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Roger Smith

The Secrets Behind Ann-Margret and Roger Smith's 50-Year Marriage

The actress says she knew she wanted to marry him by their third date.

Swedish-born, Midwestern-bred actress Ann-Margret first met actor Roger Smith around the time she appeared in her first feature film, 1961's Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis. Barely an adult, she hadn't yet established herself as the sexy female lead known for roles opposite such stars as Elvis Presley and Dick Van Dyke. Smith, then in his late 20s, was starring in television's 77 Sunset Strip.

"Every other woman I met was falling all over me," Smith told New York magazine in 1976 of his first impression of Ann, "but this innocent, fresh-faced beauty only spoke to me when I spoke to her and the rest of the time ignored me. I was impressed."

They wouldn't meet again until five years later. By then, Ann-Margret's career had peaked and appeared to be on the decline; 77 Sunset Strip was over and Roger Smith was separated from his wife of nine years, Australian actress Victoria Shaw. They began dating after Smith invited her to the San Francisco nightclub where he was singing. He took her out to dinner the next night, then for a ride on his private plane the following day.

"The man that I married is the man I knew I was going to marry on the third date," Ann-Margret told the New York Times in 1994.

Ann-Margret's parents reportedly disapproved of their relationship, likely because Smith, a father of three, was technically still married—but that didn't stop the pair from tying the knot in a Las Vegas civil ceremony two years after Smith's divorce was final. On May 8, 1967, Ann-Margret, 26, and Roger Smith, 34, were married in a cigarette-smoke-filled room at the Riviera Hotel.

"This is not the way I envisioned my wedding," Ann-Margret told People recently. "I think everyone thought I was pregnant because I was crying though the whole thing. But we did it."

Smith proved to be a shrewd business manager, helping Ann-Margret pay off debts that totaled more than her annual salary in just two years. He adored her, believed in her talent, and took pride in her career. It wasn't long before he floated the idea of becoming her manager. Acting no longer fulfilled him, he reasoned, and she had more "raw talent." The long, miserable stints apart from each other, when Ann-Margret would be called off to Italy for work, for instance, helped solidify the decision.

"When I met Ann-Margret, I felt happy for the first time in my life," Smith told New York. "Once I found Ann-Margret, I couldn't stand to be without her and, surprisingly, she couldn't stand to be without me."

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By Maria Carter From Country Living Magazine

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