Well known TV star, Roger Smith who brought glamor to TV detective genre as a private eye on “77 Sunset Strip” passed away today at the age of 84.The actor was troubled by myasthenia gravis for years and breathed his last at a Los Angles hospital after fighting a terminal illness.
Roger started his stint in acting in 1950’s when he was spotted by James Cagney who recommended him for films. After two bouts of life-threatening illness, he began his second stint as the manager of his second wife, Ann-Margret with “77 Sunset Strip”. Roger Smith was a clean shaven; debonair, suave, elegant Hollywood star who mesmerized the audience of 1950’s and 60’s who gained much acclaim with his hit detective series “77 Sunset Strip”.
He was married to actress and singer Ann-Margret, and it caused envy to many men of his generation. Later in life, he gave up acting after being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease and started to manage his wife’s career. He was a figure of masculinity with a square jaw and stout build, and a carefree manner and a chance meeting with movie star James Cagney started his Hollywood career.
He co-starred with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. on the glossy ABC series from 1958 to 1963.However, he received critical acclaim with “77 Sunset Strip” which was a brainchild of producer-writer Roy Huggins, also known for his other money spinners like “Bourbon Street Beat,” “Maverick,” and “Hawaiian Eye.” Roy completely changed the way a detective looked and tried something different from the usual stereotyped, serious, pipe smoking Sherlock Holmes inspired investigators. Roger did not sound like a stereotype detective, and this became his plus point.
The series had a glamorous component also and was soon to become the center of hippy culture, a world filled with cocktails, cool jazz, and convertibles. Then came disaster, Smith was hospitalized after losing consciousness. It happened in 1960, and he was diagnosed with a clot in his brain. A delay in diagnosis almost killed the star. But he recovered and again joined as Jeff Spencer until 1963 when the complete star cast was dropped and recast.
He married glamorous Australian actress, Victoria Shaw, with whom he had three children. They divorced in 1965. He began dating Ann-Margret, the dynamic singer, dancer, and actress of “Bye Bye Birdie,” and married her in Las Vegas in 1967.Smith chaperoned Ann-Margret’s career with great care for decades.