Ross Alexander

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Ross Alexander
Ross Alexander in the trailer for Shipmates Forever (1935).jpg
Ross Alexander in the trailer for Shipmates Forever (1935)
Born Alexander Ross Smith
(1907-07-27)July 27, 1907
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died January 2, 1937(1937-01-02) (aged 29)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death Suicide by gunshot
Occupation Actor
Years active 1920–1937
Spouse(s) Aleta Freel (1934–1935)
Anne Nagel (1936–1937)

Ross Alexander (July 27, 1907 – January 2, 1937) was an American stage and film actor.

Life and career

Alexander was born Alexander Ross Smith in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Maud Adelle (Cohen) and Alexander Ross Smith.[1] Alexander began his acting career in Broadway productions during the 1920s. By 1926, he was regarded as a promising leading man with good looks and an easy and charming style and began appearing in more substantial roles. He was signed to a film contract by Paramount Pictures, but his film debut in The Wiser Sex (1932) was not a success, and so he returned to Broadway. In 1934, he was signed to another film contract, this time by Warner Bros.

Alexander was better suited to the Warner Bros. style of film, and the studio persevered with him, gradually increasing the stature of his roles commensurate with his growing popularity with film audiences. His biggest successes of the period were A Midsummer Night's Dream and Captain Blood (both 1935). He married actress Aleta Freel in 1934. The marriage ended the following year when Freel committed suicide on December 7, 1935.[2]

Alexander soon after married another actress, Anne Nagel, with whom he had appeared in the films China Clipper and Here Comes Carter (both 1936). In 1936 he starred in an underrated Warner comedy that was well written as a business venture type of film, Hot Money. It was a defining role in his persona as a glamorous, wore-clothes-well leading man, not in the usual Warner gangster mold of rough-hewn stars like Edward G. Robinson or Paul Muni. Warner Bros. had decided by this time that Alexander's potential as an actor was limited and that his personal problems did not allow him to focus completely on his career. Although they continued casting him in films, the importance of his roles was greatly diminished.


With his professional and personal lives in disarray and deeply in debt, Alexander shot himself in the head in the barn behind his home. It has been reported that Alexander used the same gun his wife Aleta Freel shot herself with 13 months earlier.[3] Other sources, however, claim that, while both used .22 caliber bullets, Ross used a pistol, while Aleta used a rifle. His final film, Ready, Willing and Able, was released posthumously.


Year Title Role Notes
1932 The Wiser Sex Jimmy O'Neill
1934 Social Register Lester Trout
1934 Gentlemen Are Born Tom Martin
1934 Flirtation Walk Oskie
1935 Maybe It's Love Rims O'Neil
1935 Going Highbrow Harley Marsh
1935 We're in the Money C. Richard Courtney, aka Carter
1935 A Midsummer Night's Dream Demetrius
1935 Shipmates Forever Lafayette "Sparks" Brown
1935 Captain Blood Jeremy Pitt
1936 Boulder Dam Rusty Noonan
1936 Brides Are Like That Bill McAllister
1936 I Married a Doctor Erik Valborg
1936 Hot Money Chick Randall
1936 China Clipper Tom Collins
1936 Here Comes Carter Kent Carter Alternative title: The Voice of Scandal
1937 Ready, Willing, and Able Barry Granville Released posthumously

Further reading

  • Appleton, Wisconsin Post Crescent, Anne Nagel's Death Revives Old Mystery, August 29, 1966, Page 11.


  2. "Milestones". Time. 7 December 1935.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. p. 38. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links