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

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.

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john 30 months ago
Loved him as a tough guy in The Rockford Files pilot episode. Jimmy knocks him out with a roll of quarters in his fist.
Runeshaper 30 months ago
R.I.P. William Smith. Great actor.
tsgabel 32 months ago
I always loved seeing William Smith in ANY show! He was a very handsome guy and made a great villain. It seems all the greats from my early years are dying off. But then again, Mr. Smith was only a few years older than my husband! We're "oldies" now too (sigh!) so I guess it shouldn't be a surprise.
ironman2000 33 months ago
William Smith to me was really the actor's actor. He was always great but he made other actors or actresses on the scene with him look just as good. I have been a fan of his ever since I watch the tv classic "Larado". God bless you, Mr. Smith. Great work on and off the screen.
MarkSpeck 34 months ago
Interesting that he played Arnold's father in the Conan movie, as he was Quinn Martin's choice as the overly sensitive bodybuilder-turned-accidental killer in the Streets of San Francisco episode "Dead Heat", a role that the Governator got. Episode director Michael Preece went ahead and cast Arnold, saying "The audience will love Arnold".

Smith also said that he was up for the role of Caine in Kung Fu, which went to David Carradine instead, and went on to criticize the show for its lack of authenticity during fight scenes ("I don't care how tough you think you are, you get hit with a hundred-pound chain, you DIE!"). He did wind up guest-starring on the show, though.
Tresix 35 months ago
I can think of only one movie where he played the hero: “Invasion of the Bee Girls” (1973). He plays a government agent investigating men dying from sexual exhaustion (!).
ironman2000 Tresix 33 months ago
If you can, look up "Grave of the Vampire". William Smith kicked but in that one.
samseal 35 months ago
William Smith also held World Records in Weightlifting! He could lift His own body weight in reverse curls!
TVFF 35 months 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 35 months 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.
ironman2000 texasluva 33 months ago
Wow! Didn't know that. Thanks for the info.
Cythni 35 months 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 35 months ago
Eternal Blessing on William Smith - Amen - Alleluia!
RkBke 35 months ago
direct desecndant of daniel boone, and a NSA agent (spy) for the government....wow what a life
WandaBaker 35 months 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 35 months 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.
mackjaz 35 months ago
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mackjaz stephaniestavr5 35 months ago
I was a little bit in love with her... along with Jennifer Runyon.
mackjaz 35 months ago
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AnnieM stephaniestavr5 35 months ago
Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks) always makes me think of her, as I think they look a lot alike.
AnnieM stephaniestavr5 35 months 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?).
MarkSpeck stephaniestavr5 34 months ago
Jennifer Runyon was in the original cast of Charles In Charge when it aired on CBS. When it went to syndication, Charles was working for a different family with a different blonde daughter, played by Nicole Eggert.
peahyams37 35 months ago
For you Laredo and Rawhide fans, Neville Brand and Eric Fleming (Gil Favor, Rawhide) were good friends.
peahyams37 35 months 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 35 months 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 35 months 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
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