Reynolds in a publicity photo for Dan August (1970)
Burton Leon Reynolds Jr.|
February 11, 1936
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
September 6, 2018 (aged 82)|
Jupiter, Florida, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer|
(m. 1963; div. 1965)
(m. 1988; div. 1993)
|Partner(s)||Sally Field (1977–1980)|
Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. (February 11, 1936 – September 6, 2018) was an American actor, director and producer. He first rose to prominence starring in television series such as Gunsmoke (1962–1965), Hawk (1966), and Dan August (1970–1971).
His breakout film role was as Lewis Medlock in Deliverance (1972). Reynolds played the leading role in a number of subsequent box office hits, such as The Longest Yard (1974), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Semi-Tough (1977), Hooper (1978), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982).
After a few box office failures, Reynolds returned to television, starring in the sitcom Evening Shade (1990–1994). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Boogie Nights (1997).
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 2.1 Theatre
- 2.2 Early television and Riverboat
- 2.3 Gunsmoke
- 2.4 Hawk and leading roles in films
- 2.5 Dan August
- 2.6 Deliverance and the centerfold
- 2.7 White Lightning
- 2.8 Director
- 2.9 Smokey and the Bandit and career peak
- 2.10 Career decline
- 2.11 Return to TV: BL Stryker and Evening Shade
- 2.12 Character Actor
- 2.13 Boogie Nights and career revival
- 2.14 The Last Movie Star and final films
- 2.15 Author
- 2.16 Music
- 2.17 Bankruptcy
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Death
- 5 Filmography
- 6 Discography
- 7 Accolades
- 8 Works
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. was the son of Harriette Fernette "Fern" (née Miller; 1902–1992) and Burton Milo Reynolds (1906–2002). He had Dutch, English, Scots-Irish, and Scottish ancestry, and also claimed Cherokee roots through his father.
During his career, he often claimed to have been born in Waycross, Georgia, although he said in 2015 he was actually born in Lansing, Michigan. He was born on February 11, 1936, and in his autobiography stated that Lansing is where his family lived when his father was drafted into the United States Army.
He, his mother, and his sister joined his father at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and lived there for two years. When his father was sent to Europe, the family moved to Lake City, Michigan, where his mother had been raised. In 1946, the family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida. His father eventually became Chief of Police of Riviera Beach, which is adjacent to the north end of West Palm Beach, Florida.
After graduating from Palm Beach High School, he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and played halfback. While at Florida State, he roomed with college football broadcaster and analyst Lee Corso, and also became a brother of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
He had hoped to be named to All-American teams and have a career in professional football; however, he injured his knee in the first game of his sophomore season, and later that year lost his spleen and injured his other knee in a bad car accident. These injuries hampered his abilities on the field, and after being beaten in coverage for the game-winning touchdown in a 7-0 loss to North Carolina State on October 12, 1957, he decided to give up football.
Ending his college football career, Reynolds thought of becoming a police officer; however, his father suggested he finish college and become a parole officer. To keep up with his studies, he began taking classes at Palm Beach Junior College (PBJC) in neighboring Lake Park. In his first term at PBJC, he was in an English class taught by Watson B. Duncan III. Duncan pushed him into trying out for a play he was producing, Outward Bound. He cast him in the lead role based on having heard him read Shakespeare in class, leading to his winning the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance. In his autobiography, he referred to Duncan as his mentor and the most influential person in his life.
The Florida State Drama Award included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theatre, in Hyde Park, New York. Reynolds saw the opportunity as an agreeable alternative to more physically demanding summer jobs, but did not yet see acting as a possible career. While working there, Reynolds met Joanne Woodward, who helped him find an agent, and was cast in Tea and Sympathy at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. After his Broadway debut in Look, We've Come Through, he received favorable reviews for his performance and went on tour with the cast, driving the bus as well as appearing on stage.
After the tour, Reynolds returned to New York and enrolled in acting classes, along with Frank Gifford, Carol Lawrence, Red Buttons and Jan Murray. After a botched improvisation in acting class, Reynolds briefly considered returning to Florida, but soon gained a part in a revival of Mister Roberts, in which Charlton Heston played the starring role. After the play closed, the director, John Forsythe, arranged a film audition with Joshua Logan for Reynolds. The film was Sayonara (1957). Reynolds was told he could not be in the film because he looked too much like Marlon Brando. Logan advised Reynolds to go to Hollywood, although Reynolds did not feel confident enough to do so. He worked in a variety of jobs, such as waiting tables, washing dishes, driving a delivery truck and as a bouncer at the Roseland Ballroom. Reynolds wrote that, while working as a dockworker, he was offered $150 to jump through a glass window on a live television show.
Early television and Riverboat
Reynolds' first big break came when he was cast alongside Darren McGavin in the lead of the TV series Riverboat (1959–61), playing Ben Frazer. According to a contemporary report Reynolds was considered "a double for Marlon Brando. The show went for two seasons but Reynolds quit after only 20 episodes, claiming he did not get along with McGavin or the executive producer, and that he had "a stupid part".
Reynolds returned to guest starring on television shows. As he put it, "I played heavies in every series in town" appearing in episodes of Playhouse 90, Johnny Ringo, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Lock Up, The Blue Angels, Michael Shayne, Zane Grey Theater, The Aquanauts and The Brothers Brannagan.
Reynolds made his film debut in the low budget Angel Baby (1961), billed fourth. He followed it with a role in a war film, Armored Command (1961). "It was the one picture that Howard Keel didn't sing on," reminisced Reynolds later. "That was a terrible mistake."
Reynolds continued to guest star on shows such as Naked City, Ripcord, Everglades, Route 66, Perry Mason, and The Twilight Zone ("The Bard"). He later said "I learned more about my craft" in these guest shots "than I did standing around and looking virile on Riverboat."
In 1962 Dennis Weaver wanted to leave the cast of Gunsmoke, one of the top rated shows in the country. The producers developed a new character, "halfbreed" blacksmith Quint Asper: Reynolds was cast, beating over 300 other contenders. Reynolds announced he would stay on the show "until it ends. I think it's a terrible mistake for an actor to leave a series in the middle of it."
Hawk and leading roles in films
Reynolds then made a series of films in quick succession. Shark! (1968), shot in Mexico, was directed by Sam Fuller who removed his name from it after which its release was held up a number of years. Fade-In which he described as "the best thing I've ever done," was not released for a number of years, and the director Judd Taylor took his name off. Impasse (1969), was a war movie shot in the Philippines. He played the title role Sam Whiskey (1969) which he later claimed was "way ahead of its time. I was playing light comedy and nobody cared."
In a 1969 interview he expressed interest in playing roles like the John Garfield part in The Postman Always Rings Twice, but no one sent him those sort of roles. "Instead, the producer hands me a script and says 'I know it's not there now kid but I know we can make it work'."
Reynolds had been offered a lead role in MASH (1970), but turned it down after "they told me the other two leads would be Barbra Streisand's husband and that tall, skinny guy who was in The Dirty Dozen." Tom Skerritt played the role and Reynolds instead went into Skullduggery (1970), shot in Jamaica. Reynolds joked that after making "those wonderful forgettable pictures... I suddenly realized I was as hot as Leo Gorcey."
Reynolds was in two TV films Hunters Are for Killing (1970) and Run, Simon, Run (1970). In Hunters his character was originally a Native American, but Reynolds requested this element be changed, feeling he had played it too many times already and it was not needed for the character.
Reynolds played the title character in police drama Dan August (1970–71), produced by Quinn Martin. The series was given a full-season order of 26 episodes based on the reputation of Martin and Reynolds but struggled in the ratings against Hawaii 5-0 and was not renewed.
Following the series' cancellation, Reynolds did his first stage play in six years, a production of The Tender Trap at Arlington Park Theatre. He was offered other TV pilots but was reluctant to play a detective again. Around this time he was also offered his own talk show - he had become well known as an entertaining talk show guest, and had guest hosted on the Tonight Show. However he wanted to keep on as an actor.
Deliverance and the centerfold
Reynolds had his breakout role in Deliverance, directed by John Boorman. "It's the first time I haven't had a script with Paul Newman's and Robert Redford's fingerprints all over it," he joked. "The producers actually came to me first."
"I've waited 15 years to do a really good movie," he said in 1972. "I made so many bad pictures. I was never able to turn anyone down. The greatest curse in Hollywood is to be a well known unknown."
Reynolds also gained notoriety around this time when he began a well-publicized relationship with Dinah Shore and after he posed naked in the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan. Reynolds said he did it for "a kick. I have a strange sense of humor" and because he knew he had Deliverance coming out. He later expressed regret for posing for Cosmopolitan.
Deliverance was a huge commercial and critical success and, along with the talk show appearances, helped establish Reynolds as a star. He was then in Fuzz (1972), reuniting him with Welch, and made a cameo in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*(*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972). He also returned to the stage, appearing in The Rainmaker at the Arlington.
He was in The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973) co-starring Sarah Miles. The film is best remembered for the scandal during filming where Miles' lover committed suicide; it was a minor hit. He was meant to reunite with Boorman in Zardoz but fell ill and was replaced by Sean Connery.
Another career turning moment in Reynolds' career came when he made the light-hearted car chase film, White Lightning (1973). Reynolds later called it "the beginning of a whole series of films made in the South, about the South and for the South... you could make back the cost of the negative just in Memphis alone. Anything outside of that was just gravy." Car chase films would be Reynolds' most profitable genre. At the end of 1973 Reynolds was voted into the list of the ten most popular box office stars in the US, at number four. He would stay on that list until 1984.
He made a sports comedy with Robert Aldrich, The Longest Yard (1974) which was popular. Aldrich later said "I think that on occasion he's a much better actor than he's given credit for. Not always: sometimes he acts like a caricature of himself."
More popular was another light hearted car chase film, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975), and a tough cop drama with Aldrich, Hustle (1975). He did a cameo for Mel Brooks in Silent Movie (1976).
Reynolds made his directorial debut in 1976 with Gator, the sequel to White Lightning. "I waited 20 years to do it and I enjoyed it more than anything I've ever done in this business," he said after filming. "And I happen to think it's what I do best."
He was reunited with Bogdanovich for the screwball comedy Nickleodeon (1976), which was a commercial disappointment. Aldrich later commented, "Bogdanovich can get him to do the telephone book! Anybody else has to persuade him to do something. He's fascinated by Bogdanovich. I can't understand it."
Smokey and the Bandit and career peak
He followed it with a comedy about football players, Semi-Tough (1977), co-starring Jill Clayburgh and Kris Kristofferson and produced by David Merrick. He then made his second film as director The End (1978), a black comedy, playing a role originally written for Woody Allen.
More popular was a car comedy he made with Needham and Field, Hooper (1978), where he played a stuntman.
Reynolds tried a change of pace with Starting Over (1979), a romantic comedy co-starring Clayburgh and Candice Bergen; it was co-written and produced by James L. Brooks. He played a jewel thief in Rough Cut (1980) produced by Merrick, who fired and then rehired director Don Siegel during filming.
Reynolds had two huge hits with car films directed by Needham, Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and The Cannonball Run (1981). He did another romantic comedy, Paternity (1981) then directed himself in a tough action film, Sharky's Machine (1981).
Reynolds wanted to try a musical again and so agreed to do The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). It was a hit, as was Best Friends (1982) with Goldie Hawn. In 1982, Reynolds was voted the most popular star in the US for the fifth year in a row.
Around this time he reflected:
The only thing I really enjoy is this business, and I think my audience knows that. I've never been able to figure out exactly who that audience is. I know there have been a few pictures even my mother didn't go see, but there's always been an audience for them. I guess it is because they always know that I give it 100 percent, and good or bad, there's going to be quite a lot of me in that picture. That's what they're looking for. I don't have any pretensions about wanting to be Hamlet. I would just like to be the best Burt Reynolds around.
James L. Brooks offered Reynolds the role of astronaut Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment (1983) but he turned it down to do Stroker Ace (1983), another car chase comedy directed by Needham. The Endearment role went to Jack Nicholson, who went on to win an Academy Award. Reynolds said he made this decision because "I felt I owed Hal more than I owed Jim" but Stroker Ace flopped. Reynolds felt this was a turning point in his career from which he never recovered. "That's where I lost them," he says of his fans.
Getting to the top has turned out to be a hell of a lot more fun than staying there. I've got Tom Selleck crawling up my back. I'm in my late 40s. I realize I have four or five more years where I can play certain kinds of parts and get away with it. That's why I'm leaning more and more toward directing and producing. I don't want to be stumbling around town doing Gabby Hayes parts a few years from now. I'd like to pick and choose and maybe go work for a perfume factory like Mr. Cary Grant, and look wonderful with everybody saying, 'Gee, I wish he hadn't retired.
Cannonball Run II (1984), directed by Needham, brought in some money but only half of the original. City Heat (1984), which teamed Reynolds and Eastwood was mildly popular but considered a major box office disappointment. He was injured during filming, causing him to lose weight and for rumors to start that he had AIDS.
Reynolds returned to directing with Stick (1985) from an Elmore Leonard novel but it was a critical and commercial failure. So too were three other action films he made: Heat (1986), based on a William Goldman novel, Malone (1987), and Rent-a-Cop (1987) with Liza Minnelli. He later said he did Heat and Malone "because there were so many rumors about me [about AIDS]. I had to get out and be seen."
Reynolds tried a screwball comedy, Switching Channels (1989), but it was a box office disappointment. Even more poorly received was Physical Evidence (1989), directed by Michael Crichton. Reynolds received excellent reviews for Breaking In (1989) but the commercial reception was poor.
"When I was doing very well," he said at the time, "I wasn't conscious I was doing very well, but I became very conscious when I wasn't doing very well. The atmosphere changed."
Return to TV: BL Stryker and Evening Shade
Reynolds then starred in a sitcom, Evening Shade (1990–94) as Woodward "Wood" Newton. The program was a considerable success and ran for four seasons and 98 episodes,. This role earned him an Emmy Award.
During the series' run, Reynolds also made a cameo in The Player (1992). He starred in a film aimed at children, Cop & 1/2 (1993), and two TV movies, Wind in the Wire (1993) and The Man from Left Field (1993); he also directed the latter, which co-starred Reba McEntire.
When Evening Shade ended, Reynolds played the lead in a horror film, The Maddening (1995). However he gradually moved into being more of a character actor - he had key support roles in Citizen Ruth (1996), an early work from Alexander Payne, and Striptease (1996) with Demi Moore. He had to audition for the latter. The film's producer later said, "To be honest, we were not enthusiastic at first. There was the hair and his reputation, but we were curious." Reynolds got the role and earned some strong reviews.
Reynolds was a supporting actor in Frankenstein and Me (1996), Mad Dog Time (1996), The Cherokee Kid (1996), Meet Wally Sparks (1997) with Rodney Dangerfield, and Bean (1997) with Rowan Atkinson. He had the lead in Raven (1996), a straight-to-DVD action film. Around this time he claimed he was broke, having gone through $13 million.
In 1996, Reynolds' agent said "Regarding Burt, there's a split between the executives in town who are under 40 and those who are over 40. The younger executives are more open to Burt because they grew up loving 'Deliverance.' But the older executives remember how crazy he was, and they are less receptive."
Boogie Nights and career revival
Reynolds appeared as an adult film director in the hit film Boogie Nights (1997), which was considered a comeback role for him; he received 12 acting awards and 3 nominations for the role, including a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Nevertheless, Reynolds refused to appear in Boogie Nights writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's subsequent film, Magnolia (1999), saying he hated working on the film and hated Anderson.
Reynolds returned to directing with Hard Time (1998) an action TV film starring himself. It led to two sequels, which he did not direct, Hard Time: The Premonition (1999) and Hard Time: Hostage Hotel (1999) (directed by Hal Needham).
Reynolds was top billed in Snapshots (2002) with Julie Christie,Time of the Wolf (2002), and Hard Ground (2003), and supported in Johnson County War (2002) with Tom Berenger, and Miss Lettie and Me (2003) with Mary Tyler Moore.
Reynolds was in a series of support roles that referred to earlier performances: Without a Paddle (2004), a riff on his role in Deliverance, The Longest Yard (2005), a remake of his 1974 hit with Adam Sandler playing Reynolds' old role); and The Dukes of Hazzard (2005), as Boss Hogg in a nod to his performances in 70s car chase films.
Reynolds continued to play lead roles in films such as Cloud 9 (2006), Forget About It (2006), Deal (2008), and A Bunch of Amateurs (2008), and support parts like End Game (2006), Grilled (2006), Broken Bridges (2006), In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007), Not Another Not Another Movie (2011), and Reel Love (2011).
Reynolds was top billed in Category 5 (2014) and Elbow Grease (2016) and could be seen in Pocket Listing (2014), and Hollow Creek (2015). He returned to regular role on TV in Hitting the Breaks (2016) but it only ran for ten episodes. He was in Apple of My Eye (2016).
The Last Movie Star and final films
His final performances include roles in tbe the films Miami Love Affair (2017), Henri (2017), Shadow Fighter (2018) and Defining Moments (2018).
In May 2018, he joined the cast for Quentin Tarantino's film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as George Spahn (an eighty year old blind man who rented out his ranch to Charles Manson), but he died before shooting his scenes.
Reynolds co-authored the 1997 children's book Barkley Unleashed: A Pirate's Tail, a "whimsical tale [that] illustrates the importance of perseverance, the wonders of friendship and the power of imagination".
Despite his lucrative career, in 1996 he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, due in part to an extravagant lifestyle, a divorce from Loni Anderson and failed investments in some Florida restaurant chains. Reynolds emerged from bankruptcy two years later.
Reynolds was married to English actress Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965. He and American singer-actress Dinah Shore were in a relationship in the early 1970s for about five years. He had a relationship from 1977 to 1982 with American actress Sally Field, during which time they appeared together in four films. Reynolds was married to American actress Loni Anderson from 1988 to 1993. They adopted a son, Quinton. He and Anderson separated after he fell in love with a cocktail waitress, with whom he later traded lawsuits which were settled out of court.
Reynolds' close friends included Johnny Carson, James Hampton, Dom DeLuise, Jerry Reed, Charles Nelson Reilly, Tammy Wynette, Lucie Arnaz, Adrienne Barbeau, Tawny Little, Dinah Shore, Clint Eastwood and Chris Evert.
In the late 1970s, Reynolds opened Burt's Place, a nightclub restaurant in the Omni International Hotel in the Hotel District of Downtown Atlanta, and briefly operated a second version at Lenox Square. He was a life-long fan of American football, a result of his collegiate career, and was a minority owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL from 1982 to 1986. The team's name was inspired by the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy and Skoal Bandit, a primary sponsor for the team as a result of also sponsoring Reynolds' motor racing team.
Reynolds co-owned a NASCAR Winston Cup team, Mach 1 Racing, with Hal Needham, which ran the #33 "Skoal Bandit" car with driver Harry Gant. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Florida State University in 1981 and later endorsed the construction of a new performing arts facility in Sarasota, Florida.
He also owned a private "dinner theater" in Jupiter, Florida, with a focus on training young performers looking to enter show business. The theater was later renamed to the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theater and closed in 1997 after Reynolds declared bankruptcy.
In 1984, he opened a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, "Burt & Jacks", which he co-owned with Jack Jackson.
While filming City Heat, Reynolds was struck in the face with a metal chair and had temporomandibular joint dysfunction. He lost thirty pounds from not eating. The painkillers he was prescribed led to addiction, which lasted several years. He underwent back surgery in 2009 and a quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery in February 2010.
On August 16, 2011, Merrill Lynch Credit Corporation filed foreclosure papers, claiming Reynolds owed US$1.2 million on his home in Hobe Sound, Florida. He owned the Burt Reynolds Ranch, where scenes for Smokey and the Bandit were filmed and which once had a petting zoo, until its sale during bankruptcy. In April 2014, the 153-acre (62 ha) rural property was rezoned for residential use and the Palm Beach County school system was empowered to sell it which they did to the residential developer K. Hovnanian Homes. Reynolds also once purchased a mansion on a tract of land in Loganville, Georgia, while married to Loni Anderson.
Reynolds died from a heart attack at the Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, Florida on September 6, 2018 at the age of 82.  His ex-wife Loni Anderson issued a statement saying that she and their son Quinton would miss him and "his great laugh".
On the day of Reynolds' death, Antenna TV, which airs The Tonight Show nightly, aired an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from February 11, 1982, featuring an interview and a This Is Your Life-style skit with Reynolds. The local media in Atlanta and elsewhere in the state noted on their television news programs that evening that he was the first to make major films in Georgia, all of which were successful, which helped make the state one of the top filming locations in the country. Reynolds' body was cremated at the Gold Coast Crematory in Florida.
|US Country||US||CAN Country|
|1980||"Let's Do Something Cheap and Superficial"||51||88||33||Smokey and the Bandit II Soundtrack||Richard Levinson|
- 1978: Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6838 Hollywood Blvd.
- 2000: Children at Heart Award
- 2003: Atlanta IMAGE Film and Video Award
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- 'Good Ole Boy' Stars in Dixie Film-Making Boom By B. DRUMMOND AYRES Jr. New York Times November 1, 1975: 31.
- Two stars talk about films--and life: 'Public is most important' At the bottom line . . . By David Sterritt. The Christian Science Monitor February 9, 1976: 17.
- I'm a Star in Spite of My Movies': Burt Reynolds By ROBERT LINDSEY. New York Times15 Jan 1978: D11.
- HE'S MAKING MOVIES HIS WAY Norbom, Mary Ann. Philadelphia Inquirer; Philadelphia, Pa. [Philadelphia, Pa]04 Aug 1983: D.1.
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