Saturday, November 22, 2008

Famous Classic Movie Stars - ROSS ALEXANDER

Most Classic movie watchers have probably not heard of Ross Alexander....I was lucky enough to catch one of his movies on TCM one night last summer and have been a fan ever since. If you get a chance to view one of his movies, I think you'll love him as well. He was a true gem.

Born as Alexander Ross Smith on July 27th, 1907 in Brooklyn, NY, Alexander began his acting career in Broadway productions during the 1920's. By 1926, he was regarded as a promising leading man, with good looks and an easy and charming style, he began to appear in more substantial roles. He was signed to a film contract by Paramount Pictures, but his film debut in "The Wiser Sex" in 1932 was not a success, so he returned to Broadway. In 1934, he was signed to another film contract, this time with Warner Brothers Studios.

Alexander was better suited to the Warner Brothers 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 in 1935. He married an actress named Aleta Freel in 1934. The marriage ended the following year when Freel committed suicide on December 7th, 1935.

Alexander was also said to have been infatuated with Bette Davis. His infatuation with her reached its height in 1936 with a series of love letters sent by Alexander to Davis. Davis, who thought Alexander to be homosexual (not known), at first found the attention amusing and harmless, and did not discourage it. As his attentions continued though, she begun to find it annoying, and Alexander was eventually confronted by Davis' husband who assaulted Alexander.

Alexander soon after married another actress, Anne Nagel with whom he had appeared in the films "China Clipper" and "Here Comes Carter" both in 1936. In 1936 he starred in an under-rated Warner comedy that was well written as a business venture type of film called "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 Robinson or Muni. Warner Brothers 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 were greatly diminished.

With his professional and personal lives in disarray and deeply in debt, Alexander shot himself in the heard in the barn behind his home on January 2, 1937 at the very young age of twenty nine. Ross used the same gun, a .22 caliber rifle, he first wife Aleta Freel shot herself with two years earlier. Yet there is still a mystery regarding the actor's motive for committing suicide. On the day after New Years, 1937, Ross and Miss Nagel dismantled the Christmas tree in their ENcino, California ranch home. They discussed their plans for the coming year and resolved to take a trip together. The actress testified at the coroners inquest. She stated that her husband seemed happier on the day of his death than he had been in weeks. He was an expert shot and was used to handling firearms. He left no notes. However Anne said he had been writing poetry and tossing the crumpled paper into their fireplace. Police speculated that a probable motive may have been grief over his first wife's death. The coroner's jury ruled he had taken his life with suicidal intent.

His final film "Ready, Willing and Able" was released posthumously.


P. Bookman MD said...

Ross Alexander was gay -- what planet are you living on?

Anonymous said...

Ross Alexander was definitely bisexual. He was blackmailed by one of his male tricks, and this was one of several things that pushed him over the edge. Bette Davis believed him to have a gay side, and this was a significant reason for her rejection of him. He may have been Errol Flynn's lover, or sex-buddy at least, when they were in Captain Blood together.