William Smith is an actor who has appeared in almost 300 feature films and television productions. The imposing 6'2" actor is a lifelong bodybuilder, was an amateur boxer, studied martial arts for several years, played semi-pro soccer in Germany and competed in motocross and downhill skiing events. He was also the final 'Marlboro Man' before the cigarette ads were discontinued on TV. Born on a cattle ranch in Columbia, Missouri, Smith's family moved to California after losing everything to the dust bowl. He began his acting career at the age of 8 in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942, with Lon Chaney Jr.), and appeared in many movies as an uncredited extra, such as The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Going My Way (1944). After high school, he joined the Air Force and earned a B.A. and a Master's degree in Russian Studies, and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Munich while learning languages through the military; he is fluent in Russian, Serbo-Croatian, French and German. He worked as a stunt double while studying in France in 1952. During the Korean War he was a Russian Intercept Interrogator and flew secret missions over Russia, whilst also holding the Air Force Light-Heavyweight Weightlifting Championship. He taught Russian Language Studies at UCLA in the late 1950s before abandoning his Ph.D. studies for an MGM contract.
Smith starred in TV series The Asphalt Jungle (1961), Zero One (1962-1965) and Laredo (1965-1967, as Texas Ranger Joe Riley), as well as making appearances in The Virginian, Custer, Daniel Boone (he is a direct descendant of both Kit Carson and Daniel Boone), Batman (1968, the final episode), I Dream of Jeannie, Here Come the Brides (starring Mark Lenard), Gunsmoke, Kung Fu (he had been considered for the lead) and The Rockford Files (1974, the pilot episode). On film, Smith made a name in biker movies such as Run, Angel, Run! (1969) and Nam's Angels (a.k.a. The Losers) (1970) - both directed by Jack Starrett - and Angels Die Hard (1970) and C.C. and Co. (1970). He also starred in thriller, science fiction and horror films like Darker Than Amber (1970), Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) and Grave of the Vampire (1974).
In 1974, William Smith played the role of Tolar in the Planet of the Apes television series episode "The Gladiators". Filming a wrestling scene, Marc Singer, playing his on-screen son, made a serious error of judgement: “In my inexperience, I punched Bill in the stomach. That was the one and only time I’ve ever hurt an actor or stuntman in my entire career, and I lived to tell of it. Bill had a reputation as a notorious real-life tough guy, but we became fast friends.” Apes star Ron Harper remains friends with Smith to this day: "William Smith was in 'The Gladiators' and, boy, was he well-built. I'm still friends with him - in fact, I've become better friends with him in the last five or ten years. He's an interesting guy because he's such a weightlifter with those arms and that chest, but he's also very bright. He speaks, I think, five languages. Isn't that amazing? And a nice guy."
Smith is probably best known for playing the sinister 'Anthony Falconetti' in the TV miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and its sequel Rich Man, Poor Man Book II (both 1976). He was added to the cast on the final season of the long-running Hawaii Five-O, as 'Det. James "Kimo" Carew', and later appeared in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and The A-Team. His film career includes Boss Nigger (1975), The Swinging Barmaids (1975), Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977), The Frisco Kid (1979), Any Which Way You Can (1980), Conan the Barbarian (1982, as Arnold Schwarzenegger's father), Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 films The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, Red Dawn (1984) and Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988).