Roger 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. Roger Smith signed with Columbia Pictures in 1959 and made several films, then moved to Warner Bros. in 1959. 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 TV 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 affliction 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 health declined and in 1980, he was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease, according to wife Ann-Margret. 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 TV 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. Roger Smith died at the Sherman Oaks Hospital in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles on June 4, 2017 at the age of 84.
- December, 18, 1932
- South Gale, California
- June, 04, 2017
- Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California