Ross Alexander

Ross Alexander (July 27, 1907 – January 2, 1937) was an American stage and film actor.

Ross Alexander
Ross Alexander in the trailer for Shipmates Forever in 1935
Alexander Ross Smith

(1907-07-27)July 27, 1907
DiedJanuary 2, 1937(1937-01-02) (aged 29)
Cause of deathSuicide by gunshot to the head
Years active1920–1937
Spouse(s)Aleta Freel (19341935, her suicide)
Anne Nagel (19361937, his suicide)

Early years

Alexander was born Alexander Ross Smith in Brooklyn, New York,[1] the son of Maud Adelle (Cohen) and Alexander Ross Smith.[2][3] His maternal great-grandfather, Morris Cohen, was a Polish Jewish immigrant.

His father was a leather merchant. Alexander grew up in Rochester, where his family moved soon after he was born. When he was 17, he went to New York City and studied acting at the Packard Theatrical Agency.[4]


Alexander began his acting career with the Henry Jewett Players in Boston, debuting in Enter Madame.[5] By 1926, he was regarded as a promising leading man with good looks and an easy and charming style and began appearing in more substantial roles.

His Broadway credits include The Party's Over (1932), Honeymoon (1932), The Stork Is Dead (1932), After Tomorrow (1931), That's Gratitude (1930), Let Us Be Gay (1928), The Ladder (1926), and Enter Madame (1920).[6]


Alexander was signed to a film contract by Paramount Pictures, but his film debut in The Wiser Sex[7] (1932) was not a success, and so he returned to Broadway. In 1934, he was signed to another film contract, this time by Warner Bros. His biggest successes of the period were A Midsummer Night's Dream and Captain Blood (both 1935).

In 1936, he starred in Hot Money. It was a defining role in his persona as a glamorous, well-dressed and dapper leading man, not in the usual Warner gangster mold of rough-hewn stars such as Edward G. Robinson or Paul Muni. His final film, Ready, Willing and Able, was released posthumously.

Personal life

Alexander married actress Aleta Freel on February 28, 1934, in East Orange, New Jersey.[4] Freel died by suicide on December 7, 1935.[8] On September 17, 1936, Alexander married another actress, Anne Nagel,[9] with whom he had appeared in the films China Clipper and Here Comes Carter (both 1936).


On January 2, 1937, three months after marrying Nagel, with his professional and personal life in disarray and deeply in debt, Alexander shot himself in the head in the barn behind his home. It has been reported that Alexander used the same gun his first wife Aleta Freel shot herself with 13 months earlier.[10] Other sources claim that Ross used a pistol, while Aleta used a rifle.


Year Title Role Notes
1932 The Wiser Sex Jimmy O'Neill
1934 Social Register Lester Trout
1934 Gentlemen Are Born Tom Martin
1934 Flirtation Walk Oskie
1935 Maybe It's Love Rims O'Neil
1935 Going Highbrow Harley Marsh
1935 We're in the Money C. Richard Courtney, aka Carter
1935 A Midsummer Night's Dream Demetrius
1935 Shipmates Forever Lafayette "Sparks" Brown
1935 Captain Blood Jeremy Pitt
1936 Boulder Dam Rusty Noonan
1936 Brides Are Like That Bill McAllister
1936 I Married a Doctor Erik Valborg
1936 Hot Money Chick Randall
1936 China Clipper Tom Collins
1936 Here Comes Carter Kent Carter Alternative title: The Voice of Scandal
1937 Ready, Willing, and Able Barry Granville Released posthumously (final film role)


  1. Frasier, David K. (2005). Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases. McFarland. pp. 9–10. ISBN 9781476608075. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  2. "Hundreds at Actor's Funeral". The Edwardsville Intelligencer. Illinois, Edwardsville. January 9, 1937. p. 3. Retrieved June 16, 2017 via
  4. Allen, John R. Jr. "Ross Alexander". Classic Images. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  5. "Signed for Films". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. November 4, 1931. p. 21. Retrieved June 16, 2017 via
  6. "("Ross Alexander" search results)". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  7. Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 7–8. ISBN 9781557835512. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  8. "Milestones". Time. December 7, 1935.
  9. "Alexander Ended Life As Film Fame Neared". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. Associated Press. January 4, 1937. p. 3. Retrieved June 15, 2017 via
  10. Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. p. 38. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
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