Ann-Margret is a celebrated icon of music and film, a woman whose five Golden Globe awards, two Oscar nominations, two Grammy awards, and six Emmy awards have placed her prominently as a respected member of the classic Hollywood ensemble.
This year marks her 50th wedding anniversary to film actor and screenwriter Roger Smith. How have these two managed to stay together for so long in a field of work where the ink on the marriage certificates barely have a chance to dry before the divorce papers are drawn up?
The Swedish-born, Midwest-reared Ann-Margret met the dashing Roger Smith while filming her first feature film Pocketful of Miracles in 1961. She was only 20 years old and he in his late 20s, but she didn’t find herself as smitten with him as many women were at that time – a character facet that he found refreshing.
“Every other woman I met was falling all over me”, he said of his first impression of her, “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.”
Five years passed before they met again. By then, Ann-Margret’s career had spiked and already appeared to reach its plateau. Roger’s television series 77 Sunset Strip had finished and he had just divorced his wife, Australian actress Victoria Shaw, of nine years.
Their first date was at a nightclub; then dinner the following night; and their third date was a ride aboard his own private plane. “The man that I married is the man I knew I was going to marry on the third date,” she told the New York Times in a 1994 interview.
Despite her parents’ disapproval for her marrying a man who had been so recently married, the two tied the knot in a Las Vegas civil ceremony at the Riviera Hotel in 1967. She was 26 and he was 34.
Her husband proved to be not only loving, but also her financial consultant. In only two years, she managed to pay off debts that collectively totaled more than her annual salary. He cherished her and was extremely supportive and prideful of her career. Within their first year of marriage he proposed the idea of becoming her manager, stating that acting no longer satisfied him and that she had more “raw talent.”
The decision became final when Ann-Margret thought of all the time she had spent away from him while working in Italy. “When I met Ann-Margret,” said Roger, “I felt happy for the first time in my life. Once I found Ann-Margret, I couldn’t stand to be without her and, surprisingly, she couldn’t stand to be without me.”