Ben Alexander (actor)

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Ben Alexander
Ben Alexander 1959.JPG
Alexander in 1959
Born Nicholas Benton Alexander III
(1911-06-27)June 27, 1911
Goldfield, Nevada, U.S.
Died July 6, 1969(1969-07-06) (aged 58)
Westchester, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916-1969

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[edit]

Ben Alexander as a child actor

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

In 1969, Alexander was found dead in his home of natural causes when his wife and children returned home from a camping trip.[3]

For his contribution to the entertainment industry, Ben Alexander has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television, radio, and movies.[1][4]

Other[edit]

Alexander and his family in 1961, pictured are his daughter, Lesley, his son, Bradford, and his wife, Lesley.

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.[5] 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.[6]

Filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

Writer[edit]

  • Dragnet (Co-writer, 6 episodes)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Williford, Stanley O. (6 July 1969). "Ben Alexander on the Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. 
  2. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. 
  3. ^ a b "TV Actor Found Dead". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 7 July 1969. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "Ben Alexander | Hollywood Walk of Fame". 2016-05-27. 
  5. ^ "Ben Alexander Ford, Inc. of San Francisco". Business Profiles. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  6. ^ (Personal interviews with Nicholas Benton Alexander IV)

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]