Roger Smith, who achieved semi-stardom as the adult Patrick Dennis opposite Rosalind Russell in 1958’s Auntie Mame and TV icon status opposite Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in ABC’s hip, hit detective series 77 Sunset Strip, died Sunday at Sherman Oaks Hospital, the hospital confirmed this afternoon. He was 84 and had recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his marriage to actress Ann-Margret.
No cause of death was given, but Smith had been diagnosed in 1980 with myasthenia gravis, a progressive nerve and muscle disease.
After serving in the Naval Reserve, Smith began appearing on television and in films in the late 1950s, including NBC’s Wagon Train and as a studio contract player at Columbia and then Warner Bros. In 74 episodes of 77 Sunset Strip, which ran from 1958-63, he played private eye Jeff Spencer, a former spy who teams up with a colleague, Stu Bailey (Zimbalist). Both judo experts, they ran a private detective agency that specialized in breezy capers, leggy damsels in distress and slangy, finger-snapping repartee framed by Mack David and Jerry Livingston’s ear-worm theme song. Edd “Kookie” Byrnes also starred. That’s Smith on the right in the photo above.
Smith’s other movie appearances included 1957’s Man of a Thousand Faces and 1968’s Rogue’s Gallery. On television, his last major appearance was in the title role of NBC’s Mr. Roberts, a series spinoff from the best-selling novel, play and Henry Fonda-starring film.