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Burt Reynolds


1936 - 2018
Inducted in 1993


A veteran of screen, stage and television, Burt Reynolds held a deep philanthropic commitment to his native Florida.  The actor, producer and director starred in more than 100 feature films and 300 television programs.

Over the course of his long career in show business, Reynolds was voted the No. 1 Box Office Star a record five times in a row.  Twice nominated for an Academy Award, Reynolds held a record of nine People's Choice Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award.  In Florida, Reynolds is the namesake of the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre in Jupiter, Florida, which offers college-level training in almost every aspect of theater, from auditioning to filmmaking.

Burton Leon Reynolds, Jr. was born in 1936 in Lansing, Michigan to Burton Reynolds, who was of Cherokee ancestry, and Fern Miller Reynolds. Reynolds' father was drafted into the U.S. Army, and after his return from Europe at the end of World War II, Burt Sr. moved his family from Lansing to Riviera Beach, Florida where he eventually became chief of police.

At Palm Beach High School, Reynolds became a much-heralded football star as a running back.  On graduation in 1954, he accepted a football scholarship to Florida State University and played as a freshman that year, rooming with Lee Corso, who went on to become a head coach and a famous TV football analyst and commentator.    In mid-season, Reynolds suffered a knee injury that kept him sidelined through the 1955 season following surgery.   Reynolds chose to return home to recuperate and continue his college studies at Palm Beach Junior College at Lake Worth, Florida.  

At PBJC (now Palm Beach State College), Reynolds was encouraged by a drama teacher, Watson B. Duncan, to try out for a play he was producing, Outward Bound. Duncan cast Reynolds for the lead role.  For his stellar performance, Reynolds won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award, which included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theater in New York.  He toured with the company's Team and Sympathy and got favorable reviews, meeting Joanne Woodward who helped him get an agent.

Despite his newfound love of acting, Reynolds still held out hope for a career in professional football.  So in 1957 he rejoined the FSU Seminole football team, only to get re-injured early in the season.  The injury ended a promising career as a professional athlete (he had been drafted by the Baltimore Colts).  After graduating in 1958, Reynolds set his sights on an acting career and returned to New York for acting lessons, joining such classmates as Carol Lawrence, Red Buttons and Frank Gifford. 

Reynolds persevered in Manhattan, supporting himself with various menial jobs and occasional acting stints before landing his first Broadway role as "Skip" in Look, We've Come Through in 1961.  He soon got noticed by Hollywood, starring with Darren McGavin in the NBC series Riverboat.  Also in 1961 Reynolds landed his first film role in the movie Angel Baby.

But Reynolds got his biggest national exposure in 1962 when he was cast as "Quint," on CBS's Gunsmoke, a long-running series starring James Arness.  Reynolds remained with the show for three seasons, leaving in 1965.  The following year he starred in Navajo Joe, a so-called "spaghetti western" shot in Spain.  The low-budget picture established Reynolds as a bankable box office star. 

After a couple of short-lived starring roles as cops on TV–Hawk (1966)and Dan August (1970-71)–Reynolds' role in Deliverance (1972) solidified his place in film stardom, earning him an Academy Award nomination (his first).  In 1974, he returned to the big screen in the hit film The Longest Yard, a story about an ex-football player down on his luck. The film won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture in 1975.

In 1978, Reynolds launched a project in Florida to give something back to the profession that had brought him wealth and fame.  He opened a dinner theater in Jupiter which attracted many top stars for lead-acting roles, even in world premiers, bringing international acclaim to the city.  Over the years, the facility has changed hands and undergone several reconfigurations, but remains the nexus for the Burt Reynolds Institute of Film & Theatre, collocated with the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum founded in 1999. 

In the 1980s, Reynolds enjoyed spectacular success in a series of movies inspired by his role as a hard-driving scofflaw in Smokey and the Bandit, the second highest grossing film released in 1977, bowing only to Star Wars. His knack for comedy led to another role in a TV series in the early ‘90s, the CBS sitcom Evening Shade, which ran four seasons. 

In a bid to regain his stature as a film actor, Reynolds starred in two films in the mid-90s, the first being Striptease (1996), based on the novel by Carl Hiassen. The movie flopped, but the following year, Reynolds scored with Boogie Nights, a hit that earned him another Oscar nomination for Best Actor, along with another Golden Globe Award.

After 2000, Reynolds starred in two other films, both released in 2005, a remake of The Longest Yard and a movie version of the popular TV series The Dukes of Hazzard.  He also kept a hand in TV, starring in a series of TV commercials for Miller Lite beer (2006) and as a guest star on the series Burn Notice on the USA Network (2010).

Reynolds punctuated his colorful professional life with a highly publicized love life.  He had two ill-fated marriages, along with romantic relationships with some of the top stars in show business, including Sally Field and Dinah Shore.  From 1962 to 1965 he was married to Judy Carne, star of the popular TV comedy Laugh-In.  In 1988 he married actress Loni Anderson, a union that produced Reynolds' only child, an adopted son Quinton Anderson Reynolds. The couple divorced in 1993. 

Reynolds lived in Hobe Sound, Florida, just north of Jupiter.  He was an active advisor, consultant, teacher and fund-raiser for the Jupiter-based programs that bear his name, the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum and The Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre (a forerunner of the defunct Burt Reynolds Institute of Theater Training).  In 2010, the institute had more than 160 students enrolled taking classes ranging from acting to basic filmmaking.

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