William Smith, the action star who tussled with Clint Eastwood in Any Which Way You Can and was a regular on the final season of Hawaii Five-O, has died. He was 88.
His wife Joanne Cervelli Smith confirmed that her husband died July 5 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA. No cause or date of death was given.
Smith was born in Columbia, MO,in 1933 on his family’s cattle ranch where he grew up surrounded by many beloved horses. Although the Smith family moved to Southern California before he was 10, it was his time spent on the ranch that influenced the roles he’d take during his more than seven decades-long career in TV and film.
He began his career in entertainment as a child star in 1942’s The Ghost of Frankenstein when he was 8-years-old. Though he played a small uncredited role, more opportunities would follow in Meet Me in St. Louis and The Song of Bernadette.
Before playing a fictional tough guy, he played one in real life after enlisting with the Air Force during the Korean War in 1951 where he flew secret missions. During his service, he made time for higher education he studied at institutions in Syracuse, Munich, and Paris before graduating Cum Laude from UCLA where he earned a master’s degree.
Smith intended to work for the government before agreeing to a contract with MGM in mostly western and biker-themed films and TV shows like Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Perry Mason, Batman, Lassie, and The Mod Squad.
In 1965, Smith nabbed the lead role in NBC’s Laredo where he portrayed Texas Ranger Joe Riley for two seasons until its cancellation in 1967.
He played a lawman again in 1979 when he joined the final season of Hawaii Five-O as Detective James “Kimo” Carew, one of three newcomers to come onboard after James MacArthur’s departure. Smith, who was known for playing mostly bad guys, really enjoyed being able to play a hero on the popular CBS procedural.
He followed with appearances in Batman, I Dream of Jeannie, Kung Fu, The Rockford Files, The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard, Six Million Dollar Man, and Knight Rider.
Smith is survived by his wife Joanne Cervelli Smith, who shared 31 years together, his son, William E. Smith III, and his daughter, Sherri Anne Cervelli.
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