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Subject: Archive: Ben Alexander, July 5, 1969

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Date Posted: Friday, July 05, 05:32:05pm

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 193940 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.

For his contribution to the entertainment industry, Ben Alexander was awarded three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television, radio, and movies.


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.

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Dying the same day 50 years ago today, was veteran Hollywood writer/director LEO McCAREY in nearly 200 movies, many classics like Duck Soup, Make Way for Tomorrow, The Awful Truth, Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary's, My Son John and An Affair To Remember, and SEVEN-time Oscar nominee (winner-Going My Way), died from emphysema at age 70. ...Bio & PHOTOSSaturday, July 06, 01:44:04am

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