The Religious Affiliation of actress, singer, movie star
From: Ann-Margret (with Todd Gold), Ann-Margret: My Story, G. P. Putnam's Sons: New York, NY (1994), pages 8-9:
Like all Swedes, I was raised to be intensely modest, but I must admit I was tickled by the reviews and the packed, enthusiastic audiences... I felt the same way about writing an autobiography and letting people hear the truth. I knew it wouldn't be easy to cast off my innate reserve and privacy, but I believed it was important...
As I see it, my tale is both unique and universal. I've had many successes, but also, like anyone else, my share of sadness. I'm a mon, a wife, and a crazy performer who likes to drive a motorcycle and kick up her heels. When certain music plays, I don't hear anything else. I'm very emotional, and if a song moves me, I try to include it in my act. It's an almost spiritual thing. I've just got to do it.
I'm sometimes mixed up, but I'm always me, Ann-Margret Olsson Smith, though I dropped the Olsson years ago because I didn't want my parents to feel embarrassment if there was negative publicity from my being in show business. I'm also quite proud...
This book is a lot like that great old toy box of mine. It's full of the things I've saved, the people I've treasured, the experiences I've been lucky to have. Good times, heartaches, triumphs, tragedies, celebrations, losses, mistakes, and incredible good fortune . . . I hope and pray that they're all in here.
Ann-Margret's husband Roger Smith had a medical crisis, and she felt blessed that he pulled through. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, page 14:
I must have been doing something right, because God was on our side. After visits to UCLA Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic, after months of various medications and treatments, doctors and worries, Roger's health slowly improved, but his disease could reoccur at any time.
Roger was quietly grateful, prayerful, and calm. I began thinking about the day there would be a cure, and felt a surge of hope.
From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 16-17:
In Valsjobyn, Sweden, where I spent the first six years of my life, music was the major release. In this tiny (population: 150) town of lumberjacks and farmers high up near the Arctic Circle, there were no movie theaters and few radios...
Mother had lived in Valsjobyn all her life, and had been baptized [as a Lutheran, which was the State Church] Anna Aronsson.
From: Ann-Margret: My Story, page 18:
At seventeen, my mother went to work with Mooma [Ann-Margret's grandmother], and over the years she developed into an exceptional baker, a talent that escaped the next generation... Soon, Mooma's cafe became a town gathering place, a haven where Valsjobyn's residents exchanged news about births, deaths, and marriages. There was no real scandal and little gossip in town, where frugal, love-filled wooden homes dotted the rustic hillsides. The church steeple in the neighboring town of Hotagen rose like a moral compass, higher than any other structure. My mom was baptized in that church, took communion, and was eventually married there--all by the same minister.
There were no strangers where I grew up. Everybody knew every other. Even today, that insular world, free of strife, is my idea of a paradise.
Ann-Margret's father, Gustav Olsson, was from the Ornskoldsvik, a coastal city in Sweden, not too far from the village where Ann-Margret's mother was born. But before he was married, at the age of seventeen he lived and worked for a few years in the United States. After returning to his hometown in Sweden, he began courting Anna Aronsson after they met at a village barn dance, which Gustav Olsson attended because his friend from Chicago (a native of Valsjobyn) was there, having returned to this village. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 20-21:
Without waiting, Daddy stepped across the barn floor and asked my mother to dance. She was nineteen, shy and sheltered. He was eighteen years her senior and had traveled extensively... The one thing Daddy hadn't anticipated while back in his native country was falling in love. He constantly mentioned his life in Chicago, and he tried persuading Mother to move there with him. But she wouldn't even consider such a farfetched notion. So Daddy canceled his plans and stayed. For once in his life, he was driven by forced he could not control, and this both troubled and intrigued him.
Every few weeks, he drove to Valsjobyn. Rather than say he was visiting a new girlfriend, he told his mother that he was going fishing. But she wasn't fooled. One day, as he was about to leave home, his mother called out, "Next time you go fishinig up there, bring the fish home with you. I'd like to meet that special fish."
One Mother's twentieth birthday, Daddy proposed. The next winter, they were married in the simple family ceremony in Hotagen's white church. Afterward,they moved to Stockholm, wher Daddy found work doing odd electrical jobs. Stockholm was frightening to Mother, who had never traveled beyond the provincial villages around Valsjobyn. I'm sure she was lonely and sad, thogh she kept it to herself. Within a few months, she was pregnant.
They were excited by the idea of parenthood... the baby was a girl... called Ann-Margret--after a Swedish swimming star Mother admired.
Not long after I was born on April 28, 1941, Daddy began communicating with his old employer, the Johnson Electric Company in Chicago, requesting whatever papers were necessary for him to return to work in the U.S. Mother was steadfast in her opposition to such a move... [Ann-Margret's father lived and worked in America for a number of years before he was finally able to persuade his wife to move to America to join him in Chicago.]
After high school and a budding career as a singer, Ann-Margret and friends set off for Las Vegas. They had a booking for their act at the Nevada Club. But when they arrived there, the apologetic club owner informed them that the previous act had been extended, meaning there was no job for them. The talent agent who had booked their act for the club in Las Vegas told them that since they had come this far, they may as well go the rest of the way to Los Angeles, to try to break into the entertainment industry there. Ann-Margret actually had a surprisingly easy time doing so. She was soon starring in films. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, page 57:
The four of us filled Ring Warner's station wagon and Scott's Austin Healy... with luggage and equipment and left early in the morning. Except for Scott's radiator blowing outside Salt Lake City, we arrived in Las Vegas without incident.
Before her marriage to Roger Smith, Ann-Margret had a close romantic relationship with Elvis Presley. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 111-112:
The more time Elvis and I spent together, the more we learned how eerily similar we were. Some things were obvious, such as a love of motorcycles, music, and performing. We'd both also experienced meteoric rises in show business; we liked our privacy; we loved our families; we had a strong belief in God.
About Ann-Margret's USO trip to Viet Nam, where she supported the U.S. troops as an entertainer in 1966. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, page 155:
Then we moved into the countryside, an area known as the Iron Triangle. Doing two shows a day at bases around Da Nang, Phu Bai, and Chu Lai, we were constantly in danger. At one eight a.m. show, just fifty smiling soldiers watching while the rest of their unit were out on patrol. We heard shooting in the distance. In retrospect, I should have been very afraid, but I felt invincible. I thought this is where I'm supposed to be, and God would protect us all. In times like these, religion and old-time values serve you well.
After three years of dating, Ann-Margret and Roger Smith got engaged. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 175-177:
"Let's make a date," Roger said.
"I'm free now, tonight, and later on," I replied.
"No, a date to get married," he said. "Let's set a date, and the next time we see each other it'll be to get married."
I'd always imagined a storybook wedding for myself. A white dress, lots of family. Perhaps the ceremony would be at the little white church in Hotagen. Or perhaps it would be just a beautiful garden-style wedding...
May 8, 1967, should've been the happiest day of my life but it turned out to be one of the worst...
...Roger had arranged for a suite at the Riviera [in Las Vegas], and the management was happy to help, since I was booked there and it would be good publicity. Except we wanted everyone to be kept quiet. We felt there was enough tension without having to deal with the press. A friend helped Roger make the secret arrangements--a marriage license was readied at City Hall, a minister hired, a wedding cake ordered.
...As I struggled, there was a knock on the door.
"Could you please hurry," a strange voice said.
"Is something the matter?" I asked.
"Well, the minister has another wedding to do right after yours."
When I walked into the adjoining suite, where the ceremony was to take place, I was engulfed by smoke. Looking through the gray cloud, I saw the room was completely full. A throng of reporters and photographers in their shirtsleeves stood around, talking and smoking. Why not? It was just another workday for them. But not for me. I'd always vowed that I'd have just one wdding in my life. This wasn't the church wedding I'd envisioned, in Sweden, with friends and relatives, but for better or worse, this was it. Yet I could barely see my soon-to-be husband through the crowd.
I felt tears coming. The poor minister, a nice man, had no idea what hit him.
Ann-Margret's wedding was something of a disaster. Immediately after she married Roger Smith, she began living with her parents instead of with her new husband. She did this despite the fact that Smith was a wonderful man and they were deeply in love. But Ann-Margret felt that her mother disapproved of her husband, and she was torn between pleasing her husband and her mother. So she spent the nights at the home of her parents, and spent time with her husband during the day. Finally, her husband and mother began talking with each other on the phone, trying to figure out what to do about Ann-Margret. Ann-Margret's mother explained to her that Roger had grown on her, and that she wanted the couple to live together. Finally Ann-Margret realized that she didn't have to choose between the two, and she began living with her husband. This began one of the greates, most stable and solid marriages in Hollywood history. The couple remains together up through today (1 August 2005), 38 years later. In fact, Ann-Margret dedicated her autobiography to her parents and her husband Roger.
Ann-Margret recalls a time (after she starred in Criminal Affair (1968), when she was despondent after having learned that her business managers and agents had been stealing from her and mishandling her books for many years, and despite her massively successful acting career and relatively frugal lifestyle, she was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Her husband Roger Smith finally took over the management of her career, brought her out of debt, became her business partner, and they were able to become financially very successful. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, page 189:
Long ago, when my father hurt his back, my mother consoled me by explaining that God never gave people more than they could handle. If that was true, I realized it was up to me to at least try to change things.
From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 197-200:
...Stanley Kramer... was about to begin a picture, R.P.M. [a film that Kramer himself and critics regards as one of his worst], with Anthony Quinn. But the female lead had yet to be cast. Stanley, though, was somewhat hesitant to meet with me until our mutual friend Jack Gilardi persuaded him otherwise. And, once Stanely heard me read, he gave me the part, which turned out to be a mixed blessing.
My role called for partial nudity, which, by 1970, was hardly unusual in the movies. I had certainly been told in advance that in one scene I would have to stroll across the room in a sweater that was pretty see-through, and that in another I owuld perform a partially nude scne with Tony Quinn. I felt comfortable that these scenes made sence, and weren't needless sensational peeks, and, I must admist, I agreed to them. For one thing, I accepted this as a norm in filmmaking. But rational thought didn't matter once the filming started.
In fact, I decided to fight. Nudity, I argued to the director, wasn't as sexy to me as a man and a woman wearing something suggestive, something that hinted at sensuality but maintained the mystery and allure that generated the passion. It's not necessary, I debated, to show it all to deliver the message.
Nobody bought my argument, and I found myself at a crossroads. People who saw the performer astride a motorcycle on stage, hair wild, body contorting, could not have envisioned the shy woman inside... The outside world... figured I was a seductress, an extrovert with few inhibitions, and who could blame them? No one could have imagined that undressing was a big deal to me, but it was. Given my strict upbringing, it was a very big deal. And I made that point clear to Stanley [Kramer, the director] and Roger [Smith, her husband and business manager], both of whom saw my stress level rise.
[Ann-Margret tried to prepare herself mentally to do the nude scene, she drank alcohol to take "the edge off" her nerves. The scene was saved until the last day of shooting, but when it came time to do it, she refused. Finally, she did the scene.]
It was the last day. Stanley had purposely saved the most sensitive scene [the scene with partial nudity] for last. The set was closed. Stanley primed my emotions by reminding me of the one and only bad fight I'd had with my father many years before. My tears flowed, and I forgot about my inhibitions and got into character. As I walked around the set, partially nude, Anthony Quinn was totally professional. We did the scene several times before Stanley was happy, and somehow I got through it. But the moment Stanley yelled cut, I covered myself and disappeared into my dressing room, relieved that it was over. I supposed I had achieved some psychological milestone and I should have felt pleased. But I will never shake my innate reserve and prudishness no matter what I do.
[Ann-Margret began drinking heavily while making R.P.M., a habit which accelerated when she starred in C.C. and Company, Mike Nichols' film Carnal Knowledge, which also required substantial nudity. Possibly there was some connection to the stress caused by doing these scenes, which conflicted with her upbringing. In Ann-Margret's autobiography, she seems to link the beginning of her serious alcoholism and her doing nude scenes. Fortunately, Ann-Margret's struggle with alcoholism didn't last long. She wrote that in 1972 she had stopped drinking. Later, after the death of Elvis Presley, she started drinking heavily again, but she quit drinking entirely, and never had a drink of alcohol after 20 June 1980 (Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 201-210, 218, 234, 294).]
After Ann-Margret was severely injured in an automobile accident, her old boyfriend Elvis Presley visited her when there was a large crowd around, and later called her at home. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 256-257:
Late that night the phone rang in our bedroom [Ann-Margret's bedroom with her husband Roger Smith]. I knew who was on the other end, and I was pleased that Roger was in the living room next door. If he had answered the telephone, I suppose Elvis would have hung up, just like in the movies.
Elvis told me how great it had been seeing me earlier. I looked wonderful. His prayers for my recovery had been answered. But then his tone changed. Saying he was lonely, he asked if he could see me. It was a question I'd anticipated since afternoon but hoped that he wouldn't really ask.
"You know I can't."
"I know," he said. "But I just want you to know that I still feel the same."
About the death of Ann-Margret's father. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 258-259:
I wouldn't accept his death, I couldn't. He was one of the three centers of my world--Daddy, Mother, and Roger.
With the news, something inside me snapped. I withdrew deeper into myself than ever. Roger got scared. I didn't know how to communicate the despair, loss, and grief inside.
I don't know how I got through Daddy's funeral. Seated between Mother and Roger, I couldn't get my body to stop shaking violently. I held on to them tightly for support as well as for dear life. I couldn't--wouldn't--look at Daddy lying there. I wanted to remember him alive. Our dear friend Seth Riggs filled the church with "The Lord's Prayer," his voice painting the room with a love and dignity and strength that reminded us of Daddy.
I knew he was listening from above. God bless his soul.
[A few days the funeral, Ann-Margret swallowed the pills from a bottle of painkillers.]
Was I tryiing to commit suicide? I never once wanted to end my life, because even in that miserable despair, I knew how much I had to live for. Very simly, I didn't want to be in any more pain.
As soon as I began to experience the tingling sensation in my fingers and back caused by the pills, I panicked. I found Roger and told him that I had to go see Kathleen. Then I got in my car and drove to her home in Santa Monica. It was stupid to be driving a car in that condition, but God must've watched over me. Somehow I made it. When I got there, I didn't mince words; I told Kathleen and her physician husband, Carl, what I'd done.
About the death of Elvis Presley, with whom Ann-Margret had a close romantic relationship prior to marriage. From: Ann-Margret: My Story, page 283:
The funeral took place in Graceland's opuulent living room, and I remember a surrealness to the scene... the only way I made it through that service was by clinging to Roger and by telling myself, as I did when I was a child living in a funeral home, that God was with us, watching.
From: Ann-Margret: My Story, pages 314-315:
I tried it [a medical technique for infertile couples] three separate times--none successful--and then I gave up for good on trying to get pregnant. I had been trying for more than a decade. Clearly, I told myself, it wasn't meant to happen. I'd tried everything; I resolved not to suffer any regrets. I had three wonderful stepchildren whom I loved and helped to raise as if they were my own. I reasoned God had other plans for me.
I explained to Roger that I'd made my peace and then reminded him of a prayer I'd learned more than ten years earlier, a prayer that gave me the courage and conviction to accede to the uncertainty of fate. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."
Note: Ann-Margret's name is sometimes misspelled as "Ann-Margaret." Other mispellings include: Ann Margaret, AnnMargaret, AnnMargret, Ann Margret.
Webpage created 1 August 2005. Last modified 1 August 2005.
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