William Smith, action star who fought Clint Eastwood and other icons onscreen, dead at 88

William Smith, an action star from classic films like "Any Which Way You Can" and "Red Dawn," has died. He was 88.

William Smith, an action star from classic films like “Any Which Way You Can” and “Red Dawn,” died on Monday. He was 88.

Joanne Cervelli Smith, his wife of 31 years, confirmed the actor’s death to USA TODAY on Friday. She did not disclose his cause of death.

According to IMDb, Smith starred in several films and television series from 1942 to 2020, including 1942’s “The Ghost of Frankenstein,” 1943’s “The Song of Bernadette” and 1982’s “Conan the Barbarian.” In the 1970s, his fame grew playing the villainous Falconetti in “Rich Man, Poor Man,” an early and extremely popular TV miniseries.

The 6-foot-2 actor’s career saw him tussle onscreen with some of the most rugged leading men in Hollywood, including Clint Eastwood, Rod Taylor, Richard Harris, Yul Brynner and Nick Nolte.

More recently, Smith appeared as a regular on the last season of the original “Hawaii Five-0” from 1979 to 1980 and in the Western series “Wildside” in 1985. His last role was in the 2020 film “Irresistible,” written and directed by Jon Stewart.

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In addition to his acting career, Smith enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War in 1951 and was recruited by the National Security Agency due to his fluency in multiple languages. He flew on secret missions over the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, according to a statement shared by his wife.

Smith was also an accomplished athlete, receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Bodybuilding and Fitness in 1995. He was inducted into the Muscle Beach Venice Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2010 and became an honorary member of the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures in 2000.

He is survived by his wife, his son William E. Smith III and his daughter Sherri Anne Cervelli.

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