Flashback: Burt Reynolds Recalls Working On ‘Gunsmoke’ In The 1960s As The ‘Happiest Years Of My Life’

Before his death, Burt Reynolds looked back on his life and called his years working on "Gunsmoke" in the 1960s the "happiest" of his life.

Before he passed away in 2018 at the age of 82, Hollywood legend Burt Reynolds looked back on his life and fondly recalled his three years working on the television Western series “Gunsmoke” as his “happiest years.”

From 1962-1965, Reynolds starred on “Gunsmoke” as the blacksmith Quint Asper. He was cast on the popular television show after series regular Dennis Weaver expressed his desire to leave it.  

Burt Reynolds Reflects On ‘Gunsmoke’

In an interview for Gunsmoke: An American Institution, Celebrating 50 Years of Television’s Best Western, Reynolds explained that he initially thought he was just being brought on as a guest star, not as a series regular. 

“Every actor in town loved doing the show, because it was a family and — now that I think back about it — I don’t think anybody in town, before or since, ever had the generosity of spirit that they had on that show in terms of being an ensemble group, where it was Kitty’s [Amanda Blake] turn or Doc’s [Milburn Stone] turn or Chester’s [Dennis Weaver] turn or whoever’s turn,” Reynolds said.

“It was a great place for young actors to learn some manners and behave, because, number one, Jim Arness [Marshal Matt Dillon] and Milburn wouldn’t put up with it.”

He went on to look back fondly on playing Asper, who was part white and part Native American. 

“[He was] raised by one Indian parent and really thought of himself as more of an Indian than a white man,” Reynolds explained. “Then we could deal with the prejudice and all that kind of stuff that was going on at the time in those days.”

Related: Inside The 5-Year Whirlwind Romance Between ‘Smokey And The Bandit’ Stars Burt Reynolds And Sally Field

Burt Reynolds Was Reluctant To Leave ‘Gunsmoke’

Reynolds enjoyed his time on “Gunsmoke” so much that it was difficult for him to decide that it was time to leave in 1965 after three years appearing on the program.

“I had served my apprenticeship and there wasn’t room for two leading men,” he explained of his reasoning. 

Much of the reason Reynolds decided to leave was that Arness felt that he was destined for movie stardom. Despite this, Reynolds was still reluctant to end his time on the show.

“I thought that this was a terrific show to be on,” he remembered.

“And quite honestly, and I didn’t know it then, some of the happiest years of my life were on that show … Jim said — I’ll never forget it — ‘You know, we’ve been on seven years and, hell, we’ve probably only got another year.’ I thought, ‘Well, okay,’ I had done it for almost three years, so I said I’ll strike out on my own.”

RELATED: Details About Burt Reynolds’ Final Days Are Revealed

What Would Have Happened If He’d Stayed

“Gunsmoke” would end up being on television for twenty years, running from 1955-1975.

Even though Burt Reynolds found huge success in movies like Smokey And The Bandit and Deliverance, he said he always had wondered what would have happened if he’d stayed on “Gunsmoke.”

“Quite honestly, in spite of the fact that I had an incredible, very lucky motion picture career, I’ve often wondered what would have happened had I stayed for the whole run of the show,” he said.

“There’s a lot to be said for peace of mind and the fun and just being part of the whole legend of that show.”

“Gunsmoke” is something many Americans look back on fondly. So it’s amazing to hear it had such as dear place in the heart of Buddy too.

You can check out Burt Reynolds in action on the beloved Western in the clip below:

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