Ben Alexander (actor)

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.

Ben Alexander
Ben Alexander 1959.JPG
Alexander in 1959
Nicholas Benton Alexander III

(1911-06-27)June 27, 1911
DiedJuly 5, 1969(1969-07-05) (aged 58)
Years active1916–1969

Life and careerEdit

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.[citation needed]

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] He played lead and second lead roles in many low-budget films throughout the 1930s.[citation needed]

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][3]

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][4]

In 1969, Alexander was found dead of heart attack in his home when his wife and children returned from a camping trip.[4]

For his contribution to the entertainment industry, Ben Alexander was awarded three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television, radio, and movies.[1][3]


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 of 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 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.

In 1960, he was a semi-regular panelist on Ernie Kovacs' offbeat game show, Take a Good Look, as well as hosting his own daytime audience-participation show, About Faces, both airing on ABC.




  • Dragnet (Co-writer, 6 episodes)


  1. ^ a b Williford, Stanley O. (July 6, 1969). "Ben Alexander". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  2. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved October 29, 2019. Brenthouse, serial drama.
  3. ^ a b c "Ben Alexander". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. n.d. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "TV Actor Found Dead". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. July 7, 1969. p. 29. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  5. ^ "Ben Alexander Ford, Inc. of San Francisco". Business Profiles. Retrieved January 26, 2016.

Further readingEdit

  • 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 linksEdit