William Smith, best known for his roles in Any Which Way You Can, Hawaii Five-0 and Maniac Cop, has died at 88. His initial major acting breakthrough came as part of the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man in the role of Falconetti, one of many villainous notes to his career.
Smith passed away on July 5 at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital, according to his wife, Joanne Cervelli Smith. No cause of death was specified at the time.
The actor was born in Columbia, MO in 1933 and came from a family with a ranching background before moving to Southern California before his tenth birthday. His first role in Hollywood and entertainment was as an extra in The Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942. Small roles followed this in Meet Me in St. Louis and The Song of Bernadette.
He put his career on hold in the early '50s to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War. According to Deadline, Smith flew "secret missions" during the war and also focused on his education, earning a master's degree from UCLA after studying at other institutions around the globe in Paris, Munich and more. He was on his way to government work before agreeing to an MGM contract and making a mark in television.
Smith could be seen in a variety of classics during the time, including Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Batman, Lassie and others. In 1979 he became a regular on the final season of Hawaii Five-0 as Detective James "Kimo" Carew. It became a favorite due to its more heroic tone compared to his villain roles elsewhere.
In 1976 came Rich Man, Poor Man and its sequel, and later a jump to the big screen in Any Which Way You Can in 1980. Deadline highlights a two-star review from Roger Ebert at the time, singling it out for the praise for Smith.
"It was to my immense delight that I immediately recognized the actor playing Jack Wilson," Ebert said in his review. "He was William (Big Bill) Smith, who played a lot of motorcycle gang leaders in films of the late 1960s and still looks as fearsome as ever. He and Eastwood meet while out jogging one morning, and then he falls off a cliff and is rescued by Eastwood, after which he beats up a lot of guys who insult Eastwood's girlfriend in a bar. All in a day's work."
He also had bit parts as Conan the Barbarian's father in the Schwarzenegger classic and as an evil Soviet colonel in the original Red Dawn. His final film was 2020's Irresistible alongside Steve Carell.