Ann-Margret – a Swedish-American actress who became famous for her roles in Bye Bye Birdie and Viva Las Vegas – was married to actor and producer Roger Smith for 50 years, from 1967 until his death in 2017.
The couple shared a long and beautiful love story, during which he helped her in her recovery from alcoholism. She also served as his caregiver during multiple health issues, such as Parkinson’s disease and myasthenia gravis.
Still, despite the love the couple shared, perhaps Ann-Margret’s most famous romantic relationship was with Elvis Presley. After Ann-Margret and Presley’s relationship ended, they shared a meaningful connection until his death in 1977.
But was Smith ever jealous of his wife’s flirtatious friendship with the King of Rock and Roll? The actress, now 79, answered that question in her 1994 autobiography, Ann-Margret: My Story.
Ann-Margret met Presley on the set of ‘Viva Las Vegas’
Ann-Margret had already been dubbed the “female version of Elvis” before she met her Viva Las Vegas co-star on the set in 1963. Sparks immediately flew between Ann-Margret, then 22, and Presley, then 28.
In My Story, Ann-Margret revealed that she knew whatever happened between the King and her would be nothing short of explosive.
“We were quiet, polite, and careful,” she wrote of their early days after being introduced. “But I knew what was going to happen once we got to know each other. Elvis did, too. We both felt a current, an electricity that went straight through us. It would become a force we couldn’t control.”
Elvis Presley’s Bodyguard Thought Elvis Being Faithful to Priscilla Presley Was Like ‘Trying to Become Celibate in a Brothel’
Presley left Ann-Margret to marry Priscilla
The pair dated off and on for about a year, even talking about marriage. Ann-Margret described Presley as her “soul mate” and said he touched something “deep within her psyche.” They were deeply similar in many ways, and she felt their paths mirrored one another.
Ultimately, however, the couple knew that their relationship wasn’t going to last forever.
“Both of us knew that no matter how much we loved each other, no matter how strong our bond, we weren’t going to last,” Ann-Margret wrote. Presley had “commitments, promises to keep” – namely, to Priscilla Presley, who already lived at Graceland and to whom he was engaged – “and he vowed to keep his word.”
The actress moved on to marry Smith, her husband of many years
Smith and Ann-Margret tied the knot in 1967, exactly one week after Presley married his wife, Priscilla. Ann-Margret described Smith, too, as her “soul mate”: someone whom she understood implicitly, without need for words.
The actress revealed that she was certain of her future with Smith by the third date. She felt something undeniable between them, and she knew it was meant to be.
“I already knew that somebody we’d be married,” Ann-Margret wrote in My Story of one of her earliest dates with Smith. “I didn’t know the particulars, but I knew by the third date that we had something special.”
Ann-Margret trusted Smith deeply. In fact, he began to manage her career full-time after he retired from acting. She handed him the reins in terms of her performing career, and that arrangement always served them well.
Elvis Presley’s Friend Claims Priscilla Presley Wasn’t Supposed to Use Elvis’s Last Name After Their Divorce – But She Eventually Did
Smith and Presley sometimes spent time together
While many men would have been intimidated by their wife’s ongoing friendship with Elvis himself, Ann-Margret said her husband never showed signs of envy when it came to her ex-boyfriend.
Presley continued to send guitar-shaped flower arrangement to Ann-Margret backstage at her shows for the rest of his life. They also talked periodically and always shared a special connection.
Ann-Margret also occasionally spent time with both Presley and Smith at social events.
In Las Vegas, she recalled in My Story, Presley once impishly called Ann-Margret over – referring to her by his affectionate nickname for her, “Rusty” – and asked her to stand still while he did karate chops in her direction.
According to Ann-Margret, he wanted to “show how closed he could come to [her]face without touching or hurting [her].” Presley pulled it off, and Smith just grinned, even expressing his amazement at the King’s skill in martial arts.
She claimed her husband understood her friendship with the King
In reflecting on this moment, which could easily have become an awkward face-off with her former boyfriend and current husband, Ann-Margret revealed that she deeply appreciated Smith’s apparent lack of jealousy toward Presley.
“One of the traits I love about my husband is that he was never jealous of the friendship I shared with Elvis,” she wrote. “If it had been another old boyfriend who periodically appeared in my life, bearing flowers and gifts, I don’t think he would have been as understanding. But Elvis was different, he was special, and like everyone else, Roger put in a category all his own.”
Ann-Margret argued that Smith knew she and the King of Rock and Roll shared a “bond that would never be broken,” and he “didn’t try” to break it. On the contrary, she wrote, Smith and Presley actually got along well and were friendly with each other. After Presley’s death in 1977, Smith even attended his funeral with Ann-Margret to pay his respects.