Margaret Alexis Smith (June 8, 1921 – June 9, 1993) was a Canadian-born American actress and singer. She appeared in several major Hollywood films in the 1940s and had a notable career on Broadway in the 1970s, winning a Tony Award in 1972 for the Stephen Sondheim-James Goldman musical Follies.
Margaret Alexis Fitzsimmons Smith
June 8, 1921
|Died||June 9, 1993 (aged 72)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Smith was born in Penticton, British Columbia, to Gladys Mabel Fitz-Simmons (a Canadian) and Alexander Smith (a Scot). Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was about a year old. Her parents both became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1939, through which she derived her United States citizenship.
Smith grew up in Los Angeles, attending Hollywood High School along with other future talents, including actress Nanette Fabray. Smith made her professional debut performing ballet at the Hollywood Bowl. She was discovered in 1940 at Los Angeles City College, acting in a school production, by a Warner Brothers' talent scout.
After being discovered by a talent scout while attending college, Smith was signed to a contract by Warner Bros. Her early film roles were uncredited bit parts in films like Lady with Red Hair (1940), She Couldn't Say No (1940), Flight from Destiny (1941), The Great Mr. Nobody (1941), Here Comes Happiness (1941), Affectionately Yours (1941), Singapore Woman (1941), Passage from Hong Kong (1941) and Three Sons o' Guns (1941).
Her first credited role was in the feature film Dive Bomber (1941), playing the female lead opposite Errol Flynn. It was a "decorative" part but the film was very successful. Warners decided to build her up as a star.
Smith co starred opposite Errol Flynn in Gentleman Jim (1942), one of the most popular movies of the year. Her lead appearance in The Constant Nymph (1943) was well-received and led to bigger parts.
After a cameo in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) Smith appeared opposite Fredric March in The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), and starred alongside Ann Sheridan in The Doughgirls (1944). She had another cameo in Hollywood Canteen (1944) then co starred with Jack Benny in The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945).
Smith co starred with Humphrey Bogart in Conflict (1945) and Robert Alda in the George Gershwin biopic Rhapsody In Blue (1945). She liked her part in the latter because "while a heavy of sorts I get to do the unexpected."
Smith appeared with Sheridan again in One More Tomorrow (1946) then Cary Grant in a sanitized, fictionalized version of the life of Cole and Linda Porter in Night and Day (1946); the latter was another box office success.
Smith appeared alongside Eleanor Parker and Paul Henreid in Of Human Bondage (1946), then did a second film with Bogart, The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947); Hopper described the latter as "a typical Alexis Smith role". She later said of her Warners years "more often than not I played the other woman."
Smith made Stallion Road (1948) with Ronald Reagan and The Woman in White (1948) with Parker. She was top billed in The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948) which was announced as an attempt to change her image instead of being just "a mirror to reflect others emotions.".
She co starred with Dane Clark in Whiplash (1948), was Joel McCrea's leading lady in South of St. Louis (1949) then worked with Zachary Scott in One Last Fling (1949). MGM borrowed her for a Clark Gable film Any Number Can Play (1950) then she made one last movie with Flynn, Montana (1950).
In October 1949 Smith was granted a release from her contract with Warner Bros after refusing being loaned out to Universal for a role in Shoplifter (1950) (she was replaced by Andrea King). She had been at the studio for nine years, having signed a four-year deal in 1946 that had the option of going to 1953.
Smith went to Universal to appear in Wyoming Mail (1950), a Western with Stephen McNally, and Undercover Girl (1950) a film noir. She played Jane Wyman's rival in Paramount's Here Comes the Groom (1951), her favorite role. At Universal she made Cave of Outlaws (1951) with MacDonald Carey then back at Paramount was in The Turning Point (1952) with William Holden.
She began appearing in television on shows such as The Star and the Story, Stage 7, The 20th Century-Fox Hour, The Joseph Cotten Show: On Trial, Robert Montgomery Presents, Lux Video Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour.
At Republic she made The Eternal Sea (1955) with Sterling Hayden. She had no offers so signed to go on tour with her husband in a production of Plain and Fancy which meant she missed out on roles in the films Serenade and The Toy Tiger.
While Smith was under contract at Warner Bros., she met fellow actor Craig Stevens; they wed in 1944. In her later years, Smith toured in several stage hits including the 1955 National company of Plain and Fancy, Jean Kerr's Mary, Mary, Any Wednesday and Cactus Flower, all co-starring her husband.
In the 1960s Smith continued to work on television with roles in Adventures in Paradise, Michael Shayne, The Defenders, The Governor & J.J., and Marcus Welby, M.D..
Smith appeared on the cover of the May 3, 1971 issue of Time as the result of the critical acclaim for her singing and dancing role in Hal Prince's Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, which marked her long-awaited Broadway debut. In 1972, she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance.
Her stage career continued through the 1970s, with appearances in the 1973 all-star revival of The Women (1973), the short-lived re-working of William Inge's drama Picnic, re-titled Summer Brave (1975), and the ill-fated musical Platinum (1978), which earned Smith another Tony nomination for her performance but closed after a brief run.
Smith returned to the big screen with star billing at the age of 54 in Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough (1975) opposite Kirk Douglas, followed by The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane with Martin Sheen and Jodie Foster the following year and Casey's Shadow with Walter Matthau in 1978. She and her husband appeared in Losey's The Trout (1982) and she had roles in A Death in California, Dress Gray, and The Love Boat.
One of her later film roles came in 1986, again with Douglas when he reunited with frequent co-star Burt Lancaster for the comedy Tough Guys. Smith had a recurring role on the television series Dallas as Clayton Farlow's mentally unstable sister, Lady Jessica Montford in 1984, and again in 1990.
Her last film role was in The Age of Innocence (1993).
Alexis Smith died of brain cancer in Los Angeles on June 9, 1993, the day after her 72nd birthday. She had no children; her sole survivor was her husband of 49 years, actor Craig Stevens. Smith's final film, The Age of Innocence (1993), was released shortly after her death. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.
|1940||Alice in Movieland||Guest at Carlo's||Short, Uncredited|
|Lady with Red Hair||Girl at Wedding||Uncredited|
|She Couldn't Say No||Phone Gossip #4||Uncredited|
|1941||Flight from Destiny||Girl||Uncredited|
|The Great Mr. Nobody||Woman in office||Uncredited|
|Here Comes Happiness||Blonde||Uncredited|
|Singapore Woman||Miss Oswald||Uncredited|
|Three Sons o' Guns||Actress||Uncredited|
|Passage from Hong Kong||Nightclub dancer||Uncredited|
|The Smiling Ghost||Elinor Bentley||with Wayne Morris and Brenda Marshall|
|Steel Against the Sky||Helen Powers||with Lloyd Nolan and Craig Stevens|
|Mrs. Linda Fisher
|1 of 4 with Errol Flynn|
|1942||Gentleman Jim||Victoria Ware||2 of 4 with Errol Flynn|
|1943||The Constant Nymph||Florence Creighton||with Charles Boyer and Joan Fontaine|
|Thank Your Lucky Stars||Herself|
|1944||The Adventures of Mark Twain||Olivia Langdon Clemens||With Fredric March|
|The Doughgirls||Nan Curtiss Dillon||with Ann Sheridan and Jane Wyman|
|1945||The Horn Blows at Midnight||Elizabeth||With Jack Benny|
|Conflict||Evelyn Turner||1 of 2 with Humphrey Bogart|
|Rhapsody in Blue||Christine Gilbert||with Robert Alda and Joan Leslie|
|San Antonio||Jeanne Star||3 of 4 with Errol Flynn|
|1946||One More Tomorrow||Cecelia Henry||with Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan|
|Night and Day||Linda Lee Porter||With Cary Grant|
|Of Human Bondage||Nora Nesbitt||with Paul Henreid and Eleanor Parker|
|1947||The Two Mrs. Carrolls||Cecily Latham||2 of 2 with Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck|
|Stallion Road||Rory Teller||With Ronald Reagan|
|Always Together||The Bride||Uncredited|
|1948||The Woman in White||Marian Halcombe||with Sidney Greenstreet and Eleanor Parker|
|The Decision of Christopher Blake||Evelyn Blake||with Ted Donaldson|
|Whiplash||Laurie Durant||with Dane Clark|
|1949||South of St. Louis||Rouge de Lisle||with Joel McCrea|
|Any Number Can Play||Lon Kyng||With Clark Gable|
|One Last Fling||Olivia Pearce||with Zachary Scott|
|1950||Montana||Maria Singleton||4 of 4 with Errol Flynn|
|Wyoming Mail||Mary Williams||with Stephen McNally|
|Undercover Girl||Christine Miller||with Scott Brady and Gladys George|
|1951||Here Comes the Groom||Winifred Stanley||With Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman|
|Cave of Outlaws||Elizabeth Trent||with Macdonald Carey|
|1952||The Turning Point||Amanda Waycross||With William Holden|
|1953||Split Second||Kay Garven||with Stephen McNally and Jan Sterling|
|1954||The Sleeping Tiger||Glenda Esmond||with Dirk Bogarde|
|1955||The Eternal Sea||Sue Hoskins||with Sterling Hayden|
|1957||Beau James||Allie Walker||With Bob Hope|
|1958||This Happy Feeling||Nita Hollaway||Directed by Blake Edwards; with Curt Jurgens and Debbie Reynolds|
|1959||The Young Philadelphians||Carol Wharton||With Paul Newman|
|1974||Intriga de otros mundos|
|1975||Once Is Not Enough||Deirdre Milford Granger||With Kirk Douglas|
|1976||The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane||Mrs. Hallet||With Jodie Foster|
|1978||Casey's Shadow||Sarah Blue||With Walter Matthau|
|1982||The Trout (aka La Truite)||Gloria||with Isabelle Huppert and Craig Stevens|
|1986||Tough Guys||Belle||With Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas|
|1993||The Age of Innocence||Luisa van der Luyden||Directed by Martin Scorsese (final film role)|
|1955||Stage 7||Caroline Taylor||1 episode|
|1956||The 20th Century Fox Hour||Emily Hefferan||1 episode|
|The Joseph Cotten Show||Libby Wilson||1 episode, "We Who Love Her"|
|1958||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Vivian Braxton||1 episode|
|1959||Adventures in Paradise||Loraine Lucas||1 episode|
|1960||Michael Shayne||Nora Carroll||1 episode|
|1965||The Defenders||Carol Defoe||1 episode|
|1970||The Governor & J.J.||Leslie Carroll||1 episode|
|1971||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Evie Craig||1 episode (co-starring Craig Stevens)|
|1972||Bob Hope Special||Guest Star||airing October 5, 1972|
Alternative title: A Very Special Place
|1982||The Love Boat||Season 6: Episodes 8 & 9. November 13, 1982|
"The Spoonmaker Diamond"/"Papa Doc"/"The Role Model"/"Julie's Tycoon – Parts 1 & 2"
|1984||Dallas||Lady Jessica Farlow Montford||Season 7: Episodes 24–30|
|1984||The Love Boat||Angela Lovett||Season 7: Episodes 25 & 26. May 5, 1984|
"Dreamboat"/"Gopher, Isaac & the Starlet"/"The Parents"/"The Importance of Being Johnny"/"Julie and the Producer – Parts 1 & 2"
|1985||A Death in California||Honey Niven||Television miniseries|
|1985||The Love Boat||Justina Downey||Season 9: Episodes 4 & 5. November 2, 1985|
"The Villa"/"The Racer's Edge"/"Love or Money"/"The Accident – Parts 1 & 2"
|1986||Dress Gray||Mrs. Iris Rylander||Television movie|
|1988||Hothouse||Lily Garrison Shannon||7 episodes|
|1988||Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Holiday Affair||Tessa Menard||Television movie|
|1990||Dallas||Lady Jessica Farlow Montford||Season 13: Episodes 23, 24, 26, 27|
|1990||Cheers||Professor Alice Anne Volkman||1 episode, nominated for an Emmy|
- Private Lives (1952)
- Bell, Book and Candle (1953)
- Plain and Fancy (1955 National Tour)
- Wonderful Town (1957)
- Mary, Mary (1965)
- Cactus Flower (1968 National Tour)
- Follies (1971)
- The Women (1973)
- Applause (1973)
- Summer Brave (1975)
- Platinum (1978)
- The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1979–80 National Tour)
- Pal Joey (1983)
- Nymph Errant (1989 Concert)
|1952||Lux Radio Theatre||Submarine Commander|
- Bubbeo 2001, p. 211.
- Monush 2003, pg. 69.
- Donnelley 2005, p. 867.
- Alexis Smith Rejected Fancy Name From Studio: Screen Actress Third Hollywood School 'Find' Alexis Likes Role Change Alexis Smith Says She's Happy When Roles Change Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times September 23, 1945: B1.
- Miss Alexis Smith Getting Buildup The Washington Post August 10, 1941: L2.
- Variety 1993.
- Glancy, H. Mark. "Warner Bros film grosses, 1921–51." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. March 1995
- Alexis Smith is a star of survival: Alexis Smith: Beautiful, yes, but brains and talent are trademarks of her survival Kleiman, Carol. Chicago Tribune May 26, 1980: a5.
- New Alexis Smith to Make Her Debut: New Alexis Smith to Make Bow Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times November 28, 1948: D1.
- Alexis Smith Replaced for Jilting Picture Los Angeles Times October 24, 1949: 2.
- ALEXIS SMITH GETS CONTRACT RELEASE: Warners Free Actress Who Refused 'Shoplifter' Role, but Deny Bacall Request New York Times October 29, 1949: 9.
- Maltin 1994, p. 824.
- Alexis Smith Gets Crosby Picture Role Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times November 24, 1950: B6.
- Drama: Alexis Smith Gets Lead With Holden Los Angeles Times September 14, 1951: B8.
- Alexis Smith Hunts Super Role After Shining Success on Stage: Alexis Smith Hunting for Super Role Strong, E J. Los Angeles Times November 30, 1952: E1.
- Victor Jory, Alexis Smith Star in van Druten Comedy By Edwin F. Melvin. The Christian Science Monitor June 16, 1953: 11.
- Alexis Smith Got That Old H'wood Treatment By Hedda Hopper; Hollywood. The Washington Post and Times Herald October 2, 1955: H7.
- Star Alexis Smith Tops Most Leading Ladies Chicago Daily Tribune November 10, 1957: e11.
- Alexis Smith to Stay With 'Follies' Los Angeles Times July 1, 1971: f12.
- Alexis Smith Shines in an Empty New Musical By EDWIN WILSON. Wall Street Journal November 17, 1978: 25.
- Alexis Smith's Ageless Grace Lane, Lydia. Los Angeles Times January 9, 1977: g9.
- Alexis Smith in 'Dallas' to stir up more trouble Clark, Kenneth R. Chicago Tribune March 23, 1984: d_b13.
- Cozad 2006, p. 112.
- Ladd, Harry S. (1941). VIII. Sweet Springs area – West Virginia, Virginia, August 22 – November 3, 1941 ; February 21 – March 28, 1942. [s.n.] doi:10.5962/bhl.title.132196.
- Kirby 1952, p. 48
- Bubbeo, Daniel. The Women of Warner Brothers. McFarland, 2001. ISBN 978-0-7864-1137-5.
- Cozad, W. Lee. More Magnificent Mountain Movies: The Silver Screen Years 1940–2004. Lake Arrowhead, California: Sunstroke Media, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9723372-3-6.
- Donnelley, Paul. Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. London: Omnibus Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
- Kirby, Walter. "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review, November 16, 1952. Retrieved: June 18, 2015 via Newspapers.com .
- Maltin, Leonard. "Alexis Smith". Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. New York: Dutton, 1994. ISBN 0-525-93635-1.
- Monush, Barry. Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2003. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2.
- "Film and legit actress Alexis Smith dead at 72". Variety, June 10, 1993. Retrieved: March 11, 2009.
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