Smith, Alexis (1921–1993)

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Smith, Alexis (1921–1993)

Canadian-born actress. Born Gladys Smith on June 8, 1921, in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada; died on June 9, 1993, in Los Angeles, California; attended Los Angeles City College; married Craig Stevens (an actor), in 1944; no children.

Selected filmography:

The Lady with Red Hair (1940); Steel Against the Sky (1941); Dive Bomber (1941); Gentleman Jim (1942); The Constant Nymph (1943); The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944); The Doughgirls (1944); The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945); Conflict (1945); Rhapsody in Blue (1945); San Antonio (1945); Of Human Bondage (1946); Night and Day (1946); Stallion Road (1947); The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947); The Woman in White (1948); The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948); Whiplash (1948); South of St. Louis (1949); Any Number Can Play (1949); One Last Fling (1949); Montana (1950); Undercover Girl (1950); Here Comes the Groom (1951); The Turning Point (1952); Split Second (1953); The Sleeping Tiger (UK, 1954); The Eternal Sea (1955); Beau James (1957); This Happy Feeling (1958); The Young Philadelphians (1959);Jacqueline Susann 's Once Is Not Enough (1975); The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (Can., 1977); Casey's Shadow (1978); La Truite (The Trout, Fr., 1982); Tough Guys (1986).

A statuesque beauty who played leads or second leads in Hollywood movies of the 1940s and 1950s, Alexis Smith retired from films in 1959, then made a stunning Broadway comeback in Stephen Sondheim's hit musical Follies (1971), for which she won a Tony Award as Best Actress. With her career reignited, she worked almost up until her death from cancer in 1993. The actress' long-time marriage to actor Craig Stevens was one of Hollywood's more enduring relationships.

Smith was born in 1921 in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, and gained some of her early acting experience in summer stock. She was a student at Los Angeles City College when a Warner Bros. talent scout spotted her in a school production and arranged for a screen test. As a result, Smith signed a long-term contract with the studio and throughout the '40s and '50s, appeared in such movies as Dive Bomber (1941), Doughgirls (1944), and The Woman in White (1948). Usually playing pretty, resourceful, and slightly remote characters, she appeared with some of Hollywood's most popular leading men, including Errol Flynn (San Antonio, 1945), Cary Grant (Night and Day, 1946), Ronald Reagan (Stallion Road, 1947), and Clark Gable (Any Number Can Play, 1949). Smith left films after appearing in The Young Philadelphians (1959).

Following a 16-year hiatus, she opened in Follies, a musical centering around a bittersweet reunion of aging showgirls in a Broadway theater scheduled for demolition. Smith provided one of the evening's highlights with her rendition of "Could I Leave You?," as much a tirade as a song, leveled against her philandering husband. Following her triumph in Follies, Smith appeared in several movies and on Broadway in The Women, Summer Brave, and the musical Platinum, in which she played a fading movie star who attempts a comeback as a rock singer. Although Smith received good reviews, the show closed prematurely. The actress also had a recurring role in the television series "Dallas" (1984), and in 1988 was in the short-lived television drama "Hothouse."

sources:

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

"Obituaries," in The Day [New London, CT]. June 10, 1993.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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