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He was born Ralph Forbes Taylor in London, England, the son of E.J. Taylor and actress Mary Forbes and brother of actress Brenda Forbes. He met with an accident on the football field at Denstone College, Staffordshire that resulted in a scar on his cheek. Unusually, he started off in films, then went on stage. In the United States he appeared onstage opposite actress Ruth Chatterton, who became his first wife.
He married three times, first to actress Ruth Chatterton (who was 11 years his senior) from 1924 to 1932. He later married actress Heather Angel in 1934; that marriage also ended in divorce. His last wife was actress Dora Sayers (married 1946). Forbes dated Lucille Ball shortly before he married Angel. Ball turned down his marriage proposal.
His last years were given to working on the Broadway stage. One of his last stage appearances was in a revival of Shaw's You Never Can Tell in 1948. He died at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx in New York City in 1951, aged 46.
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