Although Warners gave her a push, billed her above the title, and cast her in a few important films, Alexis Smith never really became a movie star. She came close, though, and ultimately triumphed on the Broadway stage.
Put simply: she was one classy woman.
Born in British Columbia, Canada, Smith arrived with her parents in Hollywood as an infant. She attended Hollywood High (a classmate was Nanette Fabray and, someone by the name of Lana Turner). She was “discovered” in typical fashion back then by a studio scout no doubt impressed with her combination of elegance and sexiness. (The latter is played up in the period publicity photo below.)
Smith found herself at Warners in some pretty fast company. Her first out of the gate, 1941’s Dive Bomber, starred Erroll Flynn. Other titles found her opposite Fredric March, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby. She made two movies with Humphrey Bogart, the best of which (a pretty decent 1945 film noir, Conflict) finds her the lissome love interest of bad guy Bogie.
Smith’s most significant leading man was Craig Stevens, whom she worked with 1941’s Steel Against The Sky. The pair married in 1944 (see photo below), and remained husband-wife until 1993, the year Smith died of brain cancer at the age of 72. That marital longevity must mark some sort of Hollywood record.
Stevens (who outlived his wife by seven years) is probably best remembered today as the star of the private eye tv series, Peter Gunn, created and produced by Blake Edwards, which ran on NBC-TV for two seasons (1958-59) followed by another on ABC-TV.
When her movie career sputtered, Smith took enthusiastically to the stage. She and Stevens, together and separately, toured in road companies of several Broadway hits. Her singing and dancing role in the early 70s in Harold Prince’s production of Steven Sondheim’s Follies landed Smith on the cover of Time magazine, a very big deal at the time. A Tony Award soon followed.
Smith continued to work supporting roles in films right up until the year of her death. Her tv work showcased her classiness in several series, notably on Dallas where she was cast as ‘Lady Jessica Montfort.”