Roger Smith, who is remembered for his five season stint on classic ABC detective drama “77 Sunset Strip,” died Sunday morning at a Los Angeles hospital after battling a terminal illness. He was 84.
Born on Dec. 18, 1932 in South Gate, California, Smith began his career in the 1950s after being recommended by actor James Cagney, who he appeared with in theatricals “Man of a Thousand Faces” and “Never Steal Anything Small.” Smith signed with Columbia Pictures and made several films, then moved to Warner Bros. in 1959. His early TV appearances included “Father Knows Best,” “Wagon Train” and “Sugar Foot.”
Smith’s signature role was the suave Jeff Spencer in “77 Sunset Strip,” which was between 1958 and 1963. In 1960, Warner Bros. Records released “Beach Romance,” featuring 11 songs sung by Smith. In 1965 he began a one season stint on the TV version of “Mr. Roberts” on NBC. But Smith went on to manage the career of Ann-Margret, his wife of 50 years, when a neuromuscular disease ended his acting career.
He and Ann-Margret had no children; in the 1980s, she told interviewers she had tried in vain to get pregnant for over a decade.