Ben Alexander (actor)
Alexander in 1959
Nicholas Benton Alexander III
June 27, 1911
Goldfield, Nevada, U.S.
|Died||July 5, 1969 (aged 58)|
Westchester, California, U.S.
Nicholas Benton "Ben" Alexander III (June 27, 1911 – July 5, 1969) was an American motion picture actor, who started out as a child actor in 1916. He is best remembered for his role as Officer Frank Smith in the Dragnet franchise.
Life and career
Ben Alexander was born in Goldfield, Nevada, and raised in California. Alexander made his screen debut at age of five in Every Pearl a Tear. He went on to portray Lillian Gish's young brother in D. W. Griffith's Hearts of the World. After a number of silent films, he retired from screen work, but came back for the World War I classic, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), in which Alexander received good notices as an adult actor as "Kemmerick", the tragic amputation victim.
Alexander played leads and second leads in many low-budget films throughout the 1930s.
He found a new career as a successful radio announcer in the late 1940s, including a stint on the Martin and Lewis program. Alexander also acted on radio, playing Philip West in the 1939–40 soap opera Brenthouse on the Blue Network.
In 1952, Jack Webb, actor-producer-director of Dragnet, needed a replacement for Barton Yarborough, who had played Detective Romero opposite Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday. Webb selected Alexander, but had to wait until he was available. A few actors filled in as Friday's partners until Alexander appeared in the newly created role of Officer Frank Smith, first in the radio series, then reprised the role in film and on television. The popular series ran until 1959. When Webb revived it in 1966, he wanted Alexander to rejoin him, but Alexander had just signed to play the role of Sgt. Dan Briggs on the weekly ABC series Felony Squad.
In 1969, Alexander was found dead of heart attack in his home when his wife and children returned from a camping trip.
Alexander owned and operated the Ben Alexander Ford car dealership in the Highland Park neighborhood of northeast Los Angeles, from around 1953 until his death in 1969, and a San Francisco branch was formed in 1959. In the mid-1950s, Ben Alexander's Dream House Motel was located at 1815 North Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Alexander ran a talent show for young people out of Oakland. The Ben Alexander Talent Show was broadcast on Oakland's KTVU TV, a local station in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Each Pearl a Tear (1916)
- The Little American (1917) - Bobby Moore
- What Money Can't Buy (1918) - Child
- Hearts of the World (1918) - The Boy's Littlest Brother
- The Lady of the Dugout (1918) - The Lady's Son
- The Heart of Rachael (1918) - Jim
- The One Woman (1918) - Boy
- Little Orphant Annie (1918) - Orphan
- The Turn in the Road (1919) - Bob
- The White Heather (1919) - Donald Cameron
- Josselyn's Wife (1919) - Tommy Josselyn
- The Hushed Hour (1919) - Gondy
- The Mayor of Filbert (1919) - Carroll
- Tangled Threads (1919) - 'Sonny Boy' Wayne
- The Better Wife (1919) - Little Dick
- The Triflers (1920) - Rupert Holbrook
- The Family Honor (1920) - Little Ben Tucker
- The Notorious Mrs. Sands (1920) - Child
- Through Eyes of Men (1920) - Little Billy
- Blue Streak McCoy (1920)
- The Heart Line (1921) - The Child
- In the Name of the Law (1922) - Harry O'Hara - age 9, prologue
- Penrod and Sam (1923) - Penrod Schofield
- The Yankee Spirit (1923, Short)
- Jealous Husbands (1923) - Bobbie (later called Spud)
- Boy of Mine (1923) - Bill Latimer
- Barnum Junior (1924, Short)
- Junior Partner (1924, Short)
- A Self-Made Failure (1924) - Sonny
- Dirty Hand (1924, Short)
- Flaming Love (1925) - Benny Keene
- Pampered Youth (1925) - George Minafer, as a child
- Wildcat Willie (1925, Short)
- The Shining Adventure (1925) - Benny
- The Highbinders (1926) - Roy Marshall
- Scotty of the Scouts (1926) - Scotty Smith
- Fighting for Fame (1927) - Danny Ryan
- Two to One (1927)
- The Divine Lady (1929) - Young Lieutenant (uncredited)
- The Lunkhead (1929, Short) - Ben - Billy's Chum
- All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) - Franz Kemmerich
- Many a Slip (1931) - Ted Coster
- It's a Wise Child (1931) - Bill Stanton
- Are These Our Children? (1931) - Nicholas 'Nick' Crosby
- Suicide Fleet (1931) - Kid
- A Wise Child (1931)
- Mystery Ship (1931)
- High Pressure (1932) - Geoffrey Weston
- The Wet Parade (1932) - Evelyn's Friend (uncredited)
- Tom Brown of Culver (1932) - Cpl. John Clarke
- The Vanishing Frontier (1932) - Lucien Winfield
- Alias the Professor (1933, Short)
- Mister Mugg (1933, Short)
- Roadhouse Queen (1933, Short) - Junior Knox
- Daddy Knows Best (1933, Short) - Billy Todd
- What Price Innocence? (1933) - Tommy Harrow
- This Day and Age (1933) - Morry Dover
- Stage Mother (1933) - Francis Nolan
- Once to Every Woman (1934) - Joe
- The Most Precious Thing in Life (1934) - Gideon 'Gubby' Gerhart
- The Life of Vergie Winters (1934) - Barry Preston
- Flirtation (1934) - Dudley
- Grand Old Girl (1935) - Tom Miller
- Born to Gamble (1935) - Paul Mathews
- Reckless Roads (1935) - Wade Adams
- Annapolis Farewell (1935) - Adams
- Splendor (1935) - Western Union Messenger (uncredited)
- The Fire Trap (1935) - Bob Fender
- Hearts in Bondage (1936) - Eggleston
- Red Lights Ahead (1936) - George Wallace
- Shall We Dance (1937) - Evans - a Bandleader (uncredited)
- The Legion of Missing Men (1937) - Don Carter
- The Outer Gate (1937) - Bob Terry
- Western Gold (1937) - Bart
- The Life of the Party (1937) - Orchestra Leader (uncredited)
- The Spy Ring (1938) - Capt. Don Mayhew
- Russian Dressing (1938, Short) - Band Leader Bill Farraday
- Mr. Doodle Kicks Off (1938) - Larry Weldon
- Convict's Code (1939) - Jeff Palmer
- Buried Alive (1939) - Riley
- The Leather Pushers (1940) - Dan Brown, Announcer
- Criminals Within (1941) - Sgt. Paul, the Traitor
- Dragnet (1954) - Officer Frank Smith
- Man in the Shadow (1957) - Ab Begley
- The Joseph Cotten Show, also known as On Trial (1 episode, 1957)
- The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford (January 24, 1957)
- Dragnet (regular, 1952–1959) - Officer Frank Smith
- Take A Good Look (Semi-regular 1959–1960) - Himself / Panelist
- About Faces (1960–1961) - Himself - Host
- Batman (1 episode, 1966) - Detective Beside Trash Can
- Felony Squad (Unknown episodes, 1966–1969) - Desk Sgt. Dan Briggs
- Judd, for the Defense (1 episode, 1969)
- Dragnet (Co-writer, 6 episodes)
- Williford, Stanley O. (July 6, 1969). "Ben Alexander". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
- "Ben Alexander". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. n.d. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
- "TV Actor Found Dead". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. July 7, 1969. p. 29. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
- "Ben Alexander Ford, Inc. of San Francisco". Business Profiles. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- Hayde, Michael J. (2001). My Name's Friday: The Unauthorized but True Story of Dragnet. Cumberland House. ISBN 978-1581821901.
- Holmstrom, John. The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich, Michael Russell, 1996, pp. 49–51.
- Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, p. 4.
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