William Conrad became a television star relatively late in his career. In fact, the former World War II fighter pilot began on screen playing heavies. He was Max, one of The Killers (1946) hired to finish off Burt Lancaster in his dingy lodgings. He was the corrupt state inspector Turck working for the syndicate in The Racket (1951). He was a mobster in _Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)_ (qv_, the murderous gunslinger Tallman in Johnny Concho (1956) and sleazy nightclub owner Louie Castro who claimed to be 60% legitimate in Cry Danger (1951). When not portraying outright villains, Bill played characters like the tough fight promoter Quinn in Body and Soul (1947) or the doom-laden province commissioner in The Naked Jungle (1954). The portly, crumple-faced, self-confessed gourmand had an ever-present weight problem (at one time 118 kg) which proved to be a natural obstacle to progressing to more substantial leading film roles. That, however, didn't hinder a very successful career in radio. His gravelly, resonant voice was heard on countless broadcasts from "Buck Rogers" to "Rocky and His Friends" (1959), from the voice of Marshal Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" (before James Arness got the part on the small screen) to narrating the adventures of Richard Kimball in "The Fugitive" (1963). In one episode of the anthology series "Suspense" in 1956, he voiced each and every part. Between 1973 and 1978 he was simultaneously heard on "The Wild, Wild World of Animals" (1973) and "Tales of the Unexpected" (1979). During the 1960s he branched out into directing. In 1963 he contributed to saving "77 Sunset Strip" (1958) for another season. Later in the decade he produced and directed several films for Warner Brothers, including the thriller Brainstorm (1965) with Jeffrey Hunter and Anne Francis. In 1971 he returned to acting and became the unlikely star of the Quinn Martin production "Cannon" (1971), for which he is chiefly remembered. Though the stories were more often than not of variable quality, Bill infused the tough-talking, no-nonsense character of Frank Cannon with enough humanity and wit to make the series compelling. A planned sequel, The Return of Frank Cannon (1980) (TV), failed to get beyond the movie-length pilot, but the actor's popularity resulted in another starring role in "Jake and the Fatman" (1987), as District Attorney McCabe, co-starring with Joe Penny) and a brief run as eccentric detective Nero Wolfe "Nero Wolfe" (1981). A self-effacing man with a good sense of humor, Bill Conrad died of heart failure in February 1994.
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