Born Ralph Rathgeber on November 21, 1920, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, actor Ralph Meeker grew up in northwestern Michigan and Chicago. After graduating from high school, he was interested in musical theater and enrolled at Northwestern University to major in music. Upon graduation, he made his way to New York, but with the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Navy. His stay in the service was short-lived, as an injury ended his naval career. By 1945 he had made his way to Broadway, where he was discovered by actor Jose Ferrer. His first Broadway play was Ferrer's production of Strange Fruit, which opened in late 1945. He did well on Broadway, being cast in the original productions of Mister Roberts and Picnic, and for a few weeks he replaced Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Meeker was discovered for films based on his performance in Mister Roberts, but interestingly, his first two films were European productions. His first film was the post-war military drama Four in a Jeep (1951; with Viveca Lindfors), shot in Switzerland, and his second was the drama Teresa (1951; with Pier Angeli and John Ericson). Afterward, Meeker signed a contract with MGM, where he acted in such films as Shadow in the Sky (1952; with Nancy Davis and James Whitmore) and the noir thriller Code Two (1953; with Elaine Stewart and Sally Forrest). When his contract with MGM ended in 1953, Meeker left Hollywood and returned to Broadway in a starring role in the original production of Picnic.

Ralph MeekerSalome Jens and Ralph Meeker

LEFT: Ralph Meeker portrayed Hal Carter in the original Broadway production of Picnic in 1953. RIGHT: With his first wife, actress Salome Jens, at their wedding in July 1964

Meeker's best film is another noir thriller, Kiss Me Deadly (1955; with Albert Dekker and Cloris Leachman). In the late 1950s, Meeker's film career began to dissipate, like that of many other actors with the death of the studio system. Moving to television in the 1960s and 1970s kept him in front of the cameras. He starred in his own syndicated series Not for Hire from 1959 to 1960, and he also appeared as a guest star in such popular television series as Ironside, The F.B.I., and The Green Hornet, to name just a few. He took on occasional film roles in such diverse films as The Dirty Dozen (1967; with Lee Marvin and Clint Walker), the low-budget thriller The Devil's 8 (1969; with Fabian and Leslie Parrish), and The Food of the Gods (1976; with Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, and Ida Lupino). Between film and television roles, Meeker continued taking roles in Broadway productions through the mid 1960s.

the films of ralph meeker

Glory Alley (1952)

Ralph Meeker and Leslie Caron

From the MGM musical drama Glory Alley with Leslie Caron

Shadow in the Sky (1952)

Ralph Meeker and James Whitmore

Meeker stars as shellshocked Marine veteran Burt in the MGM drama Shadow in the Sky. Also pictured is James Whitmore

Somebody Loves Me (1952)

Betty Hutton and Ralph Meeker

With Betty Hutton in the musical Somebody Loves Me

Big House, U.S.A. (1955)

Charles Bronson, William Talman, Ralph Meeker, and Lon Chaney Jr.

From the United Artists crime drama Big House, U.S.A. with Charles Bronson, William Talman, and Lon Chaney Jr.

Desert Sands (1955)

Ralph MeekerRalph Meeker and Marla English

LEFT: Meeker as Captain David Malcolm in the United Artists adventure Desert Sands. RIGHT: With Marla English

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Ralph MeekerRalph Meeker and Jack Elam

From Meeker's best film, the excellent noir thriller Kiss Me Deadly. LEFT: Meeker as Mike Hammer. RIGHT: With Jack Elam

A Woman's Devotion (1956)

Ralph Meeker and Janice Rule

With Janice Rule in the murder mystery A Woman's Devotion

The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)

Jane Russell and Ralph Meeker

Meeker kidnaps Jane Russell in the United Artists comedy The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown

Ada (1961)

Ralph Meeker, Dean Martin, and Susan Hayward

With Dean Martin and Susan Hayward in the MGM drama Ada

Something Wild (1961)

Ralph Meeker and Carroll BakerRalph Meeker and Carroll Baker

A well-meaning but misguided Ralph Meeker tries to help Carroll Baker, as rape victim Mary Ann Robinson, in the potboiler Something Wild

The Outer Limits (1963-1965 TV Series)

Ralph Meeker and Janet Blair

With Janet Blair in a December 1963 episode of The Outer Limits titled Tourist Attraction

Wall of Noise (1963)

Ralph Meeker, Ty Hardin and Suzanne Pleshette

With Ty Hardin and Suzanne Pleshette in the racy drama Wall of Noise

Gentle Giant (1967)

Ralph Meeker, Rance Howard, Huntz Hall, and Clint Howard

From the Paramount family film Gentle Giant with Rance Howard, Huntz Hall, and Clint Howard

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)

Ralph Meeker

As Bugs Moran in the 20th Century Fox crime drama The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The Detective (1968)

Frank Sinatra and Ralph Meeker

From the 20th Century Fox crime drama The Detective with Frank Sinatra

The Devil's 8 (1969)

Ralph Meeker and Leslie Parrish

With Leslie Parrish in the American International Pictures crime drama The Devil's 8

The Anderson Tapes (1971)

Ralph Meeker

As Police Captain 'Iron Balls' Delaney from the Columbia crime thriller The Anderson Tapes

The Foods of the Gods (1976)

Ralph Meeker

Meeker was one of the stars of Bert I. Gordon's The Food of the Gods, released by American International Pictures

Winter Kills (1979)

Ralph Meeker

From the thriller Winter Kills, one of Meeker's last acting performances

later years

Meeker dated actress Salome Jens for several years (both were cast in the 1964 Broadway production of After The Fall), and the couple finally married in July 1964. The courtship lasted longer than the marriage, however, and the couple amicably divorced in December 1966. Later, Meeker married actress/producer Colleen Meeker, but much like his first marriage, he and his second wife parted ways as friends.

In 1980, Ralph Meeker suffered a severe stroke, which called an immediate halt to his career. With several more strokes, his health deteriorated so badly that he spent the last year of his life in the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, where he succumbed to a fatal heart attack on August 5, 1988, at the age of 67. He was survived by his third wife, Millicent.

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Without Warning (1980) with Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Cameron Mitchell, Neville Brand, Sue Ane Langdon, Larry Storch, David Caruso, and Darby Hinton
Winter Kills (1979) with Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Sterling Hayden, Dorothy Malone, Tomas Milian, and Richard Boone
The Alpha Incident (1978) with Stafford Morgan and George 'Buck' Flower
Hi-Riders (1978) with Mel Ferrer, Stephen McNally, Darby Hinton, and Neville Brand
My Boys Are Good Boys (1978) with Ida Lupino, Lloyd Nolan, and David Doyle
The Food of the Gods (1976) with Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Ida Lupino, and Chuck Courtney
Johnny Firecloud (1975) with David Canary, Frank DeKova, Sacheen Littlefeather, and George 'Buck' Flower
Brannigan (1975) with John Wayne, Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer, John Vernon, and Lesley-Anne Down
The Dead Don't Die (1975) with George Hamilton, Linda Cristal, Joan Blondell, Ray Milland, and Yvette Vickers
The Girl on the Late, Late Show (1974) with Don Murray, Bert Convy, Yvonne De Carlo, Gloria Grahame, Van Johnson, Cameron Mitchell, Mary Ann Mobley, John Ireland, and Walter Pidgeon
Night Games (1974) with Barry Newman, Susan Howard, Albert Salmi, Stefanie Powers, Anjanette Comer, and Dennis Patrick
Cry Panic (1974) with John Forsythe, Earl Holliman, Anne Francis, and Wesley Lau
Love Comes Quietly (1973) with Barbara Hershey
You'll Never See Me Again (1973) with David Hartman, Jane Wyatt, Joseph Campanella, Bo Svenson, and Ben Gazzara
Birds of Prey (1973) with David Janssen
The Mind Snatchers (1972) with Christopher Walken and Ronny Cox
The Night Stalker (1972) with Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Charles McGraw, Elisha Cook Jr., and Larry Linville
The Reluctant Heroes (1971) with Ken Berry, Jim Hutton, Trini Lopez, Cameron Mitchell, and Warren Oates
The Anderson Tapes (1971) with Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, Alan King, Christopher Walken, and Garrett Morris
I Walk the Line (1970) with Gregory Peck, Tuesday Weld, Estelle Parsons, and Charles Durning
The Devil's 8 (1969) with Christopher George, Fabian, Leslie Parrish, Ross Hagen, Cliff Osmond, and Robert DoQui
Lost Flight (1969) with Lloyd Bridges, Anne Francis, Albert Popwell, and Andrew Prine
The Detective (1968) with Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Jacqueline Bisset, Jack Klugman, Lloyd Bochner, William Windom, Al Freeman Jr., and Robert Duvall
Gentle Giant (1967) with Dennis Weaver, Vera Miles, Clint Howard, and Huntz Hall
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) with Jason Robards, George Segal, Clint Ritchie, Joseph Campanella, David Canary, Bruce Dern, and Harold J. Stone
The Dirty Dozen (1967) with Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini Lopez, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and Clint Walker
Wall of Noise (1963) with Ty Hardin, Simon Oakland, Suzanne Pleshette, and Dorothy Provine
Something Wild (1961) with Carroll Baker, Mildred Dunnock, Jean Stapleton, and Doris Roberts
Ada (1961) with Susan Hayward, Dean Martin, Martin Balsam, and Ford Rainey
Dillinger (1960) with Philip Abbott
Paths of Glory (1957) with Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, and Richard Anderson
The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957) with Jane Russell, Keenan Wynn, Fred Clark, Una Merkel, and Adolphe Menjou
Run of the Arrow (1957) with Rod Steiger, Brian Keith, Jay C. Flippen, and Charles Bronson
A Woman's Devotion (1956) with Janice Rule and Paul Henreid
Desert Sands (1956) with Marla English, J. Carrol Naish, John Smith, Ron Randell, John Carradine, Keith Larsen, and Peter Mamakos
Kiss Me Deadly (1955) with Albert Dekker , Wesley Addy, Maxine Cooper, Cloris Leachman, Gaby Rodgers, Jack Elam, and Leigh Snowden
Big House, U.S.A. (1955) with Broderick Crawford, Reed Hadley, William Talman, Lon Chaney Jr., Charles Bronson, and Felicia Farr
Code Two (1953) with Elaine Stewart, Sally Forrest, Keenan Wynn, Robert Horton, James Craig, Jeff Richards, and William Campbell
Jeopardy (1953) with Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan
The Naked Spur (1953) with James Stewart, Janet Leigh, and Robert Ryan
Somebody Loves Me (1952) with Betty Hutton, Adele Jergens, and Billie Bird
Shadow in the Sky (1952) with Nancy Davis, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, and John Lupton
Glory Alley (1952) with Leslie Caron, Gilbert Roland, and Louis Armstrong
Teresa (1951) with Pier Angeli, John Ericson, Peggy Ann Garner, and Rod Steiger
Four in a Jeep (1951) with Viveca Lindfors

Not for Hire, 1959-1960 syndicated TV series. Meeker portrayed US Army Sergeant Steve Dekker

CHiPs, episode Counterfeit, originally aired October 20, 1979
Kaz, episode They've Taken Our Daughter, originally aired March 25, 1979
The Eddie Capra Mysteries, episode Murder Plays a Dead Hand, originally aired December 22, 1978
Police Woman, episode Screams, originally aired December 6, 1977
Harry O, episode Exercise in Fatality, originally aired December 4, 1975
Police Story, episode Face for a Shadow, originally aired November 7, 1975
Barbary Coast, episode The Ballad of Redwing Jail, originally aired September 29, 1975
Movin' On, episode Ransom, originally aired February 20, 1975
The Rookies, episode The Shield, originally aired February 10, 1975
Movin' On, episode Ann's Party, originally aired January 23, 1975
Cannon, episode Perfect Fit for a Frame, originally aired January 22, 1975
The Evil Touch, episode Never Fool with a Gypsy Icon, originally aired March 31, 1974
Toma, episode Friends of Danny Beecher, originally aired March 29, 1974
The Evil Touch, episode Dream by Dreaming, originally aired March 24, 1974
Police Story, episode Chief, originally aired March 19, 1974
Ironside, episode Riddle at 24,000, originally aired March 14, 1974
Faraday and Company, episode A Matter of Magic, originally aired January 9, 1974
Room 222, episode I Didn't Raise My Girl to Be a Soldier, originally aired January 4, 1974
Police Story, episode Slow Boy, originally aired March 20, 1973
Police Surgeon, episode The Text According to Gracie, originally aired October 9, 1972
Norman Corwin Presents, episode Hold That Line, originally aired January 1, 1972
The F.B.I., episode Recurring Nightmare, originally aired September 19, 1971
The Virginian, episode Experiment at New Life, originally aired November 18, 1970
Hallmark Hall of Fame, episode A Punt, a Pass, and a Prayer, originally aired November 20, 1968
The Name of the Game, episode The Protector, originally aired November 15, 1968
Ironside, episode Price Tag: Death, originally aired November 7, 1968
The High Chaparral, episode The Price of Revenge, originally aired November 19, 1967
Dundee and the Culhan, episode The 1000 Feet Deep Brief, originally aired October 25, 1967
Custer, episode Glory Rider, originally aired September 20, 1967
Tarzan, episode The Ultimatum, originally aired March 31, 1967
The Green Hornet, episode Seek, Stalk, and Destroy, originally aired January 6, 1967
The F.B.I., episode The Raid, originally aired January 1, 1967
The F.B.I., episode The Plunderers, originally aired April 24, 1966
The Long, Hot Summer, episode A Time to Die, originally aired February 16, 1966
Seaway, episode Hot Line, originally aired January 1, 1965
Kraft Suspense Theatre, episode Threepersons, originally aired December 10, 1964
The Doctors and the Nurses, episode The Respect of One for Another, originally aired October 13, 1964
Suspense, episode I, Lloyd Benson, originally aired May 27, 1964
Channing, episode Swing for the Moon, originally aired January 15, 1964
The Defenders, episode The Last Day, originally aired January 11, 1964
The Outer Limits, episode Tourist Attraction, originally aired December 23, 1963
Breaking Point, episode The Bull Roarer, originally aired October 21, 1963
Route 66, episode Shadows of an Afternoon, originally aired May 17, 1963
The United States Steel Hour, episode Night Run to the West, originally aired February 20, 1963
Empire, episode Walk Like a King, originally aired October 30, 1962
Going My Way, episode The Crooked Angel, originally aired October 10, 1962
The United States Steel Hour, episode Murder on the Agenda, originally aired August 22, 1962
Route 66, episode Two on the House, originally aired April 20, 1962
Tallahassee 7000, episode Man from Tallahassee, originally aired May 30, 1961
Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, episode Texas John Slaughter: Frank Clell's in Town, originally aired April 23, 1961
The Loretta Young Show, episode Enter at Your Own Risk, originally aired January 8, 1961
The Texan, episode Blood Money, originally aired April 20, 1959
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode I'll Take Care of You, originally aired March 15, 1959
Schlitz Playhouse, episode The Man Who Had No Friends, originally aired February 13, 1959
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode Total Loss, originally aired February 1, 1959
Wanted: Dead or Alive, episode Reunion for a Revenge, originally aired January 24, 1959
The Loretta Young Show, episode The Break-Off, originally aired January 4, 1959
The Loretta Young Show, episode Strange Money, originally aired December 14, 1958
The Loretta Young Show, episode I Want to Get Married, originally aired November 16, 1958
Pursuit, episode Free Ride, originally aired October 29, 1958
Kraft Theatre, episode Fifty Grand, originally aired April 30, 1958
Wagon Train, episode A Man Called Horse, originally aired March 26, 1958
Schlitz Playhouse, episode Bluebeard's Seventh Wife, originally aired March 21, 1958
Climax!, episode So Deadly My Love, originally aired March 13, 1958
Climax!, episode A Matter of Life and Death, originally aired November 21, 1957
The 20th Century-Fox Hour, episode Deep Water, originally aired May 1, 1957
Playhouse 90, episode Four Women in Black, originally aired April 25, 1957
Zane Grey Theater, episode A Time to Live, originally aired April 5, 1957
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode Malice Domestic, originally aired February 10, 1957
Studio 57, episode The Blue Wall, originally aired December 2, 1956
Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, episode Between Jobs, originally aired October 30, 1956
Lux Video Theatre, episode The Guilty, originally aired October 11, 1956
Goodyear Playhouse, episode The Film Maker, originally aired July 1, 1956
The Alcoa Hour, episode The Magic Horn, originally aired June 10, 1956
Star Stage, episode Of Missing Persons, originally aired January 13, 1956
Studio One in Hollywood, episode Dino, originally aired January 2, 1956
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode Revenge, originally aired October 2, 1955
Studio One in Hollywood, episode Dominique, originally aired March 28, 1955
The Revlon Mirror Theater, episode The Happy Tingle, originally aired August 11, 1953
The Revlon Mirror Theater, episode Someone Like You, originally aired July 7, 1953
Lux Video Theatre, episode Amo, Amas, Amat, originally aired December 1, 1952
Goodyear Playhouse, episode The Darkness Below, originally aired November 9, 1952
Kraft Theatre, episode The Sound of Hunting, originally aired January 31, 1951

ralph meeker film now showing

Watch Ralph Meeker in the early 1960s Cold War educational film Town of the Times

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This page premiered March 16, 2011.