‘Laredo’ actor William Smith dies; played cowboys, brawlers

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor William Smith, who played bikers, brawlers, cowboys and no-nonsense tough guys in films and television shows including “Laredo,” “Rich Man, Poor Man” and “Any Which Way You Can,” has died at 88.

Smith’s wife, Joanne Cervelli Smith, said he died Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles. She declined to give the cause of death.

With his chiseled, mustachioed face and bulging biceps, Smith was a constant, rugged presence on screen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, amassing nearly 300 credits.

He played bareknuckle boxer Jack Wilson, who grappled with Clint Eastwood in an epic brawl in “Any Which Way You Can,” one of the top-grossing movies of 1980.

“It has to be one of the longest two-man fights ever done on film without doubles,” Smith said in an interview for the 2014 book “Tales From the Cult Film Trenches.”

Smith starred as Texas Ranger Joe Riley in both seasons of the NBC western series “Laredo” from 1965 to 1967.

Hey played Anthony Falconetti, the menacing nemesis of the central family in the 1976 ABC miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man,” and returned for its sequel.

And he played Detective James “Kimo” Carew in the final season of the original “Hawaii Five-O” on CBS in 1979 and 1980.

Born in Columbia, Missouri, Smith would begin acting at age 8, playing small uncredited roles in 1940s films including “The Ghost of Frankenstein” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

He would later become an elite discus thrower at UCLA, a martial-arts black belt and a champion arm-wrestler.

He served in the Korean War and acted in bit parts in television shows throughout the 1950s before landing a regular role as a police sergeant in the 1961 ABC series “The Asphalt Jungle.”

Smith would take part in another classic screen brawl, this one with Rod Taylor, as a bodybuilder in the 1970 film “Darker Than Amber.”

He would also play Arnold Schwarzenegger’s father in 1982’s “Conan the Barbarian,” after being considered for the title role, and a Soviet general in 1984’s “Red Dawn.”

In addition to his wife of 31 years, he is survived by a son, William E. Smith III, and a daughter, Sherri Anne Cervelli.

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