The first thing I told him was that I remember fans writing in about him many years ago. . . in fact I even remembered the name of one fan, who kept sending me pictures of Roger.
He nodded rather grimly and admitted that he'd been at Warner Brothers umpteen years ago in the days when Troy Donahue and a raft of other people were making movies. He'd been in two series himself but somehow nothing had clicked for him. He smiled and said, "I went to Hollywood in 1961 with 10 cents in my pocket and left in 1966 with $40.00. I d done two series and a lot of other things but wild fame and money simply didn't come my way."
So Roger headed back east and went into several shows. He played the Bobby Kennedy role in "McBird" when it went into Boston. The role had not been played too sympathetically before. One night he was playing on Broadway when a friend playing in a show across the street told him Bobby Kennedy was in his audience. Roger went backstage across the street and met Bobby. He told him he d played the role in "McBird" and Bobby Kennedy smiled when he heard Roger had done it in Boston. "I understand you are the best Bobby Kennedy and you play it with a little of love. I thank you," he told Roger. It is a memory he cherishes.
Photo Caption: He's married to beautiful Jaclyn, who models on the side and spends the rest of the time keeping him happy.
The years back east were busy ones for Roger. Aside from the theatre experience he was getting, he played eight different roles in "Dark Shadows"... he died several times and was also in the first movie, which made a lot of money it was so popular.
I found out that originally Roger had gone to a military academy and then to Columbia and then to Harvard Law School where be stayed for six days. From there he d gone out to UCLA on a teaching fellowship. While there he got his Masters degree and taught English.
He has a great fondness for Columbia and mentions a pizzeria up near there with love and affection. Whenever he s in New York he manages to go back to the old haunts.
Three years ago he married a beautiful model named Jaclyn Smith. "Maybe you've seen her on the Breck commercials," he asked me and the way he smiled I knew she must really be something! "She s sometimes known as the Breck Girl," he explained. Of course, she s done lots of other commercials and had once done a pilot for TV called "Oh Nurse" that didn't get on unfortunately.
Roger was lugging around a huge pad filled with notes to himself and drawings and figures. He d told me he d just come from a bank way uptown where he d gone to get some figures for his income tax for his manager.
He admitted to me that he'd made quite a bit of money doing voice overs on TV. Many of the commercials or shows you see you hear a voice in the background giving you the message...well,. a heck of a lot of the time you're hearing Roger. "You can't believe how profitable those jobs are," said Roger happily.
And to give me a rough idea, he pored over his papers and showed me an apartment house he was getting ready to buy out in California. Since it may or may not have gone through, I will spare you the business details but it sounded fantastic. Then it developed he owns three or four other houses out there that he rents out. Before he owned it, Elvis Presley had rented it--it looked a lot like Graceland, come to think of it.
Added to that, he set his older brother schoolteacher up in the horse training business in Kentucky. "He s very good," Roger explained. "We're in business together. When he first started he and I bought a horse that no one was bidding for. We paid about $1500 for him," at this point he dug in his pocket for a picture of the largest and one of the most beautiful horses and proudly showed him to me.
His youngest brother, 21 years old, was standing with the horse which reminded Roger that "my youngest brother is the real talent in the family. He sings well and acts and all, but he stays home near my parents. They make life interesting enough and all so he prefers it there," Roger shook his head because he obviously thought his young brother should be in show business.
"At any rate, my brother, the horse trainer, said we'll enter our horse in a race in Kentucky and since he's pretty old and he's never won a race in his whole life, the odds will be high. We'll bet $1,000 and he'll win. So my brother worked with him for a few months and the day came and we entered him and the odds were 76 to one or something like that and he won by about eight lengths," Roger beamed happily at the memory.
"Then my brother said that we would rest him for about six months and enter him in a mile and a fourth race and bet a $1,000 and he'll win again. The odds were high because the race was too long for a horse his age. So we did just that. When the jockey asked my brother how we wanted to run him, start slow and move up, all that sort of thing, my brother said take him off fast as he'll go and keep him right at it. It's a mile and a fourth and that's one run at top speed for any horse, but the jockey said ok. I asked my brother if he was sure the horse could do it and we both decided to try him and if he couldn't we'd just sit and hold his head on our laps in the fields and let him live out his life in splendor. We loved him anyway. The race started and halfway around he was nine lengths out in front of the other horses but coming down the wire he won the race by a nose! That's how much he was slowing down! But there are some horses who just won't let anything past them and my brother knew he was that kind of horse. He's living out his days like a king, resting and eating and being loved by the whole family," Roger smiled.
Of course, I got the feeling there were a few losers the Davis brothers have had during the years, but somehow Roger forgets them all when he thinks of his favorite horse, whose picture he carries with him wherever he goes.
I said, "You certainly are interested in a lot of things. Doesn't it ever get in the way of your acting?"
"Heck, no! As a matter of fact if I hadn't had other things to think about during the years, especially when you have a job one week and then you don't, I d have gone crazy. You've got to have something else to do. Of course, when I'm acting, that's the greatest!"
"Did you know Pete Duel?" I asked.
"Yes," Roger said rather sadly. "I not only knew him and liked him, sometimes I feel very bad that I didn't see more of him. I had no idea he was in that frame of mind. I'd had dinner with him about three weeks before he died and there was no hint of it. Oh, he had his moods, I knew that but I didn't think it was serious. It's strange, back when "Love on a Rooftop" was starting, I was called in to test for the part. At the same time, I was offered another part with Sally Kellerman in a pilot for TV. I took the other one and Pete got "Love On A Rooftop" and we knew each other then. Later we did "Young Country" and Pete was just marvelous to me. He even moved over to take the "heavy" role when it was thought I should play the lead. He and I talked about it and there was absolutely no temperament on his part about it. He said he liked the "heavy" role just as well and thought I was right for the other role."
When I asked Roger how he and Ben Murphy are getting along he told me "Fine."
Then he added, "I like him and we work together every day but we've been so busy doing the show that I haven't really had much time up to now to get to know him too well. When we start again I hope we'll have more time. It was hectic at first. You know the first few segments we picked up the long shots that were still Pete. In the first show they were deliberately doing a lot of close ups of my face to try to get me known in the part. The fans have been willing to accept the change and the ratings look good.
(As I am writing this the news has just come through that "Alias Smith and Jones" will indeed be on next season. They are moving it to 8 p.m. Saturday night opposite "All In The Family.")
"What kind of things do you and Jaclyn eat," I asked Roger, thinking that in this day and age I would hear of loving little scenes in the kitchen at home with plenty of wheat germ thrown in.
"Oh we eat out most of the time" he said casually.
"Even breakfast?" I asked.
"Yes, even breakfast. Mostly we go the Beverly Hills Hotel to eat. We don't cook much at home," I didn't pursue it particularly because be seemed so darned happy about the whole thing.
Of course, Jaclyn is busy with her commercials. They keep an apartment in New York as well as the house in California. When they get a chance they come back east and make the round of theatres which is still in their blood. I got the impression they're beginning to think about having a family.
In Sardi's Roger saw Joan Bennett at another table and wanted to say hello to her before he left. He grinned and said she'd always remember him because he had to hit her on "Dark Shadows" and that was a day neither of them will forget. He said she was simply wonderful and he'd liked working with her.
Coming away from meeting Roger, a man of great enthusiasm and joy of living and infectious friendliness, it would be hard to think of anyone who wouldn't like him.
He was on his way down to visit his brother and family and the horses for the weekend and looking forward to it. He admitted that he'd not given any interviews in California upon advice of the network and press people. But he didn't see why not. He loved doing the show, he loves the fans and he wants to do everything be can to make the show a hit... especially when it suffered such a setback with Pete's untimely death. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more from Roger Davis and evidently there a lot of things he forgot to tell me. I just read that he owns a prize fighter and darned if I can remember any thing he said about that. So keep tuned in...there'll be more. Roger worked for many years learning his trade of acting. He's had all sorts of parts. He's done two movies for TV, one with Suzanne Pleshette called "River of Gold" you may have seen. "The Young Country" was the one with Pete as the "heavy" and it was a big hit in Europe.
Not a day of this young man's life has
been wasted, so far as I can see. He set out to be the best darned
actor he could be and has made bad choices of roles in things
that never came on TV. But he learned from each and every role.
He was there and ready when "Alias Smith & Jones"
needed him and that's why he's doing such a good job on such short
notice. Next season he'll feel more at home, tensions should be
less and here's hoping "Alias Smith & Jones" will
be around for years and years to come!
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