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Reynolds, Burt

Category: Performer

 

Burton Leon "Burt" Reynolds (born February 11, 1936) is an American actor, director, producer and former college football player.

Reynolds began acting on television and achieved his first major film success in  Deliverance (1972). Reynolds also starred in number of films which were box office successes, such as The Longest Yard (1974) and Smokey and the Bandit (1977). For Boogie Nights (1997), he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Reynolds was married to Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965, and to Loni
Anderson from 1988 to 1993. He and Anderson adopted a son, Quinton.

According to Wikipedia, he has been nominated for at least three Golden Globe Awards – Dan August, The Longest Yard and Starting Over; been nominated for a primetime Emmy Award as well as winning one for being Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.  In 1992, he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy.  He has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6838 Hollywood Blvd.

He has appeared in nearly 100 films in a career that started in 1961 and is still ongoing, besides those above, films include The Cannonball Run, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the Dukes of Hazzard, and Cloud 9.  Burt has also appeared in over 60 television shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, The Larry Sanders Show, Cybill and the X-Files.  He has also appeared in a number of long running series, for example, 20 episodes of Riverboat, 50 episodes of Gunsmoke, 26 episodes of Dan August [where he played Dan August], 98 episodes of Evening Shade, and 95 episodes of Out of this World.

He has even provided the voice for video games such as the 2002 game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City [Avery Carrington] and in 2011, Saints Row: The Third as Himself (The Mayor).

Why is Burt on the site?  He had the beginnings of a near death experience in his youth as a consequence of a car accident and, if that is not enough, went out of body whilst in a coma after being misprescribed sleeping tablets for TMJ [temporomandibular joint dysfunction].  We have provided the details in the observations.

Burt had a relationship with Sally Field, his co-star in Smoky and the Bandit 

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
Sally and I proposed to each other more than once, but every time I wanted to get married, she didn’t, and every time she wanted to get married, I didn’t.  In all Sally and I made four pictures together – Smokey and the Bandit [1977], The End [1978], Hooper [1978] and Smokey and the Bandit II [1980]….. After we broke up, I wanted to see her again, but she refused and I fell apart.  I wrote her a letter saying ‘Could we just go to dinner?’  The answer was no…………… I’m sorry I never told her that I loved her and I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work.  It’s the biggest regret of my life.

Life

From football to English literature

Reynolds is the son of Fern H. (née Miller; 1902–1992) and Burton Milo Reynolds (1906–2002). He has English, Scottish, Scots-Irish, Native American and Dutch ancestry. 

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
My Dad has Native American blood.  By the time it got down to me there wasn’t much left, but I was proud of what there was.  I had the writers change the dialogue in Sam Whiskey because I found it insulting.  I’ve had to do that in several Westerns over the years, and Native Americans have thanked me for playing them with dignity.

His father fought in the war.  When Reynolds's 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 became Chief of Police of Riviera Beach, which is adjacent to the north of West Palm Beach, Florida. During 10th grade at Palm Beach High School, Reynolds was named First Team All State and All Southern as a fullback, and received multiple scholarship offers.

Reynold's resemblance to Marlon Brando and Brando's annoyance at
this, resulted in Burt growing a moustache

After graduating from Palm Beach High in West Palm Beach, he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and played halfback. Reynolds hoped to have a career in professional football, but he was injured in the first game of his sophomore season, and the car accident mentioned above made it almost certain he would not be able to pursue this career.

Ending his university football career, Reynolds’ father suggested that he finish university and become a parole officer. To keep up with his studies, he began taking classes at Palm Beach Junior College (PBJC) in neighbouring Lake Worth.  Reynolds was in an English class taught by Watson B. Duncan III and it is through Professor Duncan that Reynolds was introduced to all the joys of literature as well as the attractions of the stage. Duncan pushed Reynolds into trying out for a play he was producing, Outward Bound. He cast Reynolds in the lead role based on having heard Reynolds read Shakespeare in class, leading to Reynolds winning the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance. In his autobiography, Reynolds refers to Duncan as his mentor and the most influential person in his life.

Early Career

The Florida State Drama Award included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theater, in Hyde Park, New York. Reynolds grasped the opportunity, but did not yet see acting as a possible career. While working there, Reynolds met Joanne Woodward, who helped him find an agent, and he was cast in Tea and Sympathy at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City. After his Broadway debut Look, We've Come Through, he received favourable reviews for his performance and went on tour with the cast, driving the bus and appearing on stage.

After the tour, Reynolds returned to New York and enrolled in acting classes.  He soon got 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. Logan advised Reynolds to go to Hollywood. 

Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham on the set of 'Smokey and the Bandit'

Most of Burt Reynolds films relied on his physique and looks, he was for example considered for the part of James Bond, but pointed out that the accent didn’t quite suit the part.  Many of Burt Reynolds friends are stuntmen and women and he usually did his own stunts on film.  During the early years he was taught by one of Hollywood’s most accomplished stuntmen – Hal Needham,

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
I’d go out to Hal’s house in Thousand Oaks on weekends and there would always be four of five stunt guys there, with Hal coaching them.  They’d rehearse fights and work up new gags.
The first time I went there, Hal said ‘Let’s go out back and do some high falls’.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I said ‘Sure!’
Behind the house was a tree that must have been 60 feet high, with a rope on it and a net below.  Hal said ‘Go on out, swing back and forth and let go of the rope.  Just before you hit the net, do a flip and land on your back’.
Sounded easy enough, and I did it, and it was easy.  I graduated to tree fights.  Another guy would get up in the high branches and we’d swing at each other 40 feet in the air and try to knock each other into the net.  It was crazy.  But I have to admit it was fun.

Hal taught him how to give and take a punch on camera in staged fights and they all practised crashing Harley Davidson motor bicycles.  ‘Everybody crashed and burned sooner or later.’ 

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
When Glenn Wilder’s son, Scott, a top stunt guy himself, broke his pelvis doing a stair fall, somebody made the mistake of calling it a ‘serious injury’.
‘That’s not serious’ Scott said ‘Serious is when you’re dead’.

Dinah Shore

Dinah, Burt and Nancy Reagan

Dinah Shore (February 29, 1916 – February 24, 1994) was an American singer, actress, and television personality, and the top-charting female vocalist of the 1940s.  She had a string of 80 charted popular hits, spanning 1940–1957, and after appearing in a handful of feature films, she went on to a four-decade career in American television, starring in her own music and variety shows from 1951 through 1963 and hosting two talk shows in the 1970s.  One of those shows was Dinah’s Place.

 

As you can see Shore was twenty years older than Reynolds, but she became the love of his life.  She invited him on her show, and eventually the staff organised that he be a surprise guest.  On the show he asked her to go to Palm Springs with him for the weekend and they went to Palm Springs that very weekend.  Dinah was in a golf tournament and Burt acted as the caddie.  He followed her from city to city on a promotional tour for her show and he says:

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
At one point I had to leave her to do a play in Chicago.  On opening might I looked out and she was in the audience.  She invited me to her hotel after the show.  We drank champagne and made love for the first time.  It was a new experience for me.  For the first time I was sharing intimacy with my heart full of genuine, unconditional love.  I not only loved Dinah but admired her.  I’d never felt that way about a woman before.

Needless to say his parents were over the moon about him being with Dinah Shore, but they were totally bemused as to what she saw in Burt.  Eventually the age difference started to count, Burt decided he wanted to branch out in his career and he also had a wish for a child.  He says he was at war with himself for some time simply because he couldn’t imagine life without her.

 

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
Dinah and I had the same doctor… one day he told me ‘You can’t go on like this.  You’ll end up breaking each other’s heart and I don’t want that for either of you’.
‘That could never happen’ I said.
‘You’re too smart to believe that’, he said……
Breaking up with Dinah was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  She sat on the couch holding a hankie.  She kept her composure, but I lost mine.  I missed her the minute I walked out the door.  I could barely function for weeks….
When people wanted to know why I was with Dinah, I always said, ‘Why not?  She’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever known’.  We had so much in common.  We were both from the South.  We both loved sports, especially football and she was knowledgeable about it.  And in all the years I knew her, we never had a fight.
‘But what about the age difference?’ they’d say.
The answer is Dinah was ageless…. She was just this extraordinary person whom I was lucky to be with.

Illnesses

The observations describe the near fatal car crash and also the accident on set that caused TMJ, but it is worth mentioning that as a consequence of the TMJ, Burt began to lose a great deal of weight, at a time when AIDS had started to surface.  Johnny Carson helped him scotch the rumours about his having AIDS, giving him the chance to appear on the Tonight Show.  But Burt held up a little black book on the show and said it contained the names of all the people who had deserted him during his illness, as a consequence of the AIDS rumours and the tabloid headlines. 

death by doctor - narrowly averted

Eventually he managed to put paid to the rumours and despite his gaunt appearance was invited on shows.  When Elizabeth Taylor asked him to appear as a fund raiser for AIDS Project Los Angeles he agreed and acted as one of the hosts for the evening.

It was only after he had found a retired dentist in San Diego  - ‘a cranky old coot’ who methodically realigned every tooth in his mouth in a process that took months and cost a fortune, that he gradually got better.  All the doctors did was feed him pharmaceuticals for the symptoms, it took an old retired dentist to treat to the cause.

What is perhaps unforgivable is that the doctors continued their mis-prescription and bungling in later years.

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
I never took another Halcion, but years later I became dependent on prescription painkillers following back surgery.  I was in denial for a long time, but finally realised I couldn’t beat the problem on my own and checked myself into rehab.  It’s a good thing I did because I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Perhaps one of the extraordinary things about Reynolds is the fact he appears to bear no grudges against all these incompetent medics who cost him a fortune and made him very very ill.

The Centerfold and Deliverance

Burt must be one of the very leading actors who have appeared as naked female eye candy in a woman’s magazine.  After he and the rest of the cast had given the performances of their lives in the John Boorman film  Deliverance he was asked to appear in the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan.  It was not one of his wisest moves.

Reynolds had put an enormous amount of effort into the role he played in Deliverance principally because he liked Boorman and respected his work so much. 

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
If I had to put only one of my movies in a time capsule, it would be Deliverance.  I don’t know if it’s the best acting I’ve ever done, but it’s the best movie I’ve ever been in.

For example, Boorman helped him with the character by lending him the book Zen in the Art of Archery.  Reynolds also  did his own stunts and when his character Lewis goes over the waterfall, he got into trouble.

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
Within a minute I heard a terrifying sound.  I looked up and a mountain of water was on top of me.  I ducked just as it hit, but it turned me head over heels underwater and slammed me against the rock, cracking my tailbone.  I surfaced long enough to gulp air, then plunged back under and did an involuntary triple axel, landing on my head.  I’d been swallowed by a hydraulic – an underwater whirlpool that spins you around like a cement mixer.
Somehow I remembered one of the old time stuntmen saying years before that if you get in a hydro, don’t try to swim out because you’ll drown fighting it.  Instead you swim to the bottom and the current will shoot you out from there.  I swam down and sure enough, it launched me like a torpedo.  I finally surfaced a hundred yards downstream.  The rocks had skinned me alive and the hydro had torn off my boots, socks, pants – everything.

Deliverance cast - Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight

Deliverance was nominated for Best Picture of 1972, John Boorman was nominated for Best Director, Tom Priestley was nominated for Best Film Editing, but in the end the film got nothing and Reynolds blames himself.  When he was on the Tonight Show, his fellow guest - Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan and the author of the book Sex and the Single Girl asked him during the commercial break to be the first male nude centrefold of the magazine.  As  Burt says, no one had ever shown a naked man in a magazine before.  He found she’d asked Paul Newman first but he, somewhat wisely, turned it down.

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
Helen didn’t have to talk me into it.  I was flattered and intrigued.  I wish I could say that I wanted to show my support for women’s rights, but I thought it would be fun.

Everybody he respected told him not to do it.  But he did it anyway.

Reynolds now admits the centre-fold in Cosmopolitan hurt the chances for the film and cast to receive Academy Awards, for which he shows [in his book] considerable remorse.  The magazine hit the stands in April 1972, three months before Deliverance opened, all 1.5 million copies were sold.  And as if to show how very silly he was, he was not paid for this apparent publicity stunt, he received nothing from this or the merchandising that followed:

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
I’m still embarrassed by it and I sorely regret doing it.  It’s been called one of the greatest publicity stunts of all time, but it was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made and I’m convinced it cost Deliverance the recognition it deserved.

Later years

Burt Reynolds and sister during 14th Annual
Lifetime Friars Club Award at Beverly Hilton Hotel

Reynolds built a dinner theatre in Jupiter, Florida followed by other franchise locations of the Reynolds Celebrity Dinner Theater including the Beacham Theater in Orlando.  The idea was that anyone could watch a really good play performed by known actors whilst enjoying a decent meal – but for a price the average man in the street could afford.

He attracted a number of extremely good actors and whilst the theatre was financially not a huge money maker – most of the time it barely broke even -  in terms of its aims, it was a total success.  His celebrity was such that he drew not only big-name stars to appear in productions, but also to sell-out audiences. He sold the venue in the early 1990s. 

Later on he devoted his time to teaching, setting up a school for acting.  His sister’s daughter eventually stepped in to help him with finances and to manage his interests and he is full of praise for the effort she expended, so much so that he dedicated his second book to her in gratitude for all the hard work and selfless work she put in on his behalf.

But Enough about Me – Burt Reynolds
I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor … and miserable both times. Rich and miserable is better.  I don’t know how much money I’ve made and spent and I don’t want to know.
I’m not proud of the fact that I haven’t always handled [money] well.  But money was never at the top of my list.  I just wanted enough so I didn’t have to worry about it.  My biggest mistake was trusting people who took advantage of me.  I went through bankruptcy and it’s not pleasant.  People treat you like a leper.  … I didn’t save my money like some people.  I’ve owned big houses, a ranch, boats, private jets, helicopters … and I enjoyed them all.  But I don’t miss them.  I feel like a man whose house was blown away in a hurricane.  His possessions are gone, but he’s thankful to be alive.  He realises that objects aren’t important.

 with son Quinton

References

  • Reynolds, Burt. (1994) My Life
  • Reynolds, Burt. (2015) But Enough About Me: A Memoir

Observations

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