Alexis Smith in a press photo
Hollywood’s statuesque leading lady of the 1940’s and 1950’s co-starred with Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. She made a Tony-winning comeback later in her career with the Broadway hit, Follies (1971).
With 300 people in attendance, Alexis married actor Craig Stevens at the Church of the Recessional in Glendale. The Hollywood couple that was married for nearly 50 years, often dined at Bob’s Big Boy Burbank.
Alexis Smith and Errol Flynn
Born a Scotch-Canadian in British Columbia, her family quickly found a new home in Los Angeles when she was one-year-old. She attended Hollywood High and a Warner talent scout discovered her in a play at LA City College. She was subsequently billed as "The Dynamite Girl" for her red hair color.
Her first credited role in a feature film was with Errol Flynn in Dive Bomber (1941). She refused to kiss the actor known for sleeping with his co-stars, stating artistic reasons. Errol would dominate their first close-up scene, sending Alexis off-stage in tears. The following day, an apology on his stationary was left on her dressing room mirror. The platonic couple would star successfully together in three more films.
Cary Grant and Alexis Smith
Alexis starred in a pair of biopics about great American composers. Rhapsody in Blue (1945) was a film with an abundance of George Gershwin musical riches. She played the wife of Cole Porter in Night and Day (1947) with Cary Grant.
Alexis Smith and Humphrey Bogart
She’s the object of infatuation for Humphrey Bogart in the interesting and underrated film noir, Conflict (1945). And again, she captures the romantic obsession of Bogie in The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947).
San Antonio (1945), her third of four films with Errol Flynn, features a special performance by Alexis of “Some Sunday Morning,” which was Oscar-nominated for Best Song only to lose to the Rogers and Hammerstein jazz standard “It Might As Well Be Spring.”
Alexis aims for Errol Flynn
Montana (1950), the Technicolor Western, would be the fourth and final pairing of Alexis Smith and Errol Flynn. The Los Angeles Times said the film “won't set the cinema world on fire but it's solid Western entertainment.” The relationship between Smith and Flynn was a close one, with Flynn even being rumored to have been “best man” at her wedding. Not true. He did, however, offer some advice to her husband and his friend Craig following the marriage ceremony along the lines of be good to her (or else).
She plays the estranged wife of Bob’s Big Boy Burbank Hall-of-Famer Bob Hope in Beau James (1957). After starring with Paul Newman in The Young Philadelphians (1959), she takes a big “film” break (1960-75). Her husband, Craig Stevens, lands the big hit TV detective series Peter Gunn and subsequently her career takes a back seat.
Alexis on the cover of Time
She returned to the stage to win Broadway’s coveted Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Follies (1971). Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics. Of the song "Could I Leave You?" by Alexis Smith's character Phyllis, The New York Times noted, "(Her) lacerating assertion of independence to her husband, overflows with both tenderness and hostility." Alexis was suddenly in demand for other musicals, which one critic described her performances as "pure gold, pure joy."
Her return to the silver screen then came at the age of 54, appearing opposite Kirk Douglas in Once Is Not Enough (1975), followed by The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) with Martin Sheen and Jodie Foster.
Alexis had smaller roles as “Lady Jessica Montford” in the hit TV show Dallas (1984 and 1990) and as “Professor Alice Anne Volkman” on Cheers (1990), earning her an Emmy nomination for a Guest Appearance on a TV Show.
Directed by Martin Scorsese for her last film role in The Age of Innocence (1993), she ironically played a New York socialite, albeit a much older one. This was the kind of role she was stereotypically type cast as in the 1940’s.
In 1993, a day after her 72nd birthday, Alexis died of brain cancer. Her husband Craig Stevens would die seven years later. Together their estate established the Alexis and Craig Stevens Performing Arts Scholarship at the University of Kansas (Craig’s alma mater).
A star of Hollywood's Golden Age, neither she nor husband Craig Stevens were ever awarded a "star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The glamorous Alexis Smith