Burt Reynolds was an iconic movie star for decades, but he spent most of the 1960s as a TV actor. Three seasons on Gunsmoke were bookended by lead roles on the short-lived Riverboat and Hawk, with tons of guest spots sprinkled in between. By 1970, after a handful of Spaghetti Westerns and low-budget action films sputtered, Reynolds was at a career crossroads.
After a decade on television, Reynolds had sought movie stardom in action-packed Spaghetti Westerns, but what worked for Clint Eastwood in the “Man with No Name” trilogy didn’t bring Burt the same fistful of film roles. So the 34-year-old went back to the primetime grind, guest starring on shows like Love, American Style. And he waited for his next big break.