Actor-dancer Billy Ray Smith, who later in his career was producer and unit production manager on the “Perry Mason” telepics of the 1980s and ’90s, died of lung cancer on Saturday. He was 80.
Smith appeared in several films early in his career and later went behind the camera, helming commercials, serving as first or second assistant director on a number of features, including Dirty Harry pic “The Enforcer,” “Day of the Animals,” “Rabbit Test” and telepic “Missing Pieces.”
Smith served as associate producer on ABC’s 1981 miniseries “The Manions of America” and as line producer on early Charlie Sheen feature “Three for the Road.”
He was unit production manager on features including Clint Eastwood’s “Every Which Way But Loose,” “The Philadelphia Experiment,” “Real Genius” and, in 1997, the Leslie Nielsen comedy “Family Plan.” For TV, he served as UPM on the noted miniseries “Blind Ambition” and a variety of telepics.
Starting in 1987 with “Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam,” Smith began work as a unit production manager on the successful revival of the “Perry Mason” skein as a series of telepics again starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale. He added a producer credit on the series starting with “Perry Mason: The Case of the Defiant Daughter” in 1990 and continuing for a total of 12 entries through 1993.
Smith was born in Mulkey, Okla., but his family left Oklahoma for California before he was 5. They settled in Los Angeles, with much of the family working at the Cock ‘n’ Bull British Pub and Restaurant on the Sunset Strip. While attending Hollywood High School, he took special classes for performing children.
Smith joined the Air Force, serving in Mannheim, Germany, during the Korean War before returning to Hollywood.
He is survived by two daughters.