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Alexis Smith

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Alexis Smith
Smith in 1951
Margaret Alexis Smith

(1921-06-08)June 8, 1921
DiedJune 9, 1993(1993-06-09) (aged 72)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma materLos Angeles City College
  • Actress
  • pin-up girl
  • singer
Years active1940–1993
(m. 1944)
AwardsTony Award for Best Actress in a Musical

Margaret Alexis Smith (June 8, 1921 – June 9, 1993) was a Canadian-born American actress, pin-up girl and singer. She appeared in several major Hollywood films in the 1940s and had a notable career on Broadway in the 1970s, winning a Tony Award in 1972 for the Stephen Sondheim-James Goldman musical Follies.

Early life

Alexis Smith in 1943

Smith was born in Penticton, British Columbia, the only child of Gladys Mabel Smith (née Fitz-Simmons; a Canadian) and Alexander Smith (a Scot). Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was about a year old. Her parents both became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1939, through which she derived her United States citizenship.[1] She grew up in Los Angeles, attending Hollywood High School along with other future talents, including actress Nanette Fabray. Smith made her professional debut performing ballet at the Hollywood Bowl.[2] She was discovered in 1940 at Los Angeles City College, acting in a school production, by a Warner Bros. talent scout.[2]

Warner Bros


Early roles


After being discovered by a talent scout while attending college, Smith was signed to a contract by Warner Bros.[3] Her early film roles were uncredited bit parts in films like Lady with Red Hair (1940), She Couldn't Say No (1940), Flight from Destiny (1941), The Great Mr. Nobody (1941), Here Comes Happiness (1941), Affectionately Yours (1941), Singapore Woman (1941), Passage from Hong Kong (1941) and Three Sons o' Guns (1941). Her first credited role was in the feature film Dive Bomber (1941), playing the female lead opposite Errol Flynn. It was a "decorative" part but the film was very successful.[4] Warners decided to build her up as a star.[5] She had a support role in The Smiling Ghost (1941) and appeared with her future husband Craig Stevens in Steel Against the Sky (1941), the first time she was top billed.



Smith co starred opposite Errol Flynn in Gentleman Jim (1942), one of the most popular movies of the year. Her lead appearance in The Constant Nymph (1943) was well-received and led to bigger parts.[6]

After a cameo dancing in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Smith appeared opposite Fredric March in The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), and starred alongside Ann Sheridan in The Doughgirls (1944). She had another cameo in Hollywood Canteen (1944) then co starred with Jack Benny in The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945).

Smith co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in Conflict (1945) and Robert Alda in the George Gershwin biopic Rhapsody In Blue (1945). She liked her part in the latter because "while a heavy of sorts I get to do the unexpected."[4]

She was reunited with Flynn in San Antonio (1945) in which she sang a special version of the popular ballad "Some Sunday Morning"; the movie was a huge hit.[7]

Alexis Smith pin-up girl, Yank, the Army Weekly 1943
1946 photo

Smith appeared with Sheridan again in One More Tomorrow (1946) then Cary Grant in a sanitized, fictionalized version of the life of Cole and Linda Porter in Night and Day (1946); the latter was another box office success.

Smith appeared alongside Eleanor Parker and Paul Henreid in Of Human Bondage (1946), then did a second film with Bogart, The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947); Hopper described the latter as "a typical Alexis Smith role".[4] She later said of her Warners years "more often than not I played the other woman."[8]

Smith made Stallion Road (1948) with Ronald Reagan and The Woman in White (1948) with Parker. She was top billed in The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948) which was announced as an attempt to change her image instead of being just "a mirror to reflect others' emotions".[9]

She co starred with Dane Clark in Whiplash (1948), was Joel McCrea's leading lady in South of St. Louis (1949) then worked with Zachary Scott in One Last Fling (1949). MGM borrowed her for a Clark Gable film Any Number Can Play (1950) then she made one last movie with Flynn, Montana (1950).[9]

In October 1949 Smith was granted a release from her contract with Warner Bros after refusing being loaned out to Universal for a role in Shoplifter (1950) (she was replaced by Andrea King).[10] She had been at the studio for nine years, having signed a four-year deal in 1946 that had the option of going to 1953.[11]

After Warners


Smith went to Universal to appear in Wyoming Mail (1950), a Western with Stephen McNally, and Undercover Girl (1950) a film noir. She played a shy aristocrat who is coached out of her staid shell by Bing Crosby to rival Jane Wyman in Paramount's Here Comes the Groom (1951), her favorite role.[12][13] At Universal she made Cave of Outlaws (1951) with MacDonald Carey then back at Paramount was in The Turning Point (1952) with William Holden.[14]

She received excellent reviews for playing Private Lives on stage with Victor Jory.[15]

1953 film Split Second

Smith was in Split Second (1953) at RKO with McNally then went to England to star in The Sleeping Tiger (1954) with Dirk Bogarde for Joseph Losey.

In 1953 she appeared on stage in Bell Book and Candle with Victor Jory.[16]

She began appearing in television on shows such as The Star and the Story, Stage 7, The 20th Century-Fox Hour, The Joseph Cotten Show: On Trial, Robert Montgomery Presents, Lux Video Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour.

At Republic she made The Eternal Sea (1955) with Sterling Hayden. She had no offers so signed to go on tour with her husband in a production of Plain and Fancy which meant she missed out on roles in the films Serenade and The Toy Tiger.[17]

Smith was in Beau James (1957) with Bob Hope,[18] This Happy Feeling (1958) with Curt Jurgens and The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman (1959).

She also appeared on a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis radio (NBC) broadcast on January 25, 1952.[12]

Stage career


While Smith was under contract at Warner Bros., she met fellow actor Craig Stevens; they wed in 1944. In her later years, Smith toured in several stage hits including the 1955 National company of Plain and Fancy, Jean Kerr's Mary, Mary, Any Wednesday and Cactus Flower, all co-starring her husband.

In the 1960s Smith continued to work on television with roles in Adventures in Paradise, Michael Shayne, The Defenders, The Governor & J.J., and Marcus Welby, M.D..

Smith appeared on the cover of the May 3, 1971 issue of Time as the result of the critical acclaim for her singing and dancing role in Hal Prince's Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, which marked her long-awaited Broadway debut. In 1972, she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance.[12][19]

Her stage career continued through the 1970s, with appearances in the 1973 all-star revival of The Women (1973), the short-lived re-working of William Inge's drama Picnic, re-titled Summer Brave (1975), and the ill-fated musical Platinum (1978), which earned Smith another Tony nomination for her performance but closed after a brief run.[20]

She starred in several regional productions of Applause and then toured for more than a year as the madam in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, including a seven-month run in Los Angeles.

She continued to appear on TV in movies like Nightside and shows such as The Lives of Benjamin Franklin. She also performed in nightclubs.[21]

Later work


Smith returned to the big screen with star billing at the age of 54 in Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough (1975) opposite Kirk Douglas, followed by The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane with Martin Sheen and Jodie Foster the following year and Casey's Shadow with Walter Matthau in 1978.[12] She and her husband appeared in Losey's The Trout (1982.

One of her later film roles came in 1986, again with Douglas when he reunited with frequent co-star Burt Lancaster for the comedy Tough Guys. Smith had a recurring role on the television series Dallas as the mentally unstable Lady Jessica Montford in 1984, and again in 1990.[22] She starred in the short-lived 1988 series Hothouse, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for her guest appearance on Cheers in 1990.[12] Her last film role was in The Age of Innocence (1993).



Alexis Smith died of brain cancer in Los Angeles on June 9, 1993, the day after her 72nd birthday. She had no children; her sole survivor was her husband of 49 years, actor Craig Stevens. Smith's final film, The Age of Innocence (1993), was released shortly after her death. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.[23]




Year Title Role Notes
1940 Alice in Movieland Guest at Carlo's Short, Uncredited
Lady with Red Hair Girl at Wedding Uncredited
She Couldn't Say No Phone Gossip #4 Uncredited
1941 Flight from Destiny Girl Uncredited
The Great Mr. Nobody Woman in office Uncredited
Here Comes Happiness Blonde Uncredited
Affectionately Yours Bridesmaid Uncredited
Singapore Woman Miss Oswald Uncredited
Three Sons o' Guns Actress Uncredited
Passage from Hong Kong Nightclub dancer Uncredited
The Smiling Ghost Elinor Bentley with Wayne Morris and Brenda Marshall
Steel Against the Sky Helen Powers with Lloyd Nolan and Craig Stevens[24]
Dive Bomber Mrs. Linda Fisher 1 of 4 with Errol Flynn
1942 Gentleman Jim Victoria Ware 2 of 4 with Errol Flynn
1943 The Constant Nymph Florence Creighton with Charles Boyer and Joan Fontaine
Thank Your Lucky Stars Herself
1944 The Adventures of Mark Twain Olivia Langdon Clemens With Fredric March
The Doughgirls Nan Curtiss Dillon with Ann Sheridan and Jane Wyman
Hollywood Canteen Herself
1945 The Horn Blows at Midnight Elizabeth With Jack Benny
Conflict Evelyn Turner 1 of 2 with Humphrey Bogart
Rhapsody in Blue Christine Gilbert with Robert Alda and Joan Leslie
San Antonio Jeanne Star 3 of 4 with Errol Flynn
1946 One More Tomorrow Cecelia Henry with Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan
Night and Day Linda Lee Porter With Cary Grant
Of Human Bondage Nora Nesbitt with Paul Henreid and Eleanor Parker
1947 The Two Mrs. Carrolls Cecily Latham 2 of 2 with Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck
Stallion Road Rory Teller With Ronald Reagan
Always Together The Bride Uncredited
1948 The Woman in White Marian Halcombe with Sidney Greenstreet and Eleanor Parker
The Decision of Christopher Blake Evelyn Blake with Ted Donaldson
Whiplash Laurie Durant with Dane Clark
1949 South of St. Louis Rouge de Lisle with Joel McCrea
Any Number Can Play Lon Kyng With Clark Gable
One Last Fling Olivia Pearce with Zachary Scott
1950 Montana Maria Singleton 4 of 4 with Errol Flynn
Wyoming Mail Mary Williams with Stephen McNally
Undercover Girl Christine Miller with Scott Brady and Gladys George
1951 Here Comes the Groom Winifred Stanley With Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman
Cave of Outlaws Elizabeth Trent with Macdonald Carey
1952 The Turning Point Amanda Waycross With William Holden
1953 Split Second Kay Garven with Stephen McNally and Jan Sterling
1954 The Sleeping Tiger Glenda Esmond with Dirk Bogarde
1955 The Eternal Sea Sue Hoskins with Sterling Hayden
1957 Beau James Allie Walker With Bob Hope
1958 This Happy Feeling Nita Hollaway Directed by Blake Edwards; with Curt Jurgens and Debbie Reynolds
1959 The Young Philadelphians Carol Wharton With Paul Newman
1974 Intriga de otros mundos
1975 Once Is Not Enough Deirdre Milford Granger With Kirk Douglas
1976 The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane Mrs. Hallet With Jodie Foster
1978 Casey's Shadow Sarah Blue With Walter Matthau
1982 The Trout (aka La Truite) Gloria with Isabelle Huppert and Craig Stevens
1986 Tough Guys Belle With Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas
1993 The Age of Innocence Luisa van der Luyden Directed by Martin Scorsese (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Stage 7 Caroline Taylor 1 episode
1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour Emily Hefferan 1 episode
The Joseph Cotten Show Libby Wilson 1 episode, "We Who Love Her"
1958 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Vivian Braxton 1 episode
1959 Adventures in Paradise Loraine Lucas 1 episode
1960 Michael Shayne Nora Carroll 1 episode
1965 The Defenders Carol Defoe 1 episode
1970 The Governor & J.J. Leslie Carroll 1 episode
1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. Evie Craig 1 episode (co-starring Craig Stevens)
1972 Bob Hope Special Guest Star airing October 5, 1972
1973 Nightside Smitty Television movie
Alternative title: A Very Special Place
1982 The Love Boat Season 6: Episodes 8 & 9. November 13, 1982
"The Spoonmaker Diamond"/"Papa Doc"/"The Role Model"/"Julie's Tycoon – Parts 1 & 2"
1984 Dallas Lady Jessica Farlow Montford Season 7: Episodes 24–30
1984 The Love Boat Angela Lovett Season 7: Episodes 25 & 26. May 5, 1984
"Dreamboat"/"Gopher, Isaac & the Starlet"/"The Parents"/"The Importance of Being Johnny"/"Julie and the Producer – Parts 1 & 2"
1985 A Death in California Honey Niven Television miniseries
1985 The Love Boat Justina Downey Season 9: Episodes 4 & 5. November 2, 1985
"The Villa"/"The Racer's Edge"/"Love or Money"/"The Accident – Parts 1 & 2"
1986 Dress Gray Mrs. Iris Rylander Television movie
1988 Hothouse Lily Garrison Shannon 7 episodes
1988 Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Holiday Affair Tessa Menard Television movie
1990 Dallas Lady Jessica Farlow Montford Season 13: Episodes 23, 24, 26, 27
1990 Lola Phoebe Television movie
1990 Cheers Professor Alice Anne Volkman 1 episode, nominated for an Emmy

Stage work


Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Lux Radio Theatre Submarine Commander[25]

See also





  1. ^ Bubbeo 2001, p. 211.
  2. ^ a b Monush 2003, pg. 69.
  3. ^ Donnelley 2005, p. 867.
  4. ^ a b c Alexis Smith Rejected Fancy Name From Studio: Screen Actress Third Hollywood School 'Find' Alexis Likes Role Change Alexis Smith Says She's Happy When Roles Change", Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1945: B1.
  5. ^ "Miss Alexis Smith Getting Buildup", The Washington Post August 10, 1941: L2.
  6. ^ Variety 1993.
  7. ^ Glancy, H. Mark. "Warner Bros film grosses, 1921–51." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. March 1995
  8. ^ Alexis Smith is a star of survival: Alexis Smith: Beautiful, yes, but brains and talent are trademarks of her survival Kleiman, Carol. Chicago Tribune May 26, 1980: a5.
  9. ^ a b New Alexis Smith to Make Her Debut: New Alexis Smith to Make Bow Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times November 28, 1948: D1.
  10. ^ Alexis Smith Replaced for Jilting Picture Los Angeles Times October 24, 1949: 2.
  11. ^ ALEXIS SMITH GETS CONTRACT RELEASE: Warners Free Actress Who Refused 'Shoplifter' Role, but Deny Bacall Request New York Times October 29, 1949: 9.
  12. ^ a b c d e Maltin 1994, p. 824.
  13. ^ Alexis Smith Gets Crosby Picture Role Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times November 24, 1950: B6.
  14. ^ Drama: Alexis Smith Gets Lead With Holden Los Angeles Times September 14, 1951: B8.
  15. ^ Alexis Smith Hunts Super Role After Shining Success on Stage: Alexis Smith Hunting for Super Role Strong, E J. Los Angeles Times November 30, 1952: E1.
  16. ^ Victor Jory, Alexis Smith Star in van Druten Comedy By Edwin F. Melvin. The Christian Science Monitor June 16, 1953: 11.
  17. ^ Alexis Smith Got That Old H'wood Treatment By Hedda Hopper; Hollywood. The Washington Post and Times-Herald October 2, 1955: H7.
  18. ^ Star Alexis Smith Tops Most Leading Ladies Chicago Daily Tribune November 10, 1957: e11.
  19. ^ Alexis Smith to Stay With 'Follies' Los Angeles Times July 1, 1971: f12.
  20. ^ Alexis Smith Shines in an Empty New Musical By EDWIN WILSON. Wall Street Journal November 17, 1978: 25.
  21. ^ Alexis Smith's Ageless Grace Lane, Lydia. Los Angeles Times January 9, 1977: g9.
  22. ^ Clark, Kenneth R., "Alexis Smith in 'Dallas' to stir up more trouble", Chicago Tribune, March 23, 1984.
  23. ^ Cozad 2006, p. 112.
  24. ^ Ladd, Harry S. (1941). VIII. Sweet Springs area – West Virginia, Virginia, August 22 – November 3, 1941; February 21 – March 28, 1942. [s.n.] doi:10.5962/bhl.title.132196.
  25. ^ Kirby 1952, p. 48 Open access icon


  • Bubbeo, Daniel. The Women of Warner Brothers. McFarland, 2001. ISBN 978-0-7864-1137-5.
  • Cozad, W. Lee. More Magnificent Mountain Movies: The Silver Screen Years 1940–2004. Lake Arrowhead, California: Sunstroke Media, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9723372-3-6.
  • Donnelley, Paul. Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. London: Omnibus Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
  • Kirby, Walter. "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review, November 16, 1952. Retrieved: June 18, 2015 via Newspapers.com Open access icon.
  • Maltin, Leonard. "Alexis Smith". Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. New York: Dutton, 1994. ISBN 0-525-93635-1.
  • Monush, Barry. Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2003. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2.
  • "Film and legit actress Alexis Smith dead at 72". Variety, June 10, 1993. Retrieved: March 11, 2009.