Child Actors: Bennie Alexander (United States, 1911-69)

Figure 1.--Here we see Bennie Alexander early in his film career. We are not sure if this is these are his own clothes or a film costume. He looks to be about 5 years old which would mean the portrait was talen about 1916. Bennie is often described as Hollywood's first film star. His sailor blouse looks heavy, but he wears it without a dickey.Notice the way he wears his cap. This would have been done by his mother or the photographer.

Ben Alexander was a child actor in many silent movies. He was born in Goldfield, Nevada (911). He went to school in Los Angeles and also studied under private tutors. He was discovered in Los Angeles before he began school. He was playing the part of 'Penrod' in a stage play. He has been described as Hollywood's first child star. He was billed as Bennie Alexander. Starting out as a child actor at the age of 4 years (1915). All his child films were silents. He began with bit parts in the films of Hollywood's first great directors, including Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffith. It was Griffith who who choese him for a small part in 'Hearts of the World' (1915). Wesee him hre at about the gime he began his Hollywood career (figure 1). We are not sure if he is dressed in his own clothes or a film coistume. He made an impression in 'Turn to the right'. He then got child leads and important supporting parts in sound films as a teenager. A film publication when he was about 13 years old described him, "He is a clean-cut youth, take a regular boy's delight in all things tht interest anhd dekight boys, anbd his a popular favorite among his 'gang,' not so much because of his position in the screen workd, but becaise he is listed as a 'regulr fellow'. He is 4 feet 8 inces tall, weighs 80 lns, ad has blond hair nd blue eues." [Famous]. His most notable film was probably 'All Quiet on the Western Front' (1930). After that his acting career declined, but he continued in show business as radio announcer. He was largely retired from Hollywood when Jack Webb selected him for the part of his detective partner in the hit TV series "Dragnet" (1951). He played Friday's first partner. This was one of iconic series in early American television. After this he opened a car dealership. A decade later he played another TV detective on Howard Duff's "Felony Squad" (1966).


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Created: 2:20 AM 7/16/2012
Last updated: 2:20 AM 7/16/2012