Roger Smith

Active - 1957 - 2018  |   Born - Dec 8, 1932   |   Died - Jun 4, 2017   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born in California, Roger Smith was raised in Nogales, Arizona, where his father ran a clothing manufacturing business. Not too handy around his father's shop, Smith was better suited to performing; he took singing, elocution and dancing lessons while he was still learning to walk and talk, and by age 12 he was a member of an LA-based kiddie musical troupe. While attending the University of Arizona on an athletic scholarship, Smith won several amateur-show prizes as a singer and guitarist, but did not immediately entertain thoughts of making show business his life. During his 30 months' active service in the Naval Reserve, Smith renewed his singing at various public and private functions. At one of these, he met film star James Cagney, who suggested that Smith might try for a career in Hollywood. Signed to a Columbia Pictures contract, Smith appeared in such films as No Time to Be Young (1957) and Operation Madball (1957), and played a small recurring role on the television sitcom Father Knows Best, produced by Columbia's TV subsidiary Screen Gems. The up-and-coming young actor touched bases again with Jimmy Cagney when the latter recommended that Smith be hired to play Creighton Chaney (aka Lon Chaney Jr.) in the Lon Chaney biopic Man of 1000 Faces (1957). On the strength of this film and his work in the subsequent Cagney vehicle Never Steal Anything Small, Smith was engaged by director Morton Da Costa to portray the older Patrick Dennis in Auntie Mame (1959); this, in turn, led to a long-term contract with Warner Bros., and the co-starring role of Jeff Spencer in Warners' TV detective series 77 Sunset Strip. Roger Smith went on to essay the title character in the 1965 weekly TV adaptation of Mister Roberts before retiring from acting in 1967 to manage the career of his second wife, musical star Ann-Margret. Smith died in 2017, at age 84.

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