Alexis Smith

Margaret Alexis Fitzsimmons Smith (June 8, 1921 – June 9, 1993), known as Alexis Smith, was a Canadian-born stage, film, and television actress and singer. She appeared in several major Hollywood movies in the 1940s and had a notable career on Broadway in the 1970s, winning a Tony Award in 1972.

    Early life

    1946 photo
    Split Second (1953)

    Born in Penticton, British Columbia, to Gladys and Alexander Smith, her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was about a year old. Smith grew up in Southern California, attending Hollywood High School. When she was 13 she made her professional debut, performing ballet at the Hollywood Bowl. She was discovered in 1940 at Los Angeles City College, acting in a school production, by a Warner Brothers' talent scout.

    Acting career

    Film career

    After being discovered by a talent scout while attending college, Smith was signed to a contract by Warner Bros. Her earliest film roles were uncredited bit parts, and it took several years for her career to gain momentum. Her first credited role was in the feature film Dive Bomber (1941), playing the female lead opposite Errol Flynn. Her appearance in The Constant Nymph (1943) was well received and led to bigger parts.

    During the 1940s, Smith appeared alongside some of the most popular male stars of the day, including Errol Flynn in Gentleman Jim (1942), and San Antonio (1945) (in which she sang a special version of the popular ballad "Some Sunday Morning"), Fredric March in The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), Humphrey Bogart in Conflict (1945) and The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947), Cary Grant in a sanitized, fictionalized version of the life of Cole and Linda Porter in Night and Day (1946), and Bing Crosby in Here Comes the Groom (1951), her favorite role.

    Among Smith's other films are Rhapsody In Blue (1945), Of Human Bondage (1946), and The Young Philadelphians (1959). She also appeared on a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis radio (NBC) broadcast on 25 January 1952.

    Stage career

    While Smith was under contract at Warner Bros., she met fellow actor Craig Stevens; they wed in 1944. In later years, Smith toured in several stage hits including the 1955 National company of Plain and Fancy, co-starring with her husband in Jean Kerr's Mary, Mary and Cactus Flower.

    Smith appeared on the cover of the May 3, 1971, issue of Time as the result of the critical acclaim for her singing and dancing role in Hal Prince's Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, which marked her long-awaited Broadway debut. In 1972, she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance.

    Her stage career continued through the 1970s, with appearances in the 1973 all-star revival of The Women (1973), the short-lived re-working of William Inge's drama Picnic, re-titled Summer Brave (1975), and the ill-fated musical Platinum (1978), which earned Smith another Tony nomination for her performance but closed after a brief run. She then toured for more than a year as the madam in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, including a seven-month run in Los Angeles.

    Later work

    Smith returned to the big screen with star billing at the age of 54 in Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough (1975) opposite Kirk Douglas, followed by The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane with Martin Sheen and Jodie Foster the following year and Casey's Shadow with Walter Matthau in 1978.

    One of her final film roles came in 1986, again with Douglas when he reunited with frequent co-star Burt Lancaster for a 1986 crime comedy, Tough Guys.

    Smith had a recurring role on the television series Dallas as Clayton Farlow's sister Lady Jessica Montford in 1984, and again in 1990. She also starred in the short-lived 1988 series Hothouse, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for her guest appearance on Cheers in 1990.

    Death

    Alexis Smith died of brain cancer in Los Angeles in 1993 on the day after her 72nd birthday. She had no children and her sole survivor was her husband of 49 years, actor Craig Stevens. Smith's final film, The Age of Innocence (1993), was released shortly after her death. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered over the Pacific.

    Filmography

    Film
    Year Film Role Notes
    1940 Alice in Movieland Guest at Carlo's Uncredited
    Lady with Red Hair Girl at Wedding Uncredited
    She Couldn't Say No Phone Gossip #4 Uncredited
    1941 Flight from Destiny Girl Uncredited
    The Great Mr. Nobody Woman in office Uncredited
    Here Comes Happiness Blonde Uncredited
    Affectionately Yours Bridesmaid Uncredited
    Singapore Woman Miss Oswald Uncredited
    Three Sons o' Guns Actress Uncredited
    Passage from Hong Kong Nightclub dancer Uncredited
    The Smiling Ghost Elinor Bentley
    Steel Against the Sky Helen Powers
    Dive Bomber Mrs. Linda Fisher 1 of 4 with Errol Flynn
    1942 Gentleman Jim Victoria Ware 2 of 4 with Errol Flynn
    1943 The Constant Nymph Florence Creighton
    Thank Your Lucky Stars As Herself
    1944 The Adventures of Mark Twain Olivia Langdon Clemens With Fredric March
    The Doughgirls Nan Curtiss Dillon
    1945 The Horn Blows at Midnight Elizabeth With Jack Benny
    San Antonio Jeanne Star 3 of 4 with Errol Flynn
    Conflict Evelyn Turner 1 of 2 with Humphrey Bogart
    Rhapsody in Blue Christine Gilbert
    1946 One More Tomorrow Cecelia Henry
    Night and Day Linda Lee Porter With Cary Grant
    Of Human Bondage Nora Nesbitt
    1947 Stallion Road Rory Teller With Ronald Reagan
    The Two Mrs. Carrolls Cecily Latham 2 of 2 with Humphrey Bogart
    1948 Whiplash Laurie Durant
    The Woman in White Marian Halcombe
    The Decision of Christopher Blake Evelyn Blake
    1949 One Last Fling Olivia Pearce
    South of St. Louis Rouge de Lisle
    Any Number Can Play Lon Kyng With Clark Gable
    1950 Undercover Girl Christine Miller
    Montana Maria Singleton 4 of 4 with Errol Flynn
    Wyoming Mail Mary Williams
    1951 Cave of Outlaws Elizabeth Trent
    Here Comes the Groom Winifred Stanley With Bing Crosby
    1952 The Turning Point Amanda Waycross With William Holden
    1953 Split Second Kay Garven
    1954 The Sleeping Tiger Glenda Esmond
    1955 The Eternal Sea Sue Hoskins
    1957 Beau James Allie Walker With Bob Hope
    1958 This Happy Feeling Nita Hollaway Directed by Blake Edwards
    1959 The Young Philadelphians Carol Wharton With Paul Newman
    1975 Once Is Not Enough Deidre Milford Granger With Kirk Douglas
    1976 The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane Mrs. Hallet With Jodie Foster
    1978 Casey's Shadow Sarah Blue With Walter Matthau
    1982 The Trout (aka La Truite) Gloria
    1986 Tough Guys Belle With Burt Lancaster
    1993 The Age of Innocence Luisa van der Luyden Directed by Martin Scorsese
    Television
    Year Title Role Notes
    1955 Stage 7 Caroline Taylor 1 episode
    1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour Emily Hefferan 1 episode
    The Joseph Cotten Show Libby Wilson 1 episode, "We Who Love Her"
    1958 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Vivian Braxton 1 episode
    1959 Adventures in Paradise Loraine Lucas 1 episode
    1960 Michael Shayne Nora Carroll 1 episode
    1965 The Defenders Carol Defoe 1 episode
    1970 The Governor & J.J. Leslie Carroll 1 episode
    1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. Evie Craig 1 episode
    1973 Nightside Smitty Television movie
    Alternative title: A Very Special Place
    1984 Dallas Lady Jessica Farlow Montford Season 7: Episodes 24-30
    1985 A Death in California Honey Niven Television mini-series
    1986 Dress Gray Mrs. Iris Rylander Television movie
    1988 Hothouse Lily Garrison Shannon 7 episodes
    1988 Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Holiday Affair Tessa Menard Television movie
    1990 Dallas Lady Jessica Farlow Montford Season 13: Episodes 23, 24, 26, 27
    1990 Lola Phoebe Television movie
    1990 Cheers Professor Alice Anne Volkman 1 episode, nominated for an Emmy

    Stage work

    Radio appearances

    Year Program Episode/source
    1952 Lux Radio Theatre Submarine Commander

    References

    Notes

    Bibliography

    • Bubbeo, Daniel. The Women of Warner Brothers. McFarland, 2001. ISBN 978-0-7864-1137-5.
    • Cozad, W. Lee. More Magnificent Mountain Movies: The Silver Screen Years 1940-2004. Lake Arrowhead, California: Sunstroke Media, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9723372-3-6.
    • Donnelley, Paul. Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. London: Omnibus Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
    • Kirby, Walter. "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review, November 16, 1952. Retrieved: June 18, 2015 via – Newspapers.com .
    • Maltin, Leonard. "Alexis Smith". Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. New York: Dutton, 1994. ISBN 0-525-93635-1.
    • Monush, Barry. Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2003. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2.
    • "Film and legit actress Alexis Smith dead at 72". Variety, June 10, 1993. Retrieved: March 11, 2009.

    External links

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