Roger Smith

Roger Smith Headshot

Actor • Producer • Writer

Birth Name: Roger LaVerne Smith

Birth Date: December 18, 1932

Death Date: June 4, 2017

Birth Place: South Gate, California

Spouses: Ann-Margret

Best-known as the debonair star of detective drama "77 Sunset Strip" (ABC, 1958-1964), Roger Smith also enjoyed leading men roles in WWII sitcom "Mister Roberts" (NBC, 1965-66) and film noir "Teenage Delinquents" (1957) before moving behind the scenes as a producer, screenwriter and manager of actress wife Ann-Margret. Born in South Gate, CA in 1932, Smith was enrolled in stage school aged six by his parents and would later become a regular amateur talent prize-winning singer and guitarist during his studies at the University of Arizona.

Smith made his screen debut performing on variety show "The Original Amateur Hour" (DuMont Television Network, 1948-49), but was encouraged to pursue an acting career after a chance meeting with James Cagney while stationed in Hawaii with the Naval Reserve. Smith subsequently landed guest spots in anthology series "Damon Runyan Theater" (CBS, 1955-56), "Celebrity Playhouse" (NBC, 1955-56) and "Ford Theatre" (ABC, 1956-57) as well as western "Sheriff of Cochise" (Syndication, 1956-1960) and sitcom "Father Knows Best" (CBS, 1954-1960). Smith then appeared alongside Cagney as his grown son Creighton in the Lon Chaney biopic "Man of a Thousand Faces" (1957) before signing a deal with Columbia Pictures. Roles as Cpl. Berryman in military comedy "Operation Mad Ball" (1957), robber Bob Miller in "Teenage Delinquents" (1957) and co-pilot John Smithback in disaster movie "Crash Landing" (1958) all followed.

But it was when he moved to Warner Bros just a year later that Smith's career truly took off, largely thanks to the long-running role of suave private detective Jeff Spencer in "77 Sunset Strip" (ABC, 1958-1964). Smith's double act with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. lasted five seasons and 139 episodes, and he also guested as the same character in similar shows "Hawaiian Eye" (ABC, 1959-1963) and "Surfside 6" (ABC, 1961-62). During his stint on the show, Smith also played the older version of Patrick Dennis in Technicolor comedy "Auntie Mame" (1958) and appeared alongside Cagney again as attorney Dan Cabot in musical "Never Steal Anything Small" (1959).

A blood clot found on his brain forced him out of action for several years but after making a full recovery he returned to screens in his second major recurring role, the titular lieutenant in short-lived military comedy "Mister Roberts" (NBC, 1965-66), based on the hit Broadway play and film. But after appearing alongside second wife Ann-Margret in "Criminal Symphony" (1968) and starring as private eye John Rogue in neo-noir "Rogue's Gallery" (1968), Smith decided to retire from acting altogether. Having previously penned several episodes of "77 Sunset Strip," he added to his screenwriting credits on sex comedy "They Don't Need Pajamas at Rosie's" (1969) and the much-maligned biker movie "C. C & Company" (1970), also serving as producer of both. Smith also helped guide the career of Ann-Margret, producing several of her 1970s TV specials and adoption drama "Nobody's Children" (1994) as well as steering her towards Oscar-nominated roles in "Carnal Knowledge" (1971) and "Tommy" (1975) before ill health forced him to retire. Smith passed away at Los Angeles' Sherman Oaks Hospital in 2017 aged 84.

Credits

C.C. and Company

Producer
Movie
1970

The First Time

Producer
Movie
1969

That Show

Guest
Show
1968

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1968

Rogues' Gallery

Actor
John Rogue
Movie
1968

For Those Who Think Young

Actor
Smitty the Detective
Movie
1964

The Farmer's Daughter

Guest Star
Walter
Series
1963

Surfside 6

Guest Star
Series
1960

Never Steal Anything Small

Actor
Dan Cabot
Movie
1959

77 Sunset Strip

Actor
Jeff Spencer
Series
1958

Vivir Es Mi Deseo

Actor
Movie
1958

Auntie MameStream

Actor
Patrick Dennis (older)
Movie
1958
88%

Wagon TrainStream

Guest Star
Dr. Peter H. Culver
Series
1957

Sugarfoot

Guest Star
Series
1957

Operation Mad Ball

Actor
Cpl. Berryman
Movie
1957

Man of a Thousand Faces

Actor
Creighton Chaney at 21
Movie
1957

No Time to Be Young

Actor
Bob Miller
Movie
1957

Father Knows BestStream

Actor
Series
1954

Father Knows BestStream

Guest Star
Series
1954

Showcase 39

Actor
Show
1952

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950