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

By: H&I Staff     Posted: July 12, 2021, 10:20AM

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.