Before actor Burt Reynolds earned his role in gunsmoke, he got his start elsewhere on television. There was potential to enter the big leagues in Hollywood, but he hit some speed bumps along the way. A co-star nearly destroyed his entire career before he could get the ball rolling. If he allowed it to trip him up, the world would not have Reynolds in his role of him in gunsmoke.
‘Gunsmoke’ actor Burt Reynolds started in ‘Riverboat’
Reynolds entered the entertainment industry as an ex-football player. He earned some smaller roles in television starting with flights in 1958. However, Reynolds didn’t settle into his first more prominent role until 1959 with riverboat. The show followed Captain Gray Holden (Darren McGavin) and his crew who brought their vessel along the rivers of Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio.
riverboat brought Reynolds on board to play Holden’s partner and chief pilot, Ben Frazer. He continued to play the character for 20 episodes from 1959 to 1960. After Reynolds left the show, Noah Beery Jr. replaced him as Bill Blake for the following season.
Darren McGavin tried to destroy Burt Reynolds’ career on ‘Riverboat’
In a TV Guide interview, Reynolds talked about the path that took him to gunsmoke. However, he had something particular to say about McGavin. “He is going to be a very disappointed man on the first Easter after his death from him,” Reynolds said.
“I’d been in Hollywood only a few months when suddenly I got this series,” Renolds recalled. Lew Wasserman [president of MCA, Inc.] had brought me out from New York and had told people I was going to be a big star. You know what that means at MCA–if Lew Wasserman says it’s going to rain, everybody puts up an umbrella.”
The actor had some industry interest, but McGavin tried to sabotage Reynolds’ career right on the set.
“I was a green kid so far as film was concerned,” Reynolds said. Instead of helping me, McGavin looked on me with contempt. He did everything but destroy me on camera. Like we’d run through a scene a couple of times and then, just before the camera rolled, he’d say to me under his breath, ‘You’re not going to play it that way, are you?’ and what little confidence I had would go right down the drain.”
He joined ‘Gunsmoke’ in season 8
Reynolds first joined gunsmoke as Quint Asper in season 8 episode 3 called “Quint Asper Comes Home” in 1962. His first appearance introduced him as a half-white/half-Comanche man who took up a mission with his mother’s tribe to kill white men. However, US Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) saw good in him and integrated him into his social life in Dodge City.
Reynolds quit gunsmoke after season 10 episode 26 called “Bank Baby” in 1965, after which the character left without mention. However, Ken Curtis’ Festus Haggen praised the current blacksmith in season 12 as the “best they’ve had since Quint left.”
The actor moved on to appear in blockbuster hit films, including 1972’s Deliverance and 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit. Reynolds even earned an Oscar nomination for his supporting performance of him in 1997’s Boogie Nightsbut he lost Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.