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June 17, 1907
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||December 7, 1935
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Alma mater||Smith College|
|Spouse(s)||Ross Alexander (1934–1935; her death)|
|Parent(s)||Dr. and Mrs. William Freile|
Life and career
Freel was born Aleta Freile in Jersey City, New Jersey, the daughter of a physician, Dr. William Freile and his wife, the former Minnie Uchtman. She was educated at the Bergen School for Girls in Jersey City. She graduated from Smith College in 1928.
She played leading roles in several eastern stock companies, including the University Players of Old Silver Beach and the Palm Beach Players.:30 Among Freel's stage performances was a role in the play Double Door, which was performed at the Ritz Theater in New York City in the fall of 1933. Her Broadway credits include Louder, Please (1931) and Three Times the Hour (1931).
She was married to Hollywood actor Ross Alexander following a backstage romance. Alexander was originally from Brooklyn, and began his career in New York. He was cast in many Broadway productions, one of which was The Ladder.
Freel became despondent regarding her career. She took a .22 rifle from a gun rack in her home and shot herself through the temple on December 6, 1935. Freel died early the following morning at Emergency Hospital in Los Angeles, California. She was 28 years of age. Her husband confided to police that he and Miss Freel had a "small spat" during the evening. She was disappointed about some screen tests on which she had high hopes, but which were unsuccessful. According to the Henry Fonda autobiography "My Life", Freel took her life after confirming that her husband (Ross Alexander) had been having an affair with another woman and not the result of her career. (page 103)
On December 14, 1935, in Sacramento, California, the state of California opened an investigation into the "strange death" of Aleta Freel. The inquiry was requested by Governor of New Jersey Harold G. Hoffman. Friends and relatives of the actress asked Hoffman and Governor Merriam of California for a more exhaustive probe. Freel's father, William, was quoted as saying at the time of his daughter's death, that he was not altogether sure she took her life.
- "Body Sent East". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. Utah, Ogden. December 15, 1935. p. 22.
- Allen, John R. Jr. "Ross Alexander". Classic Images. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- Barrangon, Eloise (November 1931). "A Star Cluster in the Professional Firmament". The Smith Alumnae Quarterly. XXIII (1): 26.
- "("Aleta Freel" search results)". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- FONDA, MY LIFE as told to Howard Teichmann
- Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. p. 38. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
- Appleton, Wisconsin Post-Crescent, "Anne Nagel's Death Revives Old Mystery", Monday, August 29, 1966, Page A11.
- Charleston, West Virginia Gazette, "Probe of Girl's Death Is Ordered", Sunday, December 15, 1935, Page 19.
- New York Times, "Theatrical Notes", September 21, 1933, Page 24.
- New York Times, "Aleta Freel Ends Life In Hollywood", December 8, 1935, Page 44.