Brown - Dark
Brooklyn, New York
Place of Death
Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
Suicide By Gunshot
Claim to Fame
Profile Bio Text
The tragically brief life of charming, boyishly handsome actor Ross Alexander, who seemed to have everything going for him, plays these days like a bad Hollywood movie. Alexander was a highly engaging young performer whose pleasant voice and breezy personality aided in his transition from Broadway teen player to young adult Warner Bros. film actor. His peers would include such Warner stalwarts as Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Errol Flynn. Off-camera, however, Ross, a closeted homosexual, as an acutely self-destructive young man who suffered from career instability and domestic tragedy. It would take its toll down the line with a tormented Ross ending his own life at age 29.
Born Alexander Ross Smith in Brooklyn, he was the son of a leather merchant. Raised in Rochester, New York, he pursued both drama and athletics in high school (soccer, swimming) and sidelined in little theater productions in town. In between he took his first Broadway bow as a young teen in Blanche Yurka`s long-running comedy success "Enter Madame." He eventually moved back to New York City following schooling and began to build up his stage resume in stock companies. On Broadway he showed a modicum of promise in such plays as "The Ladder" (1926) and "Let Us Be Gay" (1929). The latter play introduced Ross to producer John Golden and marked an immoderate two-year association which would include the plays "After Tomorrow" (1930) and "That`s Gratitude" (1930). Paramount apparently saw Ross` potential and started him off in pictures with The Wiser Sex (1932), but nothing happened. Continuing on Broadway with "The Stork Is Dead" (1932), "Honeymoon" (1932), "The Party`s Over" (1933) and "No Questions Asked" (1934), he was re-noticed for films -- this time by Warner Bros.
Warners signed him on to appear in its popular backstage Depression-era musicals and collegiate capers. Alexander`s fresh-faced looks and carefree, slightly cynical demeanor made him an instant favorite and he soon began humming with popular second leads in such musicals as Flirtation Walk (1934). On the dramatic side he was chosen to play Demetrius in the all-star A Midsummer Night`s Dream (1935), and in Errol Flynn`s Captain Blood (1935) as Jeremy Pitt, Blood`s friend and navigator. Trouble started brewing, however, behind the scenes. By this juncture Ross was, all things considered, a second-rank Dick Powell at Warners. While the studio began featuring him in Powell`s castoffs and other uninspiring B-grade movies, they found it too taxing to both groom him for matinée idol status and conceal his homosexuality at the same time.
A probable marriage of convenience to budding starlet Aleta Friele, who appeared on Broadway using the name Aleta Freel, ended disastrously with the 28-year-old actress taking her own life with a rifle in their Hollywood Hills home. The actor was deeply shaken by this tragic event. He tried to cover his tracks yet again, however, by marrying beautiful actress Anne Nagel, whom he met while on the set of the movies China Clipper (1936) and Here Comes Carter (1936). It didn`t help. By this time the studio had lost all patience and interest after having to cover up a potentially career-threatening gay scandal, and Ross` promising career looked shaky. To add to his troubles he had become deeply in debt. On January 2, 1937, less than five months after his marriage to Ms. Nagel and shortly after the first anniversary of his first wife`s death, Alexander shot himself with a pistol in a barn behind his Encino ranch home. He was only 29. His last movie, the moderately received Ready, Willing and Able (1937) with Ruby Keeler, was released posthumously. Despite the fact he was the co-lead in the film, he was billed fifth, thus emphasizing the point that he had already lost much of his clout.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Alexander Ross Smith
Clark Gable, Franchot Tone
Ross Alexander (July 27, 1907 – January 2, 1937) was an American stage and film actor.
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