Actress, singer and dancer Ann-Margret has been stealing hearts on stage and in film since the 1960s. She is best known for her performances in the films “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” “Carnal Knowledge,” and “The Train Robbers,” among others. Ann-Margret has taken home five Golden Globe Awards and has been nominated for two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards and six Emmy Awards. She won the Emmy for Best Guest Appearance at the 2010 Primetime Emmy Awards for her performance in “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Ann-Margret was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on Apr. 28, 1941. Her family moved to the United States in 1941 and settled outside of Chicago, Illinois. In 1949, Ann-Margret became a naturalized citizen of the US. The star later attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, where she participated in theater. In 1959, Ann-Margret began attending Northwestern University but did not graduate.
Beginning her entertainment career in 1961, it was the film “Bye Bye Birdie” that launched Ann-Margret to stardom in 1963. Then in 1964, she starred alongside Elvis in “Viva Las Vegas,” and they had a short romance before becoming lifelong friends.
While working on the film “Once a Thief” in 1965, Ann-Margret met her future husband, Roger Smith, who is best known for starring in the series “77 Sunset Strip.” They began dating, and they were married in 1967. Ann-Margret became the stepmother to Roger’s three children, Tracy, Jordan and Dallas Smith. Roger passed away in 2017, but Ann-Margret remains a loving stepmother and is now a grandmother as well. Read on to learn more about Ann-Margret and Roger’s loving relationship that lasted 50 years!
Ann-Margret’s Journey from High School Theater to Stardom
Ann-Margret always knew she possessed a special gift she wanted to share with the world. Her path to fame began in high school theater, and it continued to blossom when she made her career debut in “Bye Bye Birdie.”
Following the success of “Bye Bye Birdie,” she ventured into “Viva Las Vegas,” where she had the privilege of co-starring with the legendary Elvis Presley, affectionately referred to as “E.P.” During a candid interview on CBS Sunday Morning, Ann-Margret reminisced about their initial meeting. “It was a bit awkward,” she recalled, “but it was truly great.”
While their romantic relationship didn’t stand the test of time, Ann-Margret and Presley remained close friends until his passing in 1977. Despite this enduring bond, Ann-Margret chose not to include their collaborative songs on her “Born To Be Wild” greatest hits album from the ’50s and ’60s, released in 2023. She explained her decision to Closer Weekly, saying, “I decided not to (include them). Everyone knows how I felt about him and the friendship that we had all these years. It was very, very private.”
One of the many reasons Ann-Margret is highly admired is her enduring marriage to her late husband, Roger Smith. Roger gained fame for his role as the suave private investigator Jeff Spencer in the popular television series “77 Sunset Strip.” The show became a massive success, and Roger’s portrayal of the debonair detective endeared him to audiences nationwide. In his personal life, Roger married Australian actress Victoria Shaw in 1955, with whom he had three children before their divorce in 1965.
Beyond his acting career, Roger made headlines when he tied the knot with Ann-Margret in 1967. The beginning of their courtship was marked by Roger’s invitation to witness his nightclub performance, as recounted by Country Living.
Their Love Story: From Lavish Dates to Marriage
Their romance blossomed during a series of extravagant dates before they officially declared their love for each other and embarked on an official relationship. The connection between them grew so profound that, just a year later, in May 1967, they decided to unite in matrimony in a civil ceremony held in Las Vegas.
Ann-Margret shared her feelings about Roger with the New York Times, revealing that she had a strong sense early on that he was the one she would marry. “The man I married is the man I knew I was going to marry on the third date,” she recalled.
In a 2017 interview with People magazine, Ann-Margret further expressed her unwavering faith in their relationship. “I knew he would protect me. I knew that I could depend on him. I sensed it completely,” she said.
Despite their deep love, their marital journey faced significant challenges. In 1972, while performing on stage in Lake Tahoe, Ann-Margret suffered a serious fall from a scaffold that resulted in severe facial injuries, necessitating surgery for her recovery. Additionally, the couple’s dreams of parenthood remained unfulfilled after numerous attempts spanning 13 years, including the use of a fertility pump and an experimental device designed to aid ovulation by injecting hormones into her stomach.
Ann-Margret shared her perspective with UPI, stating, “The point is, if I am meant to have a child, I will have one. Whatever my higher power feels is right for me, I will accept. I know this may sound simplistic, but I believe in the serenity prayer.”
Although they were unable to conceive, Ann-Margret embraced her role as a devoted mother to Roger’s three stepchildren. She fondly recounted, “I met them when they were 3, 6, and 7,” and proudly shared that “Two of them are doctors” in an interview with Closer Weekly.
In the early 1980s, Ann-Margret’s husband, Roger, received a life-altering diagnosis of myasthenia gravis, a progressive muscular disease, with a prognosis of only ten years. This news was a devastating blow to Ann-Margret, prompting her to make the difficult decision to prioritize his care, especially when he became unable to walk.
“I kept declining opportunities because I was devoted to his care. In a marriage, when one of you is struggling, the other steps up,” she reflected. Despite the challenges, the accomplished actress asserted that their marriage was undeniably worth it.
“When I reflect on my life, my proudest achievement is our marriage… We both worked hard to make it thrive, and it did. We were inseparable, supporting and loving each other,” she shared.
After sharing 50 years of marriage with Ann-Margret, Roger eventually succumbed to complications stemming from his illness. Nevertheless, Ann-Margret continues to embrace life and cherish her husband’s memory. “She allows herself moments of sadness but also treasures the years they spent together,” revealed an insider. “She believes he is still looking out for her.”
Ann-Margret remains an active figure in Hollywood, showing no signs of slowing down. Throughout the early 2000s, she maintained a consistent presence in television. In 2021, she starred in the film “Queen Bees,” alongside a stellar cast that included James Caan, Ellen Burstyn, and Christopher Lloyd. She emphasized, “Age is not a limitation. You must continue living and not confine yourself to solitary TV watching at home. Active participation is key.”
The legendary performer added, “I view aging as a natural progression, and I’m ready for it. I’ll be the best 85-year-old I can be, whatever it brings!”
What are your reflections on the enduring love between Ann-Margret and Roger Smith? In what ways do you believe their love story stands apart from those of contemporary Hollywood celebrities? We’d love to hear your insights, and don’t forget to share this with fellow Ann-Margret enthusiasts!