Alexis Smith


Actor
Alexis Smith

About

Also Known As
Gladys Smith
Birth Place
Penticton, British Columbia, CA
Born
June 08, 1921
Died
June 09, 1993
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

Radiating aristocratic sophistication and beauty, Alexis Smith started her career on the stage and some argued that was the medium where she left her most lasting impression. However, the imposing Canadian-born starlet was featured in a number of notable motion pictures during her 1940s and '50s heyday, including "The Constant Nymph" (1943), "Night and Day" (1946), "Of Human Bondage" (19...

Family & Companions

Craig Stevens
Husband
Actor. Married 1944; played the title role in the popular TV series "Peter Gunn" (1958-61) and the subsequent 1967 feature version.

Notes

Alexis Smith's real name, Gladys Smith, was also the real name of an even bigger motion picture star--Mary Pickford.

Biography

Radiating aristocratic sophistication and beauty, Alexis Smith started her career on the stage and some argued that was the medium where she left her most lasting impression. However, the imposing Canadian-born starlet was featured in a number of notable motion pictures during her 1940s and '50s heyday, including "The Constant Nymph" (1943), "Night and Day" (1946), "Of Human Bondage" (1946), and "The Woman in White" (1948). She was often cast as rather aloof, upper-class characters, though her image softened somewhat following an appearance in the Bing Crosby musical "Here Comes the Groom" (1951). When opportunities became scarce for her in the late 1950s, Smith concentrated on stage work and, with careful preparation, opened up a whole new chapter in her career. Although she had done summer stock at various times in her life, Smith's sensational turn on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim's musical "Follies" (1971-72) gave her a major third act boost and a Tony Award for Best Actress. She continued in productions like "The Women" (1973), "Summer Brave" (1975), and "Platinum" (1978), while also accepting the occasional movie or television assignment. Remembered fondly by fans of both film and live theatre, the glamorous Smith was able to move beyond the limitations of contract player casting and took steps to ensure that she had sufficient opportunities to display her abilities as both an actress and a singer/dancer.

Alexis Smith was born Gladys Smith on June 8, 1921 in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, though her family moved to the United States when she was still quite young. Smith grew up in the Los Angeles area and it was clear early on that she was gifted. By age 10, the girl could play the piano proficiently, and upon entering her teens, Smith's singing and dancing talents could be viewed on stage in "Carmen" at the Hollywood Bowl. As the Smith family strictly adhered to the tenets of their Presbyterian faith, she was not allowed to date until age 16. By that point, Smith had added elocution to her talents, winning a state competition in that field. While acting in a Los Angeles City College presentation of "The Night of January 16th," Smith was spotted by a Warner Brothers talent scout and offered a spot on the studio's roster. After a series of small, uncredited appearances, she had her first significant cinematic assignment in the World War II thriller "Dive Bomber" (1941), while "The Constant Nymph" (1943) gave Smith her first lead part, alongside French romantic idol Charles Boyer. Other notable early credits included "The Adventures of Mark Twain" (1944), where she played the wife of master writer Samuel Clemens, and "The Doughgirls" (1944). In 1944, she wed fellow thespian Craig Stevens. The two would perform together on several occasions and their marriage ultimately lasted almost five decades, virtually unheard of among their Hollywood peers.

Smith's career continued apace with the Jack Benny fantasy farce "The Horn Blows at Midnight" (1945), "Conflict" (1945), "Of Human Bondage" (1946), and "Night and Day" (1946), where she played Linda Lee Porter, wife of legendary composer Cole Porter. By that point, she had an established persona as the somewhat cold "other" woman or standoffish society lady, save for an occasional change-of-pace outing like "Stallion Road" (1947), where she dressed down as a horse rancher. Smith was lauded for her dramatic performance in the period mystery "The Woman in White" (1948) and MGM borrowed the actress to star with Clark Gable in the drama "Any Number Can Play" (1949). By the end of the decade, Smith was feuding with Warner Brothers over the movies she was being assigned. She parted ways with the studio and entered the 1950s as a freelancer doing summer stock. Smith earned praise for her turn as Amanda Prynne in a 1951 production of Noel Coward's "Private Lives" and the Bing Crosby musical "Here Comes the Groom" (1951) offered her a chance to display some comedic skills. She traveled to England to star with Dirk Bogarde in the film noir thriller "The Sleeping Tiger" (1954) and began to accept small screen work, appearing on several of the era's live anthology programs. In addition, Smith co-starred in the Bob Hope dramatic vehicle "Beau James" (1957) and shared the stage with Stevens in a Palm Beach staging of "King of Hearts." However, as middle age approached, acting offers dried up and "The Young Philadelphians" (1959) proved to be her last motion picture for more than a decade.

Although she was absent from the big screen, Smith accepted occasional stage roles, including a 1968 revival of "Cactus Flower," where she was once again paired with her husband. However, that part of her career did not take off until the actress decided to take the David Craig course "The Actor as Singer." Following a half-year of instruction, she made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's musical "Follies" (1971-72) and the play's smash success made Smith a desirable commodity once more. She was soon cast as Sylvia in a revival of "The Women" (1973), though the production closed after only two months. She returned to movies as a bisexual socialite in the notorious turkey "Jacqueline Susan's Once is Not Enough" (1975) and was back on the Great White Way in the comedy "Summer Brave" (1975), an ill-advised revision of William Inge's "Picnic" that lasted a mere 18 performances. Regardless, Smith remained busy as a headliner at Walt Disney World's Top of the World supper club and headed back to her native Canada for the lurid thriller "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane" (1976).

Smith made a final trip to Broadway in 1978 for the musical "Platinum" (1978). The play was a major flop, closing after less than a month, but her work was highly praised and resulted in a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She also headlined a traveling production of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" as proprietor Miss Mona, which enjoyed a lengthy run of more than a year. Television also figured prominently during that time, including several episodes of "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986) and a regular spot on the short-lived mental hospital drama "Hothouse" (ABC, 1988). Smith also began an intermittent part on "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) and received an Emmy nomination for her guest outing in an episode of "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993). A national stage tour of "Pal Joey" gave theatregoers another chance to appreciate her musical talents and Smith joined fellow Golden Age veterans Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in the caper comedy "Tough Guys" (1986). Her last film appearance was a supporting role in Martin Scorsese's lovely adaptation of Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence" (1993). She succumbed to brain cancer on June 9, 1993, the day after her 72nd birthday.

By John Charles

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Age Of Innocence (1993)
Marcus Welby, MD -- A Holiday Affair (1988)
Tessa Menard
Tough Guys (1986)
La Truite (1982)
Casey's Shadow (1978)
The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1977)
Mrs Hallet
The Young Philadelphians (1959)
Carol Wharton
This Happy Feeling (1958)
Nita Holloway
Beau James (1957)
Allie Walker
The Eternal Sea (1955)
Sue Hoskins
The Sleeping Tiger (1954)
Glenda Esmond
Split Second (1953)
Kay Garven
The Turning Point (1952)
Amanda "Mandy" Waycross
Here Comes the Groom (1951)
Winifred Stanley
Cave of Outlaws (1951)
Elizabeth Trent
Wyoming Mail (1950)
Mary Williams
Montana (1950)
Maria Singleton
Undercover Girl (1950)
Christine Miller, [also known as Sal Willis]
Any Number Can Play (1949)
Lon Kyng
South of St. Louis (1949)
Rouge de Lisle
One Last Fling (1949)
Olivia Pearce
Always Together (1948)
Character in movie
Whiplash (1948)
Laurie [Rogers] Durant
The Woman in White (1948)
Marian Halcombe
The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948)
Evelyn Blake
Stallion Road (1947)
Rory Teller
The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)
Cecily Latham
Night and Day (1946)
Linda Lee Porter
Of Human Bondage (1946)
Nora Nesbit
One More Tomorrow (1946)
Cecelia Henry
The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)
Elizabeth
San Antonio (1945)
Jeanne Starr
Conflict (1945)
Evelyn Turner
Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
Christine Gilbert
Hollywood Canteen (1944)
The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)
Olivia Langdon
The Doughgirls (1944)
Nan Dillon
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
Herself
The Constant Nymph (1943)
Florence Creighton
Gentleman Jim (1942)
Victoria Ware
Passage from HongKong (1941)
Dancer
Singapore Woman (1941)
Secretary
The Great Mr. Nobody (1941)
Affectionately Yours (1941)
Guest
Steel Against the Sky (1941)
Helen Powers
The Smiling Ghost (1941)
Elinor Bentley Fairchild
Dive Bomber (1941)
Linda Fisher
Here Comes Happiness (1941)
Blonde
Three Sons O'Guns (1941)
Actress
Flight from Destiny (1941)
Young woman
She Couldn't Say No (1940)
Gossip

Music (Feature Film)

Miss Conception (2008)
Music
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Music programmer

Cast (Special)

You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story (1990)
Lola (1990)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Women I Love - Beautiful but Funny (1982)
Broadway Plays Washington! (1982)
The Ambassador (1974)
Madame Helvetius
Nightside (1973)

Cast (Short)

So You Want to Be in Pictures (1947)
Herself
Alice in Movieland (1940)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Dress Gray (1986)
Mrs Iris Rylander
A Death in California (1985)

Life Events

1940

Made screen debut in a small role in "Lady With Red Hair", starring Miriam Hopkins and Claude Rains

1941

Played first leading lady roles in the films, "Dive Bomber" and "Steel Against the Sky"; future husband Craig Stevens featured in supporting cast of both films

1950

Left Warners; last film there, "Montana", opposite Errol Flynn

1959

Left feature films after "The Young Philadelphians"; retired shortly thereafter

1971

Career revived when she starred on Broadway in the role of Phyllis Stone in Steven Sondheim's "Follies"

1975

Returned to feature films with a leading role in "Jacqueline Susann's 'Once Is Not Enough'"

1988

Played Lily Garrison Shannon on the short-lived ABC drama series, "Hothouse"

1990

Played recurring role of Lady Jessica Montford on one season of the long-running CBS drama series, "Dallas"

1993

Last film, "The Age of Innocence"

Photo Collections

Whiplash - Movie Poster
Whiplash - Movie Poster
The Two Mrs. Carrolls - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from Warner Bros.' The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947), starring Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck.

Videos

Movie Clip

Any Number Can Play (1949) - Out In The Rain With My Secret Lover Joining the first scene in the household of leading man Clark Gable, who plays high-end underground casino owner Charlie, we meet Audrey Totter as Alice, the live-in sister of his wife Lon (Alexis Smith), and her husband, Wendell Corey as Robbin, who works for Charlie, with two goons (Richard Rober, William Conrad) appearing, in director Mervyn LeRoy’s Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Young Philadelphians, The (1959) - I Always Used A Diagram Law student Tony, now cynical due to earlier setbacks, is spending the summer helping rich retiring lawyer Wharton (Otto Kruger) write a book, drawing all the attention of his young wife Carol (Alexis Smith), the three of them then receiving guests Carter and Joan (Fred Eisley, Barbara Rush), who was once, secretly, Tony’s fianceè, in The Young Philadelphians, 1959.
Conflict (1945) - Are Your Ears Burning? Leaving a party, Richard (Humphrey Bogart) driving, with wife Kathryn (Rose Hobart) and her sister Evelyn (Alexis Smith), whom he prefers, then director Curtis Bernhardt's take on losing consciousness, in Conflict, 1945.
Adventures Of Mark Twain, The (1944) - You Are Merely The Most Numerous Samuel Clemens (Fredric March, title character) uncomfortable and working with no introduction, in New York for his first lecture appearance as “Mark Twain,” improvises, with some real witticisms from the author, and Alexis Smith, her photo seen frequently before, appearing at last in the audience, with her brother, his old pal, Walter Hampden, in The Adventures Of Mark Twain,1944.
Any Number Can Play (1949) - What Are You Gonna Give Up Next? Wendell Corey as dissolute card-dealer Robbie admits Clark Gable as Charlie, his employer, brother-in-law and casino owner, who arrives unexpectedly at home enthusing about fishing, for Audrey Totter as sister-in-law Alice, and Alexis Smith as Lon, lady of the house, in MGM’s Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Two Mrs. Carrolls, The (1947) - Angel Of Death Artist Geoffrey Carroll (Humphrey Bogart) is cagey with daughter Bea (Ann Carter), and has already purchased poison for his invalid wife, plot thickening in The Two Mrs. Carrolls, 1947.
Two Mrs. Carrolls, The (1947) - Stimulating Exhibition Charles (Pat O'Moore), Mrs. Latham (Isobel Elsom) and her daughter Cecily (Alexis Smith) are visiting his ex-fianceè Sally (Barbara Stanwyck) and her flinty artist husband Geoffrey Carroll (Humphrey Bogart), in The Two Mrs. Carrolls, 1947.
Woman In White, The (1948) - Waiting For That Supreme Moment Sensible cousin Marian (Alexis Smith), returned to Fairlie House, is concerned at the behavior of her cousin Laura (Eleanor Parker) after her marriage to Percival (John Emery), who tangles with Count Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet), whose wife (Agnes Moorehead) seems even more weird, in The Woman In White, 1948.
Horn Blows At Midnight, The (1945) - Open, 3rd Trumpet Heavenly trappings in the opening title sequence and Jack Benny (as "Athanael") and Alexis Smith (as "Elizabeth") enduring life in a radio orchestra, from Raoul Walsh's The Horn Blows at Midnight, 1945.
Horn Blows At Midnight, The (1945) - Paradise Coffee Jack Benny (as "Athanael") dozes off during a radio performance and thus finds himself in an enormous heavenly orchestra, beginning the larger story in Raoul Walsh's The Horn Blows at Midnight, 1945.
Woman In White, The (1948) - This Romantic Adventure Arising after a mercifully calm first evening at the Fairlie Estate, tutor Hartright (Gig Young) meets Eleanor Parker, whom he assumes is the same woman he met in the woods on his arrival, but learns she is his pupil Laura, who is happy to tell cousin Marian (Alexis Smith) and Count Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet) of the mistake, in The Woman In White, 1948.
Horn Blows At Midnight, The (1945) - Earthly Elevator Visiting with Guy Kibbee (as "The Boss") and getting counsel from Alexis Smith (as "Elizabeth"), Jack Benny (as angel "Athanael") gets his earth assignment, in Raoul Walsh's The Horn Blows at Midnight, 1945.

Trailer

Night and Day - (Original Trailer) Fanciful biography of songwriter Cole Porter (Cary Grant), who rose from high society to find success on Tin Pan Alley.
Constant Nymph, The - (Original Trailer) A composer (Charles Boyer) marries a rich woman rather than her young cousin (Joan Fontaine) who loves him in The Constant Nymph (1943).
Of Human Bondage (1946) - (Original Trailer) Paul Henreid is the medical student in love with Eleanor Parker's Cockney waitress in the second version of Of Human Bondage (1946).
Dive Bomber (1941) -- (Original Trailer) Errol Flynn as a reckless but honorable surgeon turned test pilot, Fred MacMurray the flight commander who becomes his friend, in Warner Bros. noisy, uneven pre-Pearl Harbor color action hit Dive Bomber, 1941, from a story by aviator Frank "Spig" Wead.
Horn Blows At Midnight, The - (Original Trailer) Jack Benny plays an angel sent to destroy the Earth with a trumpet blast in The Horn Blows At Midnight (1945).
Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, The - (Original Trailer) Jodie Foster is The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976), a psychological thriller co-starring Martin Sheen.
San Antonio -- (Original Trailer) An ex-rustler tracks down a band of cattle thieves and tries to reform a crooked dance-hall girl in the Warner Bros. Technicolor Western San Antonio (1945) starring Errol Flynn and Alexis Smith.
Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - (Original Trailer) Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder star in Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Edith Warton's The Age Of Innocence (1993).
Young Philadelphians, The - (Original Trailer) A young lawyer (Paul Newman) from the wrong side of town tries to break into society in The Young Philadelphians (1964).
Thank Your Lucky Stars - (Original Trailer) An Eddie Cantor look-alike organizes an all-star show to help the war effort in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) with guest appearances by Bette Davis, Errol Flynn & Humphrey Bogart.
She Couldn't Say No (1940) - (Original Trailer) Eve Arden stars in She Couldn't Say No (1940), a movie with a plot suspiciously like the later classic Adam's Rib (1949).
Stallion Road - (Original Trailer) Ronald Reagan gets anthrax and it's up to Alexis Smith to save him in Stallion Road (1947).

Companions

Craig Stevens
Husband
Actor. Married 1944; played the title role in the popular TV series "Peter Gunn" (1958-61) and the subsequent 1967 feature version.

Bibliography

Notes

Alexis Smith's real name, Gladys Smith, was also the real name of an even bigger motion picture star--Mary Pickford.