Ben Alexander (actor)
Alexander in 1959
|Born||Nicholas Benton Alexander III
June 27, 1911
Goldfield, Nevada, U.S.
|Died||July 6, 1969
Westchester, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
Nicholas Benton "Ben" Alexander III (June 27, 1911 – July 6, 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 in his home of natural causes when his wife and children returned home from a camping trip.
Alexander owned and operated the Ben Alexander Ford car dealership in the Highland Park neighborhood in 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 on 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.
His son Nicholas Benton Alexander IV (or "Nick") started one of the first BMW dealerships in the U.S.(in downtown Los Angeles), currently operated by his son Nicholas Benton Alexander V.
- Each Pearl a Tear (1916)
- The Little American (1917)
- Little Orphant Annie (1918)
- The One Woman (1918)
- Hearts of the World (1918)
- The Lady of the Dugout (1918)
- The Heart of Rachael (1918)
- The Turn in the Road (1919)
- The White Heather (1919) - Donald Cameron
- Josselyn's Wife (1919) - Tommy Josselyn
- The Hushed Hour (1919)
- The Mayor of Filbert (1919)
- Tangled Threads (1919)
- The Better Wife (1919)
- The Triflers (1920)
- The Family Honor (1920)
- The Notorious Mrs. Sands (1920)
- Through Eyes of Men (1920)
- Blue Streak McCoy (1920)
- The Heart Line (1921)
- In the Name of the Law (1922)
- Penrod and Sam (1923)
- The Yankee Spirit (1923)
- Jealous Husbands (1923)
- Boy of Mine (1923) - Bill Latimer
- Barnum Junior (1924)
- Junior Partner (1924)
- A Self-Made Failure (1924) - Sonny
- Dirty Hand (1924)
- Flaming Love (1925)
- Pampered Youth (1925/I)
- Wildcat Willie (1925)
- The Shining Adventure (1925)
- The Highbinders (1926)
- Scotty of the Scouts (1926)
- Fighting for Fame (1927)
- Two to One (1927)
- The Lunkhead (1929)
- All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
- A Wise Child (1931)
- Mystery Ship (1931)
- Many a Slip (1931)
- It's a Wise Child (1931)
- Are These Our Children? (1931)
- Suicide Fleet (1931) - Kid
- High Pressure (1932)
- Tom Brown of Culver (1932)
- The Vanishing Frontier (1932)
- Alias the Professor (1933)
- Mister Mugg (1933)
- Roadhouse Queen (1933)
- Daddy Knows Best (1933)
- What Price Innocence? (1933)
- This Day and Age (1933)
- Stage Mother (1933)
- Once to Every Woman (1934)
- The Most Precious Thing in Life (1934)
- The Life of Vergie Winters (1934)
- Flirtation (1934)
- Grand Old Girl (1935)
- Born to Gamble (1935) - Paul Mathews
- Reckless Roads (1935)
- Annapolis Farewell (1935)
- The Fire Trap (1935)
- Hearts in Bondage (1936)
- Red Lights Ahead (1936) - George Wallace
- The Legion of Missing Men (1937)
- The Outer Gate (1937)
- Western Gold (1937)
- The Spy Ring (1938)
- Russian Dressing (1938)
- Mr. Doodle Kicks Off (1938) - Larry Weldon
- Convict's Code (1939) - Jeff Palmer
- Buried Alive (1939)
- Criminals Within (1943)
- Man in the Shadow (1957)
- 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)
- Take A Good Look (Semi-regular 1959-1960)
- About Faces (1960-1961)
- Batman (1 episode, 1966)
- Felony Squad (Unknown episodes, 1966–1969)
- Judd, for the Defense (1 episode, 1969)
- Dragnet (Co-writer, 6 episodes)
- Williford, Stanley O. (6 July 1969). "Ben Alexander on the Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
- "TV Actor Found Dead". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 7 July 1969. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- "Ben Alexander | Hollywood Walk of Fame". 2016-05-27.
- "Ben Alexander Ford, Inc. of San Francisco". Business Profiles. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- (Personal interviews with Nicholas Benton Alexander IV)
- 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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