Smith as Mister Roberts (1967)
Roger LaVerne Smith
December 18, 1932
South Gate, California, U.S.
|Died||June 4, 2017 (aged 84)|
|Alma mater||University of Arizona|
|Occupation||Actor, producer, screenwriter|
(m. 1956; div. 1965)
Roger LaVerne Smith (December 18, 1932 - June 4, 2017) was an American television and film actor, producer and screenwriter. He starred in the television detective series 77 Sunset Strip and in the comedy series Mister Roberts. Smith went on to manage the career of Ann-Margret, his wife of 50 years.
Smith was born in South Gate, California, the son of Leone Irene (Adams) and Dallas L. Smith. When he was six, his parents enrolled him into a stage school, where he took singing, dancing and elocution lessons. He grew up in Nogales, Arizona where his family moved when he was 12. He was educated at the University of Arizona at Tucson on a football scholarship. He won several amateur talent prizes as a singer and guitarist.
Smith served with the Naval Reserve and was stationed in Hawaii with the Fleet All-Weather Training Unit-Pacific, a flight training unit near Honolulu. After a chance meeting with actor James Cagney, he was encouraged to try a career in Hollywood. (Cagney had also encouraged other young actors, including Don Dubbins, for whom he found roles in two 1956 films.) He would later play Cagney's character's son in Man of a Thousand Faces.
Smith signed with Columbia Pictures in 1957 and made several films, then moved to Warner Bros. in 1958. On April 16, 1958, Smith appeared with Charles Bickford in "The Daniel Barrister Story" on NBC's Wagon Train. His greatest film exposure was the role of the adult Patrick Dennis in Auntie Mame, with Rosalind Russell.
His signature television role was private detective Jeff Spencer in 77 Sunset Strip. Smith appeared in 74 episodes of the Warner Bros. series. He left the popular ABC program in 1962 because of a blood clot in his brain. He recovered from this post-surgery.
Before he obtained a role in another television series, Smith said he had to "fight my way back from a point where I had almost decided to give up acting." He then starred as Lt. Douglas Roberts in Mister Roberts, a comedy-drama series on NBC-TV in 1965-1966.
His condition went into remission in 1985. Following his retirement from performing, he managed his wife's career and produced her popular Las Vegas stage shows. In an interview with the New York Post, Ann-Margret said that he had Parkinson's disease. He appeared rarely on television after his health deteriorated, although he participated on This Is Your Life, when host Ralph Edwards devoted an episode to Ann-Margret. In addition to the appearances credited below, Smith appeared on several game shows.
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Smith married twice. His first wife (1956-1965) was Australian-born actress Victoria Shaw, and together they had three children: daughter Tracey (b. 1957), and sons Jordan (b. 1958) and Dallas (b. 1961). Smith and Shaw divorced in 1965.
He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).