson and Tom Neal
The Penalty (1941) with Edward Arnold, Lionel Barrymore, Marsha Hunt, Robert Sterling, Veda Ann Borg, Gloria DeHaven, and Phil Silvers
Misbehaving Husbands (1940) with Harry Langdon, Betty Blythe, and Gig Young
The Son of Monte Cristo (1940) with Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, Montagu Love, and Clayton Moore
Dark Streets of Cairo (1940) with Eddie Quillan, George Zucco, Katherine DeMille, and Rod La Rocque
North West Mounted Police (1940) with Gary Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Paulette Goddard, Preston Foster, Robert Preston, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Montagu Love
Drums of the Desert (1940) with Lorna Gray and Mantan Moreland
The Howards of Virginia (1940) with Cary Grant, Martha Scott, Cedric Hardwicke, Richard Carlson, Paul Kelly, and Anne Revere
The Golden Fleecing (1940) with Lew Ayres, Lloyd Nolan, Virginia Grey, Nat Pendleton, and Leon Errol
Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939) with Jennifer Jones
Mickey the Kid (1939) with Bruce Cabot and Zasu Pitts
S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939) with Kay Sutton
Fighting Thoroughbreds (1939) with Mary Carlisle, George 'Gabby' Hayes, and Kenne Duncan
Down in 'Arkansaw' (1938) with Leon Weaver, June Weaver, and Frank Weaver
Dick Tracy Returns (1938) with Lynne Roberts and Charles Middleton
Army Girl (1938) with Madge Evans, Preston Foster, James Gleason, H.B. Warner, Neil Hamilton, Heather Angel, Billy Gilbert, and Barbara Pepper
Born to Be Wild (1938) with Ward Bond
Hard to Hold (1937) with Don Terry, Julie Bishop, Rita Hayworth, and Paul Fix
The Trigger Trio (1937) with Ray 'Crash' Corrigan and Max Terhune
S.O.S. Coast Guard (1937) with Bela Lugosi and Herbert Rawlinson
Criminals of the Air (1937) with Rita Hayworth
Motor Madness (1937) with Joseph Allen
Dick Tracy (1937) with Kay Hughes, Smiley Burnette, Lee Van Atta, and Francis X. Bushman
Blake of Scotland Yard (1937) with Herbert Rawlinson and Dickie Jones
Find the Witness (1937) with Charles Quigley
A Tenderfoot Goes West (1936) with Jack La Rue, Virginia Carroll, and Glenn Strange
Two-Fisted Gentleman (1936) with James Dunn
Border Caballero (1936) with Tim McCoy
Hell-Ship Morgan (1936) with George Bancroft, Ann Sothern, and Victor Jory
The Adventures of Rex and Rinty (1935) with Kane Richmond, Mischa Auer, and Smiley Burnette

Dick Tracy, 1950-1951 ABC TV series. Byrd portrayed the title character

Craig Kennedy, Criminologist, episode The Golden Dagger, originally aired 1952
Fireside Theatre, episode Lucy and the Stranger, originally aired October 10, 1950
Fireside Theatre, episode Man Without a Country, originally aired May 30, 1950
Fireside Theatre, episode Operation Mona Lisa, originally aired May 2, 1950

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Watch Ralph Byrd's 1947 film Dick Tracy's Dilemma
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