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William Smith (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Smith
Born
William Emmett Smith

(1933-03-24)March 24, 1933
DiedJuly 5, 2021(2021-07-05) (aged 88)
Other namesBig Bill
OccupationActor
Years active1942–2020
Spouses
Michele Smith
(m. 1969; div. 1989)
Joanne Cervelli
(m. 1989)
ChildrenWilliam E. Smith III
Sherri Anne Cervelli[1]
Websitewilliamsmith.us

William Emmett Smith (March 24, 1933 – July 5, 2021) was an American actor. In a Hollywood career spanning more than 79 years, he appeared in almost three hundred feature films and television productions in a wide variety of character roles, often villainous or brutal, accumulating over 980 total credits,[2] 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 and 1990s.[2]

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Transcription

Early life and career

Smith was born on March 24, 1933, in Columbia, Missouri, to William Emmett Smith and Emily (Richards) Smith and grew up on their cattle ranch.[1] His family later moved to Southern California, where he began his acting career at the age of eight in 1942, entering show business as a child actor in such films as The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Song of Bernadette and Meet Me in St. Louis.[citation needed]

Smith served in the United States Air Force. He won the 200-pound (91 kg) arm-wrestling championship of the world multiple times, also winning 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+12 inches.[citation needed] Smith held a 31–1 record as an amateur boxer. A fluent Russian speaker with a master's degree in the discipline from UCLA, 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.[3] While working on his doctorate, Smith was offered a contract with MGM, which would pave his career.

From 1961 to 2014, Smith established himself as a prolific and talented character actor with roles in a diverse range of genres. Although often typecast as an anti-social personality, he sporadically got the opportunity to prove his effectiveness in 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. He appeared in the 1964 Wagon Train episode "The Bob Stuart Story" and also gave a moving performance as the orphaned Native American valet who rails against violence opposite Guy Stockwell in "The Richard Bloodgood Story" S8 E10 which aired on 11/28/1964. One of his earliest leading roles was Joe Riley, a good-natured Texas Ranger with arms of steel on the NBC western series Laredo (1965–1967). Smith guest starred as Jude Bonner on James Arness's long-lived western Gunsmoke[4] in a 1972 episode, "Hostage!"; his character abducts, beats, and apparently rapes (off-screen) 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".[5]

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 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.[1]

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 an episode of Knight Rider as Harold Turner, the manipulative leader of a hellish biker gang whom Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) has to outsmart.

On the big screen, Smith became the star of several cult feature films in the early 1970s. He 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,[6] and a staged-fight scene became a real fight as the cameras continued to roll.[1] Smith later reported that Taylor was "a very tough guy" who broke three of his ribs while he broke Taylor's nose.[7]

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, the latter of which was directed by Seymour Robbie and written by Roger Smith. He starred in 1972's Grave of the Vampire as James Eastman and in 1973's Invasion of the Bee Girls, and 1975's The Swinging Barmaids.

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 appeared as a vindictive sergeant in Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977), as a drag-racing legend in Fast Company (1979), as the title character's father in Conan the Barbarian (1982) (a movie in which he was also briefly considered for the lead role), as bad guy Matt Diggs in The Frisco Kid (1979), as Clint Eastwood's bare-knuckle opponent Jack Wilson in 1980's Any Which Way You Can and had the top villainous role as a Soviet Spetsnaz commander in 1984's 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, he landed the starring role of Brodie Hollister in the short-lived Disney Western series Wildside 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).

From the late 80's on and into the new millennium, Smith's icy stare, physique and continuous essaying of scene-stealing character villainy continued in a string of B-features and direct-to-video productions. Many were continuing collaborations with filmmakers he had worked with years prior along with other character players whom also achieved cult status in their own right. Such names include Robert Z'Dar, Joe Estevez, Tim Thomerson, James Drury, Lloyd Kaufman, Gary Graver, Wolf Larson and Jürgen Prochnow.

In 2002, Smith voiced Draaga, an alien gladiator, in the Justice League episode "War World".

Although it was reported that Smith retired in 2014, he made a cameo appearance in Irresistible (2020).

Post-retirement and death

In 2009, Smith published The Poetic Works of William Smith.[1]

Smith died at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Los Angeles on July 5, 2021, at the age of 88.[8]

Selected filmography

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Medina, Eduardo (July 11, 2021). "William Smith, Action Star Known for His Onscreen Brawls, Dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Erickson, Hal (2016). "William Smith". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 16, 2016.
  3. ^ Kim, Wook (April 11, 2012). "William Smith | Brilliant Classroom Characters: The Top 10 Wicked Smart Actors". Time – via entertainment.time.com.
  4. ^ "Gunsmoke "Hostage!"". William Smith Official Fan Site. December 11, 1972. Archived from the original on April 1, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  5. ^ "Gunsmoke: Hostage! - TV.com". Archived from the original on February 14, 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  6. ^ Tal, Tim (April 1, 2010). "William Smith: My fight with Clint Eastwood was longest two-man fight scene on screen". BZ Film. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  7. ^ Louis Paul (2007). Tales from the Cult Film Trenches: Interviews with 36 Actors from Horror, Science Fiction and Exploitation Cinema. McFarland, pg. 226.
  8. ^ 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.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 June 2024, at 01:27
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