‘Gunsmoke’: James Arness Said Burt Reynolds Was Unable to Bring One of ‘Greatest Skills’ to His Character

By the time Burt Reynolds joined the cast of “Gunsmoke” the Western show was already a well-established hit. The up-and-coming actor, on the other hand, was in the early stages of what would become a very successful acting career.

And, according to an interview he gave before his death in June 2011, actor James Arness was impressed by the young Reynolds while they worked together on “Gunsmoke.” Arness famously played Marshal Matt Dillon on the beloved show throughout its 20-year run.

Reynolds played blacksmith Quint Asper on “Gunsmoke.” His tenure lasted from 1962 until 1965, according to IMDb.com. The future “Smokey & the Bandit” star appeared in 50 episodes of “Gunsmoke.”

Even though he was impressed by Reynolds and his work on the show, Arness said his “Gunsmoke” character limited the young Reynolds. And, it kept him from using one of his “greatest skills” as an actor. Arness shared these details during an interview shared by the Archive of American Television.

“… you could tell very quickly that Burt was a guy who had a great presence,” Arness said of Reynolds during the interview.

However, because “Gunsmoke” was a dramatic show, Reynolds couldn’t allow his more humorous side to come out, according to Arness.

“And, of course, as we’ve learned in later years, one of his great skills is his comedic skill,” Arness also said of Reynolds. “Of course, he was not able to bring that to the character at all. He had to be a very serious guy, actually and he was playing a form of racial discrimination … He had to play that, so he couldn’t really use his actually strongest point which was his marvelous sense of humor.”

James Arness Praised Burt Reynolds for His Work on ‘Gunsmoke’

In addition to talking about how Burt Reynolds couldn’t bring his sense of humor to his “Gunsmoke” character, James Arness still had very positive things to say about working with the future movie star on the show.

“But, he was a wonderful guy to work with,” Arness said of Reynolds. “We all became friends. He just fit right into the family group and we had a wonderful time. He was there, I think, only a couple of seasons. And, then he moved on and of course, went on to gigantic screen stardom, you know.”

According to IMDb.com, after leaving “Gunsmoke,” Burt Reynolds continued to appear in television series. These included “Flipper,” “Hawk,” “The F.B.I.” and “Dan August.”

In 1972, he starred in the film “Deliverance.” This film gave Reynolds a significant boost to his career. “The Longest Yard” in 1974 continued to propel his career forward. And, big hits such as “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Cannonball Run,” and many others soon followed.

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