Actor Roger Smith, who brought glamour to the TV detective genre as a hip private eye on “77 Sunset Strip,” has died. He was 84.
Jack Gilardi, who is the agent of Smith’s widow, actress Ann-Margret, said the actor died at Sherman Oaks Hospital after battling a terminal illness. Smith had fought the nerve disease myasthenia gravis for many years.
The actor launched his career in the 1950s when James Cagney spotted him and recommended him for films. He survived two serious illnesses to have a second career after “77 Sunset Strip” as the manager of his second wife, Ann-Margret.
From 1958 to 1963, he co-starred with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. on the glossy ABC series. It made stars of both men and a teen heartthrob out of Edd Byrnes, who played a colorful parking lot attendant named Kookie.
Smith’s passing comes less than a month after he and Ann-Margaret celebrated their 50th anniversary on May 8.
The actor portrayed Jeff Spencer, one-half of a detective pair on 77 Sunset Strip, with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. playing his partner, Stu Bailey. Smith also starred in such films as Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), No Time to be Young (1957) and Auntie Mame (1958) with Rosalind Russell.
In 1980, the actor was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a nerve-and-muscle disorder. It was around that time he began to manage his wife’s career.
Ann-Margret said in March that by the third date she knew Smith was the one. “I knew he would protect me. I knew that I could depend on him. I sensed it completely,” she said.
Ann-Margret, 76, said the secret to their long-lasting relationship was laughter.
“We laugh at ourselves. We get into weird situations. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you are in trouble. We laugh before everyone else does,” she said of Smith.
The couple eloped in 1967 in Las Vegas, though Ann-Margret said she cried all through the ceremony.
“I go into this room and you could cut the smoke with a knife,” she once told PEOPLE. “This is not the way I envisioned my wedding. I think everyone thought I was pregnant because I was crying through the whole thing.”
Despite the lackluster wedding, their marriage was a success. The actress and singer said the secret to their marriage was quite simple.
“We both want it to work. We just both want to have it work,” she said.