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. 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. Alexander played leads and second leads in many low-budget films throughout the 1930s. He found a new career as a successful radio announcer in the late 1940s, including a stint on the Martin and Lewis program.
In 1952, Jack Webb, actor-producer-director of Dragnet, needed a replacement for Barton Yarborough, who had played Detective Romero opposite Webb’s Sgt. 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 and then 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 star as Sgt. Dan Briggs on the weekly ABC series Felony Squad.
Alexander owned and operated the Ben Alexander Ford car dealership in the Highland Park neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, from c. 1953 until his death in 1969. In the mid-1950s there was also Ben Alexander’s Dream House Motel on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. The actor was found dead in his home of natural causes when his wife and children returned home from a camping trip. His son Nicholas, Jr.(or “Nick”) started one of the first BMW dealerships in the U.S.(in downtown Los Angeles), currently operated by his daughter Elizabeth. For his contribution to the entertainment industry Ben Alexander has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television, radio, and movies.
- June, 27, 1911
- Goldfield, Nevada
- August, 06, 1969
- Los Angeles, California
- Maui Cemetery
- Wailuku, Hawaii