Ann-Margret Says She’s ‘Most Proud’ of Her Marriage to Late Husband Roger Smith: He Was in My ‘Corner’
Ann-Margret was born with a song in her heart. “My first musical memory was of the accordion,” she tells Closer. “It was during World War II, and there were a lot of beautiful songs.”
At 80, Ann-Margret remains as vibrant, gorgeous and busy as ever! In addition to her work in films and television, she recently finished recording a new album of ’60s hits, Born to Be Wild.
“I hadn’t done an album for like 100 years!” she quips. “I had a ball doing it!”
Ann-Margret was just a child when she discovered her knack for performing. “From when I was 4 years old in Sweden, I would get up and harmonize with my mother to Swedish songs,” she remembers. “We lived in the same house with Mormor, my mother’s mother, and my uncle, who played the accordion. It was quite a group!”
By the time she was a young woman, Ann-Margret, who had immigrated to America at 5, had become a triple threat. She felt equally at home in the recording studio, on a nightclub stage and on a movie set.
She made her film debut playing Bette Davis’ daughter in 1961’s Pocketful of Miracles. “Daddy went without mother and I knowing to Hollywood, where the movie was playing. He wanted to see my name in lights,” she recalls. Later, musical hits like Bye Bye Birdie and Viva Las Vegas would make her a sensation, but Ann-Margret credits her family for helping her avoid the pitfalls of fame. “My mother, daddy and my dear friends were my support system,” she confides. “I always had my feet on ground.”
Ann-Margret still lives in the same L.A. home she bought with late husband, actor and producer Roger Smith, back in 1968. “When I look back at my life, I am most proud of my marriage,” says the performer. She’s grateful for the years she shared with Roger.
“We both wanted it to work. And it did work,” she says. “We were together night and day. We loved each other and were always in each other’s corner.”
Since Roger’s passing in 2017, Ann-Margret has lost her interest in some of the pastimes they shared, like skiing, but she hopes to return to the slopes soon.
These days, her cat, Harley, is her most constant companion. “He is 18 years old,” she explains. “He is always with me and sleeps with me every night.”
She also has a group of friends — people she’s worked with over the years — who have created an informal walking group. “On Monday, there might be three of us. Another day, there might be 15. We go to a different place every weekend to walk,” she says. “I’m excited to go.”
She’s also delighted about what’s to come. Her new album, Born to Be Wild, is a collection of some of her favorite songs from the 1960s. It includes tunes recorded by her old friends Bobby Darin and Bobby Rydell, her Bye Bye Birdie costar.
“It’s all ’60s music. My era!” Ann-Margret enthuses, noting that some of the tracks, like “Earth Angel” and “Teach Me Tonight,” have been part of her stage show for years.
Recently, Ann-Margret participated in a celebration of Bye Bye Birdie, including a special screening and Q&A session at Hollywood’s Montalbán Theatre. She admits she had “no idea” the movie would be so big. “I was just happy to remember my lines,” she confesses. “And the words to the songs.”