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William Smithers (born 10 July 1927 in Richmond, Virginia) is an American actor, perhaps best known for his recurring role as Jeremy Wendell in the television series Dallas. He appeared in the series in 1981 and from 1984 to 1989. He attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
After his freshman year, he was chosen to play the leading role of Thomas Jefferson in the first production of Paul Green's The Common Glory, presented at Williamsburg, Virginia. NY Times critic Brooks Atkinson called him "worth encouraging."
In 1951, he made his Broadway debut as Tybalt in the Dwight Deere Wiman production of Romeo and Juliet, starring Olivia de Havilland; for this performance he received a Theater World Award. In 1952, he was accepted as a life member of The Actors Studio. In 1957, he received an Obie Award for his portrayal of Treplev in Anton Chekhov's The Sea Gull.
His other Broadway plays included Anouilh's Legend of Lovers, Calder Willingham's End as a Man, (begun as a project at the Actors Studio), Carson McCullers's The Square Root of Wonderful and Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy (performed in London and New York). Off-Broadway, he played leading roles in Frank Gilroy's Who'll Save the Plowboy? (Obie Award, Best Drama), Willingham's End as a Man (before the production went to Broadway), Sean O'Casey's Shadow of a Gunman (also begun as a Studio project) and George Bellak's The Troublemakers.
Film and television
In 1965, he moved to Los Angeles to play David Schuster in the television series Peyton Place for nine months. He also played Stanley Norris on Guiding Light from 1969-1970, and from 1976-77 was a cast member in the series Executive Suite.
He has guest-starred or appeared in nearly 400 television productions, including The Invaders, Star Trek, Mission:Impossible, and Hawaii Five-O and in six feature films, most notably Attack (Lt. Woodruff) and Papillon (Warden Barrot). His performance in the latter prompted the producers of Demolition Man to name that film's prison warden "William Smithers".
Smithers vs. MGM
As the plaintiff in Smithers vs. MGM, despite being threatened with blacklisting should he pursue the matter, he sued a multi-million-dollar corporation to protect his contractual rights with regard to star billing in the 1976 television series Executive Suite. In so doing, he won a case that was appealed as far as the California Supreme Court, and is now taught in entertainment law courses. [See Law and Business of the Entertainment Industries, pp. 463–464.]
He now lives in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife, acting teacher Lorrie Hull Smithers (author of Strasberg's Method: As Taught by Lorrie Hull, and with him co-producer of the acting-training DVD The Method). From 2003-2005, he created, produced and directed the Santa Barbara Theatre of the Air for KCSB radio, broadcasting works of classic and contemporary playwrights.
From 2010 to 2013, Mr. and Mrs. Smithers were co-hosts and co-producers of the Santa Barbara Channels (now TV Santa Barbara) television interview program "Just Between Us!" Seven episodes of this program were named finalists for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 WAVE (Western Access Video Excellence) Awards - the most such nominations in that station's history. Several dozen of the program's episodes are available on Vimeo.
(In 2010 and 2011, Mr. Smithers served on the Board of Directors of TV Santa Barbara.)
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- Hayes, Richard (1957-05-29). "William Smithers, Best Actor: A True 'Subdued Modern' Product Of The Fifties". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
- William Smithers at the Internet Broadway Database
- William Smithers at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website