William Smith, Character Actor (And A Bit More)

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by aaronfirebrand, Feb 17, 2010.

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  1. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    William Smith has been one of my favorite character actors for a long time, but I had no idea of his myriad accomplishments. Idly pulling up names online, I came across his bio; all I could say when I finished reading it was whoaa!.
    I've been meaning to start a thread about him for a while, but time hasn't been on my side lately. To expedite things, I'll just copy the imbd.com page below. I've highlighted entries that I found interesting and/or impressive.

    Mini Biography

    Biker, bare-knuckle brawler, cowboy, Bee-Girl fighter, vampire hunter . . . William Smith has done it all. He was born on March 24, 1934, in Columbia, Missouri, on Rolling Acres, a Hereford cattle ranch. After losing everything to the dust bowl, the family moved to California. From 1942, when he was eight, through young adulthood, Bill appeared in many movies as an extra (uncredited). After high school, he joined the Air Force and served during the Korean War and flew secret ferret missions over Russia while in the NSA. He studied at the University of Munich, and Syracuse University. He graduated cum laude at UCLA. Bill would go on to become one of Hollywood's best-known character actors, with over 300 TV and movie credits. On TV he played in many westerns (did his own horseback riding), cop and sci-fi shows. He's best remembered for appearing in "Batman" (1966) as, appropriately, Adonis in the last episode. He was a series regular in "Hawaii Five-O" (1968), where he played Det. James "Kimo" Carew (the episode with Cathy Lee Crosby, "The Kahuna," drew particularly high ratings). On the big screen, Bill is legendary for biker flicks (he does his own motorcycle riding). His first biker flick, Run, Angel, Run! (1969), was shot in 13 days for under $100,000--and made $13 million! This was followed by Angels Die Hard (1970). These early, ground-breaking features defined the genre, and would be imitated endlessly (but never duplicated). In the early 1970s, Bill got into horror films--playing a vampire slayer in Grave of the Vampire (1974)--and science fiction, in the camp classic Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), where he fought killer insect-women wearing sunglasses. Just about everybody's favorite William Smith movie, though, is Any Which Way You Can (1980), where as a bare-knuckle brawler he had a knock-down, drag-out fight with Clint Eastwood that wrecked about half the town. Tougher than Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill played his dad in Conan the Barbarian (1982), and was one of the few actors in the wildly popular, but critically lambasted, youth-oriented Red Dawn (1984) to receive any recognition from critics. He was in what could be called a textbook example of low-budget, campy sci-fi, Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988). Just about everybody who has ever worked with Bill speaks highly of him. He's educated, intelligent and energetic. A true legend in the business, Bill's acting career is still going strong in 2006, well into the 64th year of his career.
    William Smith is probably best known for his portrayal as "Falconetti" in "Rich Man, Poor Man" (1976). He first came to the screen as a child actor in films such as Going My Way (1944) and The Song of Bernadette (1943), before entering the service during the Korean War. There, his fluency in five languages landed him in the N.S.A. Security Squadron 6907. While working towards his doctorate, he landed a contract with MGM and never looked back. Over the next thirty years, Smith became one of the kings of B-movie villainy. With a prolific number of roles in westerns, biker, horror, sci-fi, and action pictures, his face-and muscular physique-are familiar to generations of movie fans.

    Appeared in the final episode of "Batman" (1966).

    Lifetime Achievement Award from Academy of Bodybuilding and Fitness

    Record-holder for reverse-curling his own body weight.

    2 Time Arm Wrestling World Champion-200lb class-Petaluma, CA

    Served in the Airforce, National Security Agency, during the Korean War.

    Graduated UCLA Cum Laude.

    He was the Marlboro Man in the final televised Marlboro commercial.

    Fluent in English, Russian, German, French, Serbo-Croatian.

    Competed as a downhill skier in AAU events at Mammoth Mountain

    Competed in motocross events with Steve McQueen and doubled as one of the track riders in C.C. and Company (1970).

    Had a 31-1 record as an amateur boxer

    Held the Air Force Light-Heavyweight Weightlifting Championship

    Performed over 5,100 continuous sit-ups over a five hour period

    Played semi-pro football for the Wiesbaden Flyers in Germany

    Has a Masters Degree in Russian and taught Russian Language Studies at UCLA in the late 1950s.

    Won a Muscle Beach contest by performing 35 inverted handstand dips.

    Honorary member of the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures.

    Direct descendant of Western figures Kit Carson and Daniel Boone.

    Bruce Lee personally offered Smith the co-lead in Enter the Dragon (1973), but another film went over schedule and John Saxon stepped into the role.

    Filmed an eight-minute test pilot portraying Caine for the TV series "Kung Fu" (1972), wearing prosthetic eyepieces to make him appear chinese. The network wanted Smith for the role, but producer Jerry Thorpe ultimately deemed him too muscular and menacing.

    Studied kung fu for eight years with Jimmy Woo and kenpo karate master Ed Parker.

    Stunt doubled for former Tarzan Lex Barker while living in France.

    Turned down the role of Tarzan at MGM.

    Training partner of first Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott.

    Fought California wildfires in the early 1950s

    Worked as a lifeguard on the French Riviera

    Worked as a trainer at Bert Goodrich's Hollywood Gym

    Child actor in both "A" and "B" movies of the 1940s. He stated in a horror magazine that during breaks on the set of The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), star Lon Chaney Jr., treated all of the children on the set to ice cream.

    Threw the discus 151 feet at a time when the top AAU distance was 150.6 feet.

    Won the Light-Heavyweight German-Austrian Boxing Championship while in the service.

    In 1942's The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), he plays the boy who throws the little girl's ball to the top of the roof. This role marks the first of his many appearances as a villain.

    His favorite writer is Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

    Recipient of the 2008 Silver Spur Award.

    Recipient of the 2005 Southern California Motion Picture Council Award.
  2. andy749

    andy749 Senior Member

    William Smith was at Monster Bash, a classic horror movie convention, I attended in Pittsburgh a few years ago. He was giving a talk about his career to a room full of about 150-200 people and was telling us about how he was in the last GUNSMOKE episode...a two-parter. He said he played an Indian brave and he kidnapped Miss Kitty and took her back to his teepee and slapped her around a bit and raped her...immediately after he said that, a guy just a few seats away from me yelled out, "once or twice?" :) Without crackin' a smile or missin' a beat, Smith held up 2 fingers :).

    He said he used to go motorcycle riding with Steve McQueen. Quite a guy.

    He was a great "bad guy". Scarier than any monster.
    Silver Surfer likes this.
  3. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Cool story. Yeah, Big Bill was scarier to me than anyone, in or out of make-up. He had that look in his eyes that said "I can snap you in half like a dry twig". The only thing that scared me more was finding myself face to face with a bald eagle. His eyes said pretty much the same thing, but he was only 4 feet away, not inside a TV, so slightly more frightening.
  4. jsayers

    jsayers Just Drifting....

    Horse Shoe, NC
  5. jsayers

    jsayers Just Drifting....

    Horse Shoe, NC
  6. pencilchewer

    pencilchewer Active Member

    far and away
    don't forget his stint as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air!
    Pinknik likes this.
  7. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    A fine example of his skills, indeed. The make-up artist was no slouch, either.


  8. jason100x

    jason100x Forum Resident

    William Smith rules! A Russian scholar who replaced Danno on Hawaii Five-O and had countless memorable roles and was a great villian, he deserves more attention than he gets but I am glad to see he has a thread here now.
  9. Roninblues

    Roninblues 猿も木から落ちる。

    I always liked him as a kid because like Clint Walker in Cheyene and him in Laredo, you knew they were men. He is in numerous of my biker-flicks, where he quite believible unlike Jeremy Slate, Joe Namath and others who have tried to be one of the bad boys.
  10. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    In that case, let's try to keep it going. I think there's a lot to discuss with a guy like Smith. It seems like the only things he hasn't done is run for office or record an album!

    5100 situps in 5 hours equals 1 every 3.53 seconds. For 5 hours. I can manage about one every 3.53 minutes, if I'm lucky.

    And anyone whose favorite author is Fyodor D. is an alright guy.

  11. jason100x

    jason100x Forum Resident

    I love his appearance in the pilot of The Rockford Files with one of his roles as a heavy.
  12. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    That's funny that you mention Clint Walker, as he's another actor I've recently been admiring. Cheyenne was unique among TV westerns, in that he usually just showed up in town at the beginning of the show, only to be leaving at the end. Like early Gunsmoke, Cheyenne was tightly written, with a lot of story being told in short order. Walker was not only one of the best looking actors, he was huge: 6'6", 48-34-36, IIRRC.

    What would a fight between Smith and Walker have been like, I wonder? Walker had the size advantage, but Smith had the martial arts and sneaky biker moves.

  13. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I just saw that recently. I can't think of anyone else who was on both Lassie and Alfred Hitchcock. Or Going My Way and Invasion of the Bee Girls. Or Conan and The Apple Dumpling Gang.

    Renaissance man.

  14. jason100x

    jason100x Forum Resident

    That's the perfect term for him.
  15. lasvidfil

    lasvidfil Forum Resident

    Coram, NY
    I remember seeing him for the first time as Falconetti in Rich Man Poor Man always beating the crap out of Nick Nolte. Also remember him as one of the bad guy cowboys in The Frisco Kid, terrorizing the Polish Rabbi, Gene Wilder. Funny flick but probably a lot funnier if you understand Yiddish.
  16. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I'm going to have to watch RMPM one day, though it's not really my taste. Like Bruce Campbell, I'll watch Smith in anything.

    From imdb.com:

    "Just about everybody's favorite William Smith movie, though, is Any Which Way You Can (1980), where as a bare-knuckle brawler he had a knock-down, drag-out fight with Clint Eastwood that wrecked about half the town."
  17. Michelle66

    Michelle66 Forum Resident

    It's funny, but I happened to rewatch episode 120 of Batman yesterday and saw the burly guy as "Adonis", but didn't know who he was.

    I noticed his name in the credits, and then again on this board today...!

    Anyway, here's that last episode of Batman (uncut by syndicators):

    Part 1/3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diCJaKpKvMY
    Part 2/3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY95DMkm-2k
    Part 3/3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6N5tSgAGwE

    As this was a third season episode, it's not one of the better ones (and Zsa Zsa Gabor as the baddie doesn't seem too threatening).

    But, look for executive producer William Dozier (also the narrator) and producer Howie Horwitz as the first victims of Minerva.
  18. Ready Steady Go

    Ready Steady Go Active Member

    William Smith was great. I remember a "Mission: Impossible" he was in (one of the later seasons; he was playing a heavy, an undercover hit man), where he's doing a scene opposite Elizabeth Ashley. She mentions it in her bio. Apparently, her character had to slap him and then throw a vase across the room, but somehow Bill got hit with the vase - it shattered all over his face, but though cut and bleeding, he took it in stride and didn't ruin the take - he was a tough guy and Liz Ashley was acting her heart out. No retake was needed. Now that's a stud, a gentleman, and an actor with discipline.
  19. iolaus

    iolaus New Member

    You should go to his web page (actually I think his wife Joanne talked him into it.) There you can order his book of poetry and listen to a few online. No wonder 'Conan the Barbarian's director John Milius asked him to as Smith put it, "Something about Fire, Steel and the Gods" I think that's how he said it. :confused:
    Anyway, without that inspiration we would have never heard the magnificent "Riddle of Steel"!
  20. Roninblues

    Roninblues 猿も木から落ちる。

  21. scottc1963

    scottc1963 Forum Resident

    He's Arnold"s dad in Conan, The Barbarian!!
  22. Mark Haupt

    Mark Haupt New Member

    Minneapolis, MN
    I have seen this guy for years, but never bothered to read his story until today. You know that guy in the Dos Equis commercials calling himself "The Most Interesting Man Alive"? Well, that dude is a poser because in my mind, William Smith might well rank in the top 25 Most Interesting Men Who Have Ever Lived. I am completely blown away by this guy's story. This is a biography that is begging to be written.
  23. tommy-thewho

    tommy-thewho Forum Resident

    detroit, mi
    Great actor.

    Thanks for starting this thread!!
  24. smilin ed

    smilin ed Senior Member

    Remember him from Laredo!
  25. theoxrox

    theoxrox Forum Resident

    central Wisconsin
    I've always liked this actor, and am amazed as a result of this post at all his accomplishments! Thanks for starting it!
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