Handsome stage leading man who matured into character and co-starring roles on the big and small screens in his vigorous middle-age. Smith's career began in the New York theater in the late 1950s with a slew of forgettable productions on-and-off Broadway until he finally achieved a breakthrough in the late 60s as McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", a role which he performed some 650 times. Better stage parts followed including David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Glengarry Glen Ross" (1984), for which Smith received a Drama Desk Award.
Smith made his film debut in the drama "The Last American Hero" (1973) and, throughout the 70s, went on to make regular screen appearances in small supporting roles. His credits include the mediocre Katharine Hepburn-John Wayne starring "Rooster Cogburn" (1975), Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky's edgy satirical drama "Network" (1976), and Paul Schrader's directing debut, "Blue Collar" (1978).
Gradually, Smith began getting better roles and featured billing, showing up in the well-received teen drama "Over the Edge" (1979), Sidney Lumet's take on police corruption "The Prince of the City" (1981), and the biopic "Frances" (1982), where Smith played a doctor treating the mentally troubled screen star Frances Farmer. Other big screen credits included the prison drama "Weeds" (1987), playing an embezzler opposite Nick Nolte; and in his first feature film starring role he played the warden in Renny Harlin's horror thriller "Prison" (1988).
On TV, Smith appeared in a number of TV-movies including "A Death in Canaan" (1978), "Gideon's Trumpet" (1980), and "Something About Amelia" (1884). Smith received his greatest acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of disgraced President Richard M. Nixon in the docudrama "The Final Days" (1989).
Smith landed his first regular role on TV with "V: The Series" (NBC, 1984-85), a spin-off from the popular sci-fi miniseries, and went on to appear in several other series. As Perry White, the seasoned editor of the Daily Planet on the TV series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC, 1993-97), Smith seemed to have found some small screen longevity, and added some maturity to the youthful ensemble series.
After appearing in the disastrous "Air America" (1990), the 90s shaped up nicely for Smith. In 1992 he co-starred in the features "The Mighty Ducks", as the coach of a peewee league hockey team; "My Cousin Vinny", as a gentlemanly lawyer opposite Joe Pesci; and the Eddie Murphy vehicle "The Distinguished Gentleman", as a Washington politician. In the baseball comedy "The Scout" (1994), Smith played the Yankees general manager who tries to thwart the efforts of his own scout, played by Albert Brooks.