Born in the waning months of the Civil War, Jessie Ralph made her stage debut with a Providence, RI, stock company in 1880. Her extensive Broadway experience ranged from Shakespearean classics to George M. Cohan musicals. She had appeared in films as early as 1915, but did not become a permanent Hollywood resident until 1933. For the most part, Ralph was cast as kindly grandmas, sagacious maids, and stern but loving governesses; her finest screen performances included Peggoty in 1934's David Copperfield and a benign sorceress in 1940's The Blue Bird. Her gift for exuding imperious abrasiveness was amply demonstrated in such films as After the Thin Man (1936), and W.C. Fields' The Bank Dick (1940), appearing in the latter as Fields' gorgon mother-in-law, Mrs. Hermisillio Brunch. Jessie Ralph retired in 1941 after enduring a leg amputation.