January 23, 1900
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||February 18, 1977 (aged 77)|
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Graves had already been cast in 46 films, half of them produced by Mack Sennett, before he wrote, directed, and starred in Swell Hogan in 1926. That film was produced by Howard Hughes, whose father had once supported the young actor in the early stages of his career by placing him on the payroll of the Hughes Tool Company between screen assignments, even though Graves never actually worked there.
Graves and the younger Hughes met on the Wilshire Country Club golf course, and over lunch the actor pitched a film about a Bowery bum who adopts a baby. The plot intrigued Hughes, who had a strong interest in Hollywood, and he invested $40,000 in the project. During filming he sat on the sidelines in order to familiarize himself with the technical aspects of production. The budget eventually doubled, and after seeing the completed film numerous times, Hughes hired Dorothy Arzner to help him re-edit it, but there was little they could do to salvage it.
When asked his opinion of it, Hughes' uncle, novelist and film director Rupert Hughes, said, "It's nothing. No plot. No build up. No character development. The acting stinks. Destroy the film. If anybody sees it, you and that homo Graves will be the laughing stock of Hollywood." Hughes took his uncle's advice and ordered the screening room projectionist to burn the sole copy. Graves later claimed he and Hughes had engaged in a sexual relationship while collaborating on Swell Hogan.
Despite this temporary setback, Graves directed four more films in 1927 and contributed the story or wrote the screenplay for 12 additional films, but most of his career was spent acting. While working for Sennett, Graves met director Frank Capra, who later cast him in several films, which include the 1929 release Flight, based on a story by Graves, as well as a series of adventure films with fellow actor Jack Holt.
- Men Who Have Made Love to Me (1918) as The Callow Youth
- Tinsel (1918) as Bobby Woodward
- The Sporting Life (1918) as John, Earl of Woodstock
- The Yellow Dog (1918) as Tom Blakely
- The Scarlet Shadow (1919) as Van Presby
- What Am I Bid? (1919) as Ralph McGibbon
- The White Heather (1919) as Alec McClintock
- The Home Town Girl (1919) as John Stanley
- I'll Get Him Yet (1919) as Harold Packard
- Nobody Home (1919) as Malcolm Dale
- Her Kingdom of Dreams (1919) as Billy Dayne
- Scarlet Days (1919) as John Randolph aka Sir Whiteheart
- The Greatest Question (1919) as John Hilton Jr.
- Mary Ellen Comes to Town (1920) as Bob Fairacres
- Little Miss Rebellion (1920) as Sgt. Richard Ellis
- Polly With a Past (1920) as Rex Van Zile
- Dream Street (1921) as James 'Spike' McFadden
- Kindred of the Dust (1922) as Donald McKaye
- Come on Over (1922) as Shane O'Mealia
- The Long Chance (1922) as Bob McGraw
- The Jilt (1922) as Sandy Sanderson
- Mind Over Motor (1923) as Jasper McCutcheon
- The Ghost Patrol (1923) as Terry Rafferty
- Just Like a Woman (1923) as James Landon
- Prodigal Daughters (1923) as Roger Corbin
- The Extra Girl (1923) as Dave Giddings
- Off His Trolley (1924) as The Boy
- Daughters of Today (1924) as Ralph Adams
- Yolanda (1924) as Maximillian of Styria
- Womanpower (1926) as Johnny White Bromley
- Blarney (1926) as James Carabine
- The Country Beyond (1926) as Roger McKay
- Swell Hogan (1926)
- The Kid Sister (1927, Director)
- Rich Men's Sons (1927) as Arnold Treadway
- Alias the Deacon (1927) as Jim Adams
- The Swell-Head (1927) as Lefty Malone
- A Reno Divorce (1927, Director) as David
- That Certain Thing (1928) as Andy B. Charles, Jr.
- The Cheer Leader (1928) as Jimmy Grant
- Bachelor's Paradise (1928) as Joe Wallace
- Submarine (1928) as Bob Mason
- Bitter Sweets (1928) as Ralph Horton
- The Sideshow (1928) as Gentleman Ted Rogers
- The Flying Fleet (1929) as Steve Randall
- The Fatal Warning (1929) as Russell Thorne
- The Eternal Woman (1929) as Hartley Forbes
- Glad Rag Doll (1929) as John Fairchild
- The College Coquette (1929, Writer)
- Flight (1929) as 'Lefty' Phelps
- Song of Love (1929) as Tom Gibson
- Ladies of Leisure (1930) as Jerry Strong
- Vengeance (1930, Writer)
- Sisters (1930, Writer)
- Hell's Island (1930) as Griff
- Dirigible (1931) as 'Frisky' Pierce
- Hell Divers (1931, writer)
- Salvation Nell (1931) as Jim Platt
- A Dangerous Affair (1931) as Wally Cook
- West of Broadway (1931, Writer)
- When a Feller Needs a Friend (1932) as Mr. Tom Randall
- Huddle (1932) as Coach Malcolm Gale
- Scandal for Sale (1932, Writer)
- War Correspondent (1932) as Franklyn Bennett
- Ticket to a Crime (1934) as Clay Holt
- Born to Be Bad (1934, Writer)
- Speed Limited (1935) as Jerry Paley
- The Black Coin (1936, Serial) as Walter Prescott
- Outlaws of the Orient (1937, writer)
- The Flying Irishman (1939) as First Man Grounding Doug in New York (uncredited)
- Street of Missing Men (1939) as Mike Reardon
- Three Texas Steers (1939) as George Ward
- Eternally Yours (1939) as Mr. Morrisey
- Double Exposure (1944, Writer)
- The Spirit of West Point (1947) as Burt (uncredited)
- Amazon Quest (1949) as Anna's Attorney
- Batman and Robin (1949, Serial) as Winslow Harrison [Chs. 7–8]
- Alimony (1949) as George W. Griswold / Curtis P. Carter
- Joe Palooka in the Counterpunch (1949) as Dr. Colman
- "Ralph Graves". Silent Hollywood. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- Porter, Darwin (2005). Howard Hughes: Hell's Angel. Blood Moon Productions, Ltd. pp. 224–225. ISBN 0-9748118-1-5.
- Hack, Richard (2002). Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters. Phoenix Books, Inc. pp. 60–61. ISBN 1-59777-549-5.
- "Flashes". Los Angeles Times. November 15, 1919. p. II9.
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