Saturday, June 16, 2012


Alexander Ross Smith, Jr. was born on July 27, 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. After spending his first 17 years in Brooklyn his family moved to Rochester. Alex had an avid interest in acting as by the time he was in high school, he was active in both Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall and later, West Rochester High School’s theatre productions. However amateur theatrics could not begin to meet with Alex’s ambition and he dropped out of school to attend Hugh W. Towne’s acting group. This led to signing with the Packard Theatrical Agency. Upon visiting Packard, the well known stage actress Blanche Yurka was impressed with the talented teenager and hired him to appear in her production of “Enter Madame.” [Note: He was NOT in the original 1920 Broadway production as he was 13 years old and still attending school.]

It was at this time (1925) Alex Smith officially became Ross Alexander. He was then to appear with Miss Yurka in several of the Jewett Stock Company’s productions which was under the management of The Repertory Theatre of Boston. On October 22, 1926, Ross made his Broadway debut as the juvenile lead in “The Ladder.” From 1929 to 1932 he co-starred in several Broadway productions in which critics gave him excellent reviews and all of which folded fairly quickly, with the exception of “That’s Gratitude.” In 1932, he made his screen debut in Paramount’s “The Wiser Sex” starring Claudette Colbert and Melvyn Douglas. He also made a one time appearance for Columbia Studios, in Colleen Moore’s “The Social Register” which was filmed in 1933 but released in October of 1934. After starring in four more Broadway productions, which collapsed as opposed to folding, Ross received an offer early the following year he couldn’t refuse…a contract with Warner Brothers Studio.

Arriving in Los Angeles with his bride, actress Aleta Freile, he began filming “Gentlemen are Born” in February of 1934, to immediately be followed by “Flirtation Walk.” His charm, humor, and endearing boyishness soon garnered a notable fan following and in 1935, he was cast in three smash hits, “Shipmates Forever,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Captain Blood.” Instead of supporting roles or secondary leads, the following year found him now starring in his own films including “Brides Are Like That,” “Boulder Dam” and “Here Comes Carter.” His performance in “I Married a Doctor” (the studio's insipid renaming of Sinclair Lewis’ novel, Main Street) was undoubtedly his finest. His final film was the musical, “Ready, Willing and Able” which was released two months after his death. Although he was clearly the star and gave an engaging performance which enhanced the film, Warner Brothers felt it necessary to drop his billing to 5th place because, well…suicides just ain’t big box office.

Ross Alexander was married three times. Yes, there was a *first* wife, whose identity shall remain private, as this is pertinent information for his biography.

His second wife, the aforementioned Aleta Freile was to die early on the morning of December 7, 1935 after committing suicide. His third wife was actress Anne Nagel whom he had met at Warner Brothers and appeared in three films together. Despite his recent marriage to Anne, Ross Alexander was chronically depressed over the death of Miss Freile; it was because of said depression he was to shoot himself with a .22 caliber pistol in his left temple, alone in the loft of his ranch’s barn early in the evening of January 2, 1937.