Ben Alexander just about grew up on the stage. His education, except for three years at Stanford University, was mainly the product of studio tutors.
Alexander, the corpulent sidekick of the "Dragnet" star and director Jack Webb, began his movie debut in 1916 when he played cupid in "Each Pearl a Tear."
He was a child movie actor for 11 years. When no longer able to play the role of "Cupid" as he grew older, Alexander accepted "bad boy"-type roles.
In 1929, while enrolled at Stanford, he had a leading role in what was to be his last major film, "All Quiet on the Western Front."
In the early 1930s, Alexander left Stanford and entered radio as an emcee, announcing for such programs as "Father Knows Best" and "The Charlie McCarthy Show."
But he was best known as Frank Smith, the fat and sympathetic little officer on the "Dragnet" series.
"I feel like Frank Smith," he once said. "We're both a little fat, take things easy, and enjoy life."