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Actor Roger Smith Dead At 84

| by Jonathan Constante

Actor Roger Smith has died at age 84.

Smith, who was best known for his role as a hip detective in the hit television series "77 Sunset Strip," died in a Los Angeles hospital on June 4 after battling a terminal illness, Variety reported.

The actor was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis in 1965, according to the Los Angeles Times. The disorder disrupts the transmission of nerve signals to the muscles, causing severe muscle weakness.

After his diagnosis, Smith managed wife Ann-Margret's career, and produced several of her television specials. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on May 8.

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"Now in Roger I've found all the men I need rolled into one -- a father, a friend, a lover, a manager, a businessman," Ann-Margret told writer Rex Reed in 1972. "It's perfect for me. I couldn't exist without a strong man."

Ann-Margret made an appearance at the Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe in 1972. There, she fell 22 feet from a scaffold and sustained serious injuries.

"She could quit working tomorrow and we'd have enough money to live on for the rest of our lives," Smith told Reed in response to the incident. "But when the time comes, she gets interested in another act or a new film or something that delays it. The fact is, the girl just loves to work."

Despite both of their health troubles, Smith remained hopeful to one day co-star alongside his wife.

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"I have this great dream that when Ann-Margret gets out of movies, she and I will co-star in a Broadway play," Smith told New York magazine in 1976. "But right now I still think it's impossible to be married to a successful actress and have your own career and have the marriage work."

During his acting career, Smith starred as detective Jeff Spencer on "77 Sunset Strip." He co-starred with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as his partner. The show ran from 1958 to 1964, and Smith's Spencer character went on to make special appearances on other detective shows such as "Surfside 6" and "Hawaiian Eye."

Smith went on to have the title role in the comedy series "Mr. Roberts," which was adapted from the film about a World War II Navy lieutenant. He also made appearances in the films “Man of a Thousand Faces,” “No Time to Be Young,” and “Auntie Mame.”

Smith is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons from his first marriage.

Sources: Variety, Los Angeles Times / Photo credit: ABC Television via Wikipedia

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