He first appeared in film in 1918 and had many small roles, usually as a generic black native, such as in Tarzan films. With the arrival of sound he presence and powerful voice benefited and he went on to memorable roles in Green Pastures (1936), Huckleberry Finn (1939), The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and Sahara (1943). From 1929 he also appeared on stage, making his debut on Broadway.
In 1948 he was arrested for violating the Mann Act and, pleading guilty, he was sentenced to 18 months. He served ten months and the incident had a serious impact on his career.
Ingram studied sculpture at the Yale School of Fine Art, but soon moved into film. First taking acting work from 1913 and then writing, producing and directing. His first work as producer-director was in 1916 on the romantic drama The Great Problem. He worked for Fox, Vitagraph, Edison and then MGM, directing mainly action or supernatural films. He left MGM and America in 1925 to set up his own studio in Nice, Victorine, with Alice Terry his wife since 1921. Unimpressed with sound, he made only one 'talkie', Baroud, filmed in Morocco. The film was a commercial flop; after its disappointing performance Ingram left the film business, returning to Los Angeles to work as a sculptor and writer.
His films were considered by many comtempory directors to be artistic and skillful, with an imaginative and bold visual style.