R.I.P. William Smith, muscleman actor of Laredo and Hawaii Five-O

The bodybuilder duked it out with Clint Eastwood and later played Arnold's dad.

The Everett Collection

Read to Me

Love led William Smith into action. After earning a Master's degree from U.C.L.A. in 1958, the Air Force vet planned to work in the U.S. government in a "security classified job," at least according to a 1967 profile in the Democrat and Chronicle. However, according to the paper, he married a French woman, actress Michele Marly, making him ineligible for the work.

He had other assets to rely on. A bodybuilder, Smith was once the United States Air Force light-heavyweight weightlifting champion and won the 200-pound arm-wrestling championship. He worked out by "regularly lifting 200-pound barbells." No wonder he was a natural playing tough guys. He was a tough guy.

In 1961, Smith (then billed as Bill Smith) landed his first major television role as one of the three leads in The Asphalt Jungle, a gritty cop show featuring Jack Warden. After that series' short run, the following year, he jumped to Zero One, an action show about air security, something he seemed perfectly suited for.

Western fans will best remember him from Laredo, a shoot-'em-up centered around three Texas Rangers. Smith's character, Joe Riley, was sort of the anti-hero of the trio who had often found himself on the opposite side of the law. In some ways he was like a prototype of Han Solo, right down the way he wore his holster on his hip, albeit with more of a Schwarzenegger body. The show lasted two seasons.

In his acting roles, Smith also played characters on both sides of the law, while showing his range as an actor.

In the final episode of Batman, he was, naturally, "Adonis," henchman to Zsa Zsa Gabor. Muscleman roles continued to be his forte throughout the Seventies. Most notably, he played a recurring character, Det. James 'Kimo' Carew, on Hawaii Five-O. He flipped to the dark side again for the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, portraying the menacing Anthony Falconetti.

The Eighties were a gold era for tough-guy action flicks. Though Smith was an elder veteran of Hollywood by that time, he still flexed his muscles. He traded punches with Clint Eastwood in Any Which Way You Can, played Conan's dad in Conan the Barbarian, and barked orders in the cult crime film Maniac Cop.

Smith passed away on July 5, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 88.

 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

52 Comments

Post a comment
samseal 2 days ago
William Smith also held World Records in Weightlifting! He could lift His own body weight in reverse curls!
TVFF 8 days ago
I guess the first place I really noticed him was in Rich Man, Poor Man. Although at the time I misheard his characters name as Falcon Eddie and not realizing that it was Falconetti. I also remember him in that biker movie with Joe Namath, "C.C. and Company".
texasluva 8 days ago
William Smith has been acting since he was 9 years old in The Ghost of Frankenstein 1942. IMDb did not have a photo of him in that movie which I found. I have presented them with that photo in hope of posting under his name. He is bottom left in this photo. He also had uncredited roles in The Song of Bernadette (1943) Gilda (1946) and The Boy With The Green Hair (1948) among others.
Cythni 8 days ago
William Smith was also an Air Force veteran, flying secret missions in the Korean War. He held CiA and NSA clearances, studied at the Sorbonne and University of Munich, and was fluent in Russian, French, German and Serbo-Croatian. Not to mention he was a fine actor and damn fine to look at, lol. RIP big man, you were a lot more than many people realize.
jacko3 9 days ago
Eternal Blessing on William Smith - Amen - Alleluia!
RkBke 9 days ago
direct desecndant of daniel boone, and a NSA agent (spy) for the government....wow what a life
WandaBaker 9 days ago
I had a huge crush on "Joe Riley" when I was a little girl. I can't believe how much I loved westerns as a child!
mackjaz 9 days ago
He also had a memorable guest role on Kolchak: The Night Stalker as a Native American construction boss on "The Energy Eater". Seen here with Elaine Giftos.
Elaine Giftos (aka Bonnie Kleinschmidt,)was probably going to be, (in my mind, I think they did,) became Mrs. Reuben Clarence Kincaid. I still like the scene with her and Reuben's mom (I think Margaret Hamilton played her,) were in the Partridge's closet. She said to Bonnie, "This will give us a nice moment to chat." The sick look Bonnie had on her face!...
I was a little bit in love with her... along with Jennifer Runyon.
I am not familiar with Jennifer Runyon. The only Jennifer I'm familiar with, is my niece. I think I have a really vague tickling in my memory box of having heard that name. But otherwise, I'm really not familiar with her.
AnnieM stephaniestavr5 8 days ago
Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks) always makes me think of her, as I think they look a lot alike.
AnnieM stephaniestavr5 8 days ago
Pretty girl. She was 'Fake' Cindy (as in, not Susan Olsen) in the 'A Very Brady Christmas' TV movie in the late 80's (or early 90's?).
DanielZabo 9 days ago
Wow he was a lot older than I expected? Once I saw him fight it out with James Rockford in the bathroom. Now granted Rockford had to sucker punch this guy because even Jimmy respected his size in this episode. lol. Bill Smith always had the muscles and made a great television bad guy for sure.

R.I.P. Mr. William Smith
peahyams37 9 days ago
For you Laredo and Rawhide fans, Neville Brand and Eric Fleming (Gil Favor, Rawhide) were good friends.
peahyams37 9 days ago
Always liked Big Bill Smith and never understood why he didn't receive the attention that he deserved. Farewell to a true Renaissance man. His was a life well lived!
327053 10 days ago
Saw him in Gunsmoke and Chips as well as other shows. Big tough guy with the likes of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood. Enjoyed his work.
denny 10 days ago
First remember him in Rich Man and Any Which Way You Can with Clint. Also was in the 1st episode of The Rockford Files.

RIP William Smith
Witheman 10 days ago
How many roles has he played..? Have to look him up at IMDB. He was everywhere in the 60's and 70's. Was good in everything he did. R.I.P.
Yort 10 days ago
Loved Will Smith! He was such a great character actor. Big studly looking guy that looked mean. My favorite role of his was in The Rockford Files in the episode Backlash of the Hunter, also starring a very young and pretty Lindsay Wagner. Thank you for the memories Mr. Smith.
cperrynaples 10 days ago
Technically, this article is sorta not accurate! It implies that Smith did H50 before RMPM, but it was the other way around. On RMPM, he killed Nick Nolte in the first season and shot his brother at the end of season 2! On H50, he joined McGarett in the final season, where he replaced Dano!
Dano was never replaceable! lol Book em Dano. Classic T. V. line.
But why stand/sit on technicalities?!?!
Supermandisco 10 days ago
Saw him in episodes of I Dream of Jeannie and Perry Mason, recently on METV and AntennaTV. Hmm.
Coca 11 days ago
Loved to hate him
In Rich man Poor man
Great character actor
RodBurley 11 days ago
He was casted in the final season of 'Hawaii Five-O after James 'Danno' MacArthur left the series.
Although the final season of the series rightfully heavily criticized, I did appreciate his contribution to the series.
Solid actor with a strong presence! RIP.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?