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Burt Reynolds Revealed Details From His Time on Gunsmoke1

What can we say about Burt Reynolds? Hunk? Movie star? TV star? Or all three? He was all three! He rated very high on the hunkometer (don’t try and look that word up – it has been invented by us just for Burt!) He was also one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and appeared in top shows on TV too.

For three seasons between 1962 and 1965 Burt starred in the classic TV western Gunsmoke It made him a household name and gave him both exposure and experience.

In this video we want to celebrate Burt Reynolds’ amazing career while also looking at his life and why he chose acting. Firstly, then, some background, and then his early career.

Burt Reynolds’ early life and career

Burt was born in 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. His father had been drafted into the US Army and was based in the area. Several home moves followed as his father was posted to different bases around the US and Europe. When Burt’s father was in Europe the Reynolds family lived in Lake City, Michigan.

When Burt was 10, another move took the family to Riviera Beach, Florida, and his father held the post of Chief of Police there. As a youngster Burt showed promise as a football player and was given a football scholarship to study at Florida State University.

Burt’s dream of a career as a professional football player ended when he injured his knee and then suffered several injuries in a car accident. These injuries affected his ability to play top-flight football and he retired from the game.

He considered joining the police, but was discouraged by his father, who suggested parole work. He needed to finish his education in order to progress so enroled at Palm Beach Junior College. Here he studied English and met Watson B. Duncan III who encouraged him to try acting. Watson Duncan had a positive influence on Burt’s ambitions and later he named him as the greatest influence in his life.

His first taste of acting on stage was rewarded with the State Drama Award. This included as part of the prize a scholarship to a summer stock theater in New York. Burt developed an appetite for acting as a result and he found an agent – and as they say �the rest is history’.

Burt Reynolds’ acting career

Burt’s first professional role was in New York City in Tea and Sympathy which he followed with a part in Look, We’ve Come Through. He got good reviews and the play was well-received. The company embarked on a tour and Burt not only was a cast member but he also drove the bus!

Back in New York, newly invigorated by his success, Burt decided to take some acting classes. At one point Burt did consider giving up the stage, but was persuaded not to do so. He then was cast in the play Mister Roberts with Charlton Heston in the lead role. Burt changed his mind about quitting and decided that acting really was for him.

Burt’s similarity in looks to Marlon Brando played against him during his early career. He lost a role in the film Sayonara because of it, but his looks and physique were soon to play to his advantage. When auditioning for the renowned studio boss Lew Wasserman it was noticed that Burt did have a certain effect on women. It is no surprise to learn that he was considered to be a sex symbol and his looks and muscles attracted many female fans.

Later, Wasserman remembered this, and Burt was signed to Universal. This led to his first real break when he got the role of Ben Frazer in the TV series Riverboat. Maybe foolishly, Burt quit after just 20 episodes citing disagreements with the producer.

Quitting a TV series is not a very good idea, as Burt soon found out. He found getting work hard, and like many Hollywood wannabes he waited table, washed dishes and worked as a bouncer. He guest starred in a string of TV shows including The Aquanauts and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

In 1961 he got his first film role in Angel Baby and followed up with a role in Armored Command. More TV guest appearances followed in series such as Perry Mason and Route 66 among others.

Gunsmoke

Gunsmoke  was one of the most highly rated shows on TV at this time. One of the stars, Dennis Weaver, was keen to leave the cast. In response the producers decided to create a new character. Quint Asper was described as a �halfbreed’ blacksmith who was part Native American and part white. Burt got the part ahead of 300 other hopefuls. He certainly looked the part as he had Cherokee heritage in his ancestry.

Playing Quint Asper in Gunsmoke brought Burt Reynolds into American homes every week, and gave him the high profile he needed when he finally left the series. Burt was part of the cast from 1962 to 1965, leaving because he believed the show was only going to run for another series. In fact it ran until 1975 dominating TV schedules for 20 years. It had already run on radio from 1952 to 1961 making it one of broadcastings greatest shows.

Burt later stated that his time appearing on Gunsmoke was the happiest of his life. Evidently he thought his invite was just to be as a guest. It only became clear he was wanted as a regular member of the cast after the audition.

The cast he said were very much a team and supported each other at all times. There was no jealousy or recriminations. It was as if a group of friends were performing together.

Burt also felt that Gunsmoke was a great show for young actors to learn the ropes. As well as learning acting skills, they learned how to behave around a set and how to treat their fellow actors and the production team members. Behaving well was really the only option, because the two main stars – Jim Arness and Milburn Stone – would not tolerate any other behavior.

One of the reasons that Burt reluctantly left the cast was that Jim Arness suggested he was destined to be a movie star. To an extent, Burt also felt that after three years he needed to move on to fresh fields. The thought that the series was coming to an end helped his decision.

Burt has said that he often wondered what his career would have been like if he stayed with Gunsmoke for its remaining ten years.

Here at Facts Verse we think he made the right decision to leave. His career would have been so different is he had been tied to Gunsmoke. Do you agree? When you comment at the end of the video please do tell us if Burt did the right thing – just say RIGHT – or should have stayed – just say WRONG.

Burt Reynolds’ career after Gunsmoke

In 1965 Burt took the lead role in an action film Operation CIA and made guest appearances on TV in Flipper, 12 O’Clock High and The FBI. He then became John Hawk in the TV series Hawk which lasted for 17 episodes from 1966 to 1967.

Burt then appeared in a succession of films. First was Navajo Joe which was a spaghetti western, followed by Shark!, Fade In, Impasse and Sam Whiskey. After that he was given a supporting role in 100 Rifles with Raquel Welch

Two TV films in 1970 – Hunters are for Killing and Run, Simon, Run , along with the big-screen movie Skullduggery – launched Burt into the seventies, during which he reached the pinnacle of his career.

From 1970 to 1971 Burt appeared as the lead in the police drama series Dan August. The 26 episode series was the only one to be aired, as it was not renewed.

During the early seventies Burt became a regular guest on talk shows on US television. He was considered to be an entertaining and non-controversial guest. He was even offered the chance to host his own talk show, but refused as he was too busy with acting commitments.

In 1972 Deliverance proved to a critical and financial success. In the same year he starred in Fuzz and in 1973 was Shamus in Shamus. That year also saw Burt in the car chase movie White Lightning a genre he was to return to time and again.

After The Longest Yard, At Long Last Love, and Lucky Lady he hit the jackpot again with the car chase film W W and the Dixie Dancekings. Then it was another cop drama Hustle.

Burt’s most successful film was the 1977 release Smokey and the Bandit. Another car chase – but a comedy this time – was Hooper in 1978. More car chases came with Smokey and the Bandit II in 1980 and The Cannonball Run in 1981.

These years were the absolute peak of Burt’s career. He had enjoyed a string of successes, was directing as well as acting. He also gave musicals another go with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982 which was a box-office winner. In this year Burt was voted the US’s most popular star for the fifth time.

1983 however was the start of a lean period. Stroker Ace and The Man Who Loved Women were both box office flops. Cannonball Run II was a modest success, but City Heat, Stick, Heat, Rent-a-Cop, and Malone were all disappointments both critically and at the box office. Switching Channels which was described as a �screwball comedy’ did badly as did Physical Evidence and Breaking In.

Accepting that things were not going well, Burt returned to TV for a while. He starred in two seasons of B L Stryker between 1989 and 1990. He followed this with the sitcom Evening Shade which proved popular, running for 98 episodes over four series between 1990 and 1994. Burt won an Emmy for his role in the show.

Burt returned to movies in 1995 playing the lead role in The Maddening which was a horror film. He was now being seen more as a character actor than traditional leading man material. He appeared in several films through 1966 and 1997. Then it was back to the big-time with Boogie Nights in 1997. His performance in the films gained him 12 awards plus another 3 nominations one of which was for an Oscar.

With his career back on track, Burt continued to star and direct movies. He also starred in some straight-to-video releases, some TV movies and did some voice acting.

In a homage to his car chase successes Burt played Boss Hogg in the 2005 film The Dukes of Hazzard.  He then starred in some 17 more films before his last film Defining Moments that was released after his death.

Burt Reynolds’ Personal Life

Burt was married twice and also had two long-term partners during his life. He was a businessman owning restaurants and a theater in Florida. His enthusiasm for football led to him to become one of the owners of the Tampa Bay Bandits. He was also a co-owner of a NASCAR team called Mach 1 Racing.

In his later life Burt suffered from a heart condition that required heart bypass surgery in 2010.

Burt was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1997 and again was forced to sell property in 2014 to cover debts.

Burt Reynolds died as the result of a heart attack in September 2018.

During his career Burt appeared in 102 movies and 65 TV shows. In some of those he was a voice actor and in others just made a guest appearance in single episodes. He was a Hollywood fixture for 60 years. That’s one incredible legacy for one man to leave behind.

Facts Verse feels honored to have been able to trace Burt’s career and we hope you have enjoyed what you have seen. Subscribe to Facts Verse and you will be able to view very many similar videos.

Please do comment on the video, and press the ‘like’ button if you appreciated what you have viewed. Don’t forget to comment on his decision to leave Gunsmoke!

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