Ralph Ernest Dumke (July 25, 1899 – January 4, 1964) was an American comedian and actor who had an active career from the early 1920s up until his death in 1964. He rose to fame as part of a comedy duo with Ed East, performing nationally in vaudeville on the B. F. Keith Circuit from 1922-1932 and then headlining the nationally popular daily afternoon radio program "Sisters of the Skillet" on NBC Radio. In the 1940s Dumke worked as a character actor in Broadway musicals, and from 1949-1964 he worked in American film and television.
Dumke was born in South Bend, Indiana. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame, where he was a varsity football player. He began his career in Chicago as a vaudeville entertainer in the early 1920s as part of a comedy duo with Ed East entitled "The Mirthquakers". The two men became stars on the B. F. Keith Circuit on which they toured for ten years. A capstone of "The Mirthquakers" performance run was being one of the leading acts for the opening of Radio City Music Hall on December 27, 1932.
The Dumke and East comedy duo were also pioneers in early radio broadcasts in New York City and Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They became national radio stars on old-time radio, hosting the daily 15 minute afternoon comedy and music program "Sisters of the Skillet" for NBC Radio from 1930-1937 in which they performed comedy sketches, jokes, and humorous musical numbers. : 305 Dumke later portrayed the role of Captain Walt, the host of Hook 'n' Ladder Follies on NBC (1943-1944).
In 1942 Dumke made his Broadway debut as Hercules in the original production of Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers's By Jupiter. He returned to Broadway numerous times during the 1940s, appearing as General Bardini in The Merry Widow (1943-1944), Calchas in Helen Goes to Troy (1944), the Duke of Maddeloni in The Maid as Mistress (1944), Joe Horn in Sadie Thompson (1944-1945), Dapper Dan Pepper in Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston (1945), and Cap'n Andy in Show Boat (1946-1947). He also appeared in several productions with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, including The Chocolate Soldier and Rosalinda.
Dumke appeared as a character actor in over forty feature films between 1949 and 1961, including crime pictures, films noir, dramas, mysteries, Westerns, horror, science fiction, musicals, and comedies. Among these were All the King's Men (1949), The Breaking Point (1950), The War of the Worlds (1953), Daddy Long Legs (1955), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
On American television, Dumke starred as Captain Billy Bryant in the CBS-TV variety show Captain Billy's Showboat (1948) and was one of the hosts of ABC-TV's Movieland Quiz (1948).: 719-720 He also made guest appearances on several programs during the 1950s and 1960s, including The Bob Cummings Show, I Love Lucy, December Bride, Waterfront, My Little Margie, Perry Mason, and The Andy Griffith Show.
Dumke was married to Greta Leona Edner from 1925 until his death. They had two children.
On January 4, 1964, Dumke died of "a sudden heart seizure" at his home at age 64.
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