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William Emmett Smith (March 24, 1933 – July 5, 2021) was an American actor. In a Hollywood career spanning more than 75 years, he appeared in almost three hundred feature films and television productions in a wide variety of character roles, accumulating over 480 total credits, with his best known role being the menacing Anthony Falconetti in the 1970s television mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man. Smith is also known for films like Any Which Way You Can (1980), Conan The Barbarian (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), and Red Dawn (1984), as well as lead roles in several exploitation films during the 1970s.
|Born||March 24, 1933|
Columbia, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||July 5, 2021 (aged 88)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Other names||Big Bill|
(m. 1969; div. 1989)
|Children||William E. Smith III|
Sherri Anne Cervelli
Life and careerEdit
This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2022)
Smith was born on March 24, 1933, in Columbia, Missouri, to William Emmett Smith and Emily Richards Smith, and grew up on the cattle ranch owned by his parents. His family later moved to Southern California, where he began his acting career at the age of eight in 1942; entering films as a child actor in such films as The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Song of Bernadette and Meet Me in St. Louis.
Smith served in the United States Air Force. He won the 200-pound (91 kg) arm-wrestling championship of the world multiple times and also won the United States Air Force weightlifting championship. A lifelong bodybuilder, Smith was a record holder for reverse-curling his own body weight. His trademark arms measured as much as 19+1⁄2 inches. Smith held a 31–1 record as an amateur boxer. A fluent Russian speaker, during the Korean War Smith was a Russian Intercept Interrogator and flew secret ferret missions over the Russian SFSR. He was reportedly also fluent in French, German and Serbo-Croatian. He had both CIA and NSA clearances and intended to enter a classified position with the U.S. government, but while he was working on his doctorate studies he landed an acting contract with MGM.
In the years from 1961 to 2014, Smith established himself as a highly prolific and profoundly talented character actor with roles in a diverse range of genres. Although often typecast as an anti-social personality, he sporadically got other kinds of roles as a law enforcement officer or an anti-heroic protagonist. He was a regular on the 1961 ABC television series The Asphalt Jungle, portraying police Sergeant Danny Keller. In 1964, he appeared in the episode "The Rope of Lies" as Bill, a ranch hand from the Shiloh Ranch in the syndicated television series The Virginian. One of his earliest leading roles was as Joe Riley, a good-natured Texas Ranger on the NBC western series Laredo (1965–1967). In 1967, Smith guest starred as Jude Bonner on James Arness's long-lived western Gunsmoke.
Smith was cast as John Richard Parker, brother of Cynthia Ann Parker, both taken hostage in Texas by the Comanche, in "The Understanding" (1969), an episode of Death Valley Days. In the story line, Parker contracts the plague, is left for dead by his fellow Comanche warriors, and is rescued by his future Mexican wife, Yolanda (Emily Banks). He played the outlaw turned temporary sheriff Hendry Brown in the 1969 episode "The Restless Man". In that story line, Brown takes the job of sheriff to tame a lawless town, begins to court a young woman (again played by Emily Banks), but soon returns to his deadly outlaw ways in search of bigger thrills.
On Gunsmoke, Smith appeared in a 1972 episode, "Hostage!"; his character beats and rapes Amanda Blake's character Miss Kitty Russell and shoots her twice in the back. Smith has been described as the "greatest bad-guy character actor of our time".
Smith joined the cast of the final season of Hawaii Five-O as Detective James "Kimo" Carew, a new officer in the Five-O unit. He had previously appeared with Jack Lord in Stoney Burke. Smith starred in one episode each of the Adam West Batman TV series (in the episode "Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires" as Adonis, one of the minions of the title guest villainess portrayed by Zsa Zsa Gabor), I Dream of Jeannie (in the episode "Operation: First Couple on the Moon" as Turk Parker), Kung Fu, and as The Treybor, a ruthless warlord, in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Buck's Duel to the Death". Smith also made guest appearances opposite James Garner in the 1974 two-hour pilot for The Rockford Files (titled "Backlash of the Hunter" and also featuring Lindsay Wagner and Bill Mumy), and George Peppard in The A-Team (in two appearances as different characters, in the first season's "Pros and Cons" and the fourth season's "The A-Team Is Coming, The A-Team Is Coming").
In the 1976 television miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, he portrayed Anthony Falconetti, nemesis of the Jordache family, and reprised the role in the sequel, Rich Man, Poor Man Book II. Other 1970s TV appearances included the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "The Energy Eater", as an Indian medicine man who advises Kolchak, and an early Six Million Dollar Man episode "Survival of the Fittest" as Commander Maxwell. He also appeared in the 1979 miniseries The Rebels as John Waverly, in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard as Jason Steele, a bounty hunter hired by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane to frame the Duke Boys into jail, and in an episode of Knight Rider as Harold Turner, the manipulative leader of a hellish biker gang whom David Hasselhoff's character Michael Knight has to outsmart.
On the big screen, Smith became the star of several cult movies from the early seventies. Smith appeared as heavy Terry Bartell in Darker than Amber in 1970. In the fist fight scene that ends the film Rod Taylor hit Smith (who was playing the villain) who retaliated in kind, and a staged fight scene became a real fight as the cameras continued to roll. Smith later reported that Taylor was "a very tough guy" who broke three of his ribs while he broke Taylor's nose.
Also in 1970, Smith featured in two biker flicks Nam's Angels (originally released under the title "The Losers") co-starring Bernie Hamilton and C.C. and Company with Ann-Margret, Joe Namath, Jennifer Billingsley and genre favorite Sid Haig, the latter of which was directed by Seymour Robbie and written by Ann-Margret's husband, actor Roger Smith. He starred in 1972's Grave of the Vampire as James Eastman (co-starring with Michael Pataki and Lyn Peters), and 1973's Invasion of the Bee Girls (co-starring Victoria Vetri, Anitra Ford and Katie Saylor, written by Nicholas Meyer and directed by Denis Sanders), and 1975's The Swinging Barmaids (starring Ms. Saylor, Bruce Watson and Laura Hippe, and directed by Gus Trikonis). In 1972 and 1975, respectively, he appeared in two popular Blaxploitation films, Hammer and the controversially titled Boss Nigger, both with Fred Williamson. In 1972, he appeared in a Columbo episode "The Greenhouse Jungle" as Ken Nichols, a handsome swindler who may be a person of interest in Columbo's murder investigation. After that, he played a vindictive sergeant in Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977) with an all-star cast headed by Burt Lancaster and Richard Widmark, a drag-racing legend in Fast Company (1979) also co-starring Claudia Jennings and John Saxon, the main character's father in Conan the Barbarian (1982) with Arnold Schwarzenegger, bad guy Matt Diggs in The Frisco Kid (1979) opposite Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford, and Clint Eastwood's bare-knuckle opponent Jack Wilson in 1980's Any Which Way You Can (a sequel to 1978's Every Which Way But Loose in which Smith did not appear), and also had a top villainous role of the Soviet commander in the hit 1984 theatrical film Red Dawn.
In 1983, Smith appeared in two films from Francis Ford Coppola, in The Outsiders as a store clerk and in Rumble Fish as a police officer. In 1985, Smith landed the starring role of Brodie Hollister in the Disney mini-series Wildside, created by writer-producer Tom Greene, and another role as the bookmaker Dutchman's strongarm enforcer known simply as "Panama Hat", in director Richard Brooks's final movie, Fever Pitch (1985) opposite Ryan O'Neal. Although it was reported that Smith retired from film in 2014 with his last screen appearance, he did make a cameo appearance in the Steve Carell comedy, Irresistible (2020).
In 2009, Smith published The Poetic Works of William Smith.
Smith died at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Los Angeles, on July 5, 2021, at the age of 88.
|1942||The Ghost of Frankenstein||Village boy in courtroom||Uncredited|
|1964||Combat!||German Sergeant||Episode: "Eyes of the Hunter"|
|1968||Batman||Adonis||Episode: "Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires"|
|1970||Darker than Amber||Terry|
|1970||C.C. and Company||Moon|
|1972||Grave of the Vampire||James Eastman|
|1973||Invasion of the Bee Girls||Neil Agar|
|1974||Planet of the Apes||Tolar||Episode: "The Gladiators"|
|1974||Kolchak: The Night Stalker||Jim Elkhorn||Episode: "The Energy Eater"|
|1979||Fast Company||Lonnie "Lucky Man" Johnson|
|1979–1980||Hawaii Five-O||Detective James "Kimo" Carew||19 episodes|
|1980||Any Which Way You Can||Jack Wilson|
|1981||Dukes of Hazzard||Jason Steele|
|1982||Conan the Barbarian||Conan's father|
|1983||Rumble Fish||Officer Patterson|
|1983||Benson||Otto||Season 5, Ep. 9 : "Katie's Cookies"|
|1983||The A-Team||Jase Tataro||Episode: "Pros and Cons"|
|1984||Red Dawn||Colonel Strelnikov|
|1986||The Twilight Zone||Guard||Segment "Shadow Play"|
|1986||The A-Team||Dimitri Shasta Kovich||Episode: "The A-Team Is Coming, the A-Team Is Coming"|
|1988||Maniac Cop||Captain Ripley|
|1988||Hell Comes To Frogtown||Captain Devlin / Count Sodom|
|1989||L.A. Vice||Captain Joe Wilkes|
|1996||Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny||Sable Man||Voice, uncredited|
|2002||Justice League||Draaga||Voice, episode: "War World" Parts I & II|
|2005||Hell to Pay||Emil Brax|
|2009||Wanted: Weapons of Fate||Voice, video game|
|2014||Rock n' Roll Cops Lite||Rinaldi||Archive footage|
|Island of Witches||Vladislav Titov|
- 1943 The Song of Bernadette as Townsman (uncredited)
- 1944 Going My Way as Choir Member (uncredited)
- 1944 Meet Me in St. Louis as Little Boy (uncredited)
- 1945 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as Boy (uncredited)
- 1946 Gilda as Man (uncredited)
- 1947 I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now as Young Boy (uncredited)
- 1948 The Boy with Green Hair as Boy (uncredited)
- 1951 Saturday's Hero (uncredited)
- 1958 High School Confidential as Minor Role (uncredited)
- 1959 The Mating Game as Barney
- 1959 Ask Any Girl as Young Man (uncredited)
- 1959 Girls Town as Man (uncredited)
- 1959 Never So Few as MP Officer #1 (uncredited)
- 1959 The Gazebo as Actor (uncredited)
- 1961 Go Naked in the World as Minor Role
- 1961 Atlantis, the Lost Continent as Captain of The Guard
- 1964 Mail Order Bride as Lank
- 1968 Three Guns for Texas as Ranger Joe Riley
- 1968 The Banditos
- 1969 Run, Angel, Run! as Angel
- 1970 Nam's Angels as Link Thomas
- 1970 Angels Die Hard as Tim
- 1970 Darker than Amber as Terry
- 1971 Summertree as Draft Lawyer
- 1971 Chrome and Hot Leather as T.J.
- 1972 The Thing with Two Heads as Hysterical Condemned Man
- 1972 Hammer as Brenner
- 1972 Piranha, Piranha as Caribe
- 1972 Runaway, Runaway as Frank
- 1973 Gentle Savage as John Allen, Camper
- 1973 Sweet Jesus, Preacherman as Martelli
- 1973 Invasion of the Bee Girls as Neil Agar
- 1973 The Last American Hero as Kyle Kingman
- 1973 The Deadly Trackers as Schoolboy
- 1973 A Taste of Hell as Jack Lowell
- 1974 Policewomen as The Karate Instructor
- 1974 Black Samson as Giovanni "Johnny" Nappa
- 1974 Win, Place or Steal as Tom
- 1974 The Rockford Files (episode: Backlash of the Hunter) as Jerry Grimes
- 1975 Boss Nigger as Jed Clayton
- 1975 The Swinging Barmaids as Lieutenant Harry White
- 1975 The Ultimate Warrior as "Carrot"
- 1975 Dr. Minx as Gus Dolan
- 1976 Scorchy as Carl Henrich
- 1976 Hollywood Man as Rafe Stoker
- 1977 Twilight's Last Gleaming as Hoxey
- 1978 Blood and Guts as Dan O'Neil
- 1978 Blackjack as Andy Mayfield
- 1979 The Frisco Kid as Matt Diggs
- 1979 Seven as Drew Savano
- 1981 The Cop Killers
- 1983 The Outsiders as The Store Clerk
- 1985 Wildside (TV Series) as Brodie Hollister
- 1985 The Mean Season as Albert O'Shaughnessy
- 1985 When Nature Calls as The Husband ("Gena's Story" trailer)
- 1985 Fever Pitch as "Panama Hat"
- 1986 Eye of the Tiger as "Blade"
- 1987 Commando Squad as Morgan Denny
- 1987 Moon in Scorpio as Burt
- 1987 The Badd One as Badd
- 1988 Bulletproof as Russian Major
- 1988 Platoon Leader as Major Flynn
- 1988 Hell on the Battleground as Colonel Meredith
- 1988 Evil Altar as Reed Weller
- 1988 The Kill Machine as Boris Katunik
- 1989 Jungle Assault as General Mitchell
- 1989 Slow Burn as Antonio Scarpelli
- 1989 Action U.S.A. as Conover
- 1989 Empire of Ash III as Lucas
- 1989 Terror in Beverly Hills as The President
- 1989 Memorial Valley Massacre as General Mintz
- 1989 East L.A. Warriors as Martelli
- 1989 B.O.R.N. as Dr. Farley
- 1989 Deadly Breed as Captain
- 1990 Instant Karma as Pop
- 1990 Emperor of the Bronx as Fitz
- 1990 Cartel as Mason
- 1990 Chance as Captain Joe Wilkes
- 1990 The Final Sanction as Major Galashkin
- 1990 Highway Warrior
- 1990 Forgotten Heroes as General Gregori Zelenkov
- 1991 Spirit of the Eagle as Hatchett
- 1991 Merchant of Evil as Victor Fortunetti
- 1991 Kiss and Be Killed as Detective Murdoch
- 1991 Hard Time Romance
- 1991 Cybernator as Colonel Peck
- 1992 The Last Riders as "Hammer"
- 1992 American Me as Deacon
- 1992 Shadow of the Dragon as Eric Brunner
- 1992 The Legend of the Roller Blade Seven as "Pharaoh"
- 1992 Legend of Skull Canyon as Charlie "Conchos Charlie"
- 1992 Feast as Detective George Bordelli
- 1992 Dark Secrets as Robert
- 1992 A Mission to Kill as Boris Catuli
- 1993 Return of the Roller Blade Seven as "Pharaoh"
- 1993 Road to Revenge as Normad
- 1994 Maverick as Riverboat Poker Player
- 1994 Manosaurus as Sheriff Todd
- 1995 Taken Alive as L.E.
- 1995 Raw Energy as Sam Stompkins
- 1995 Judee Strange as Judee
- 1995 Big Sister 2000 as The Man
- 1996 Uncle Sam as Major
- 1996 Neon Signs as Clyde
- 1997 Hollywood Cops as Rinaldi
- 1997 The Shooter as Jerry Krants
- 1997 Interview with a Zombie as Zombie
- 1997 Ground Zero
- 1997 Doublecross on Costa's Island as L.E.
- 1998 Broken Vessels as Bo
- 1998 Warriors of the Apocolypse as Moon
- 1998 No Rest for the Wicked as Frank Love
- 1998 Blood of His Own
- 1999 Wasteland Justice as Moon
- 2000 Vice as "Spooky" Harlow
- 2000 Plastic Boy and the Jokers as Dr. Taylor
- 2000 Never Look Back
- 2001 The Elite as Colonel Shaw
- 2002 Body Shop as Sheriff Taggart
- 2003 God Has a Rap Sheet as Lucifer
- 2004 Y.M.I. as Cal
- 2004 Killer Story as Monty – 'The Wrap'
- 2006 Voices from the Graves as Lester Jiggs
- 2006 Inner Rage as Sam
- 2007 Rapturious as Sheriff
- 2008 The Boneyard Collection
- 2012 Tiger Cage as Katulic
- 2020 Irresistible
- Medina, Eduardo (July 11, 2021). "William Smith, Action Star Known for His Onscreen Brawls, Dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
- Erickson, Hal (2016). "William Smith". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 23, 2014.
- Kim, Wook (April 11, 2012). "William Smith | Brilliant Classroom Characters: The Top 10 Wicked Smart Actors". Time – via entertainment.time.com.
- ""The Understanding" on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
- "A Restless Man on Death Valley Days". tv.com. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
- "Gunsmoke "Hostage!"". William Smith Official Fan Site. December 11, 1972. Archived from the original on April 1, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- [dead link]
- Tal, Tim (April 1, 2010). "William Smith: My fight with Clint Eastwood was longest two-man fight scene on screen". BZ Film. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
- Louis Paul (2007). Tales from the Cult Film Trenches: Interviews with 36 Actors from Horror, Science Fiction and Exploitation Cinema. McFarland, pg. 226
- Bartlett, Rhett (July 9, 2021). "William Smith, Action Actor and Star of 'Laredo' and 'Rich Man, Poor Man,' Dies at 88". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
- "William Smith". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved July 12, 2021.