Burt Reynolds on his feelings towards Riverboat co-star Darren McGavin

Spoiler alert: There's no love lost between these two.

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Before his breakout role as Quint on Gunsmoke, Burt Reynolds had a less successful attempt at a costarring television role. Three years before he stepped foot in Dodge City, Reynolds starred alongside Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin, in the NBC action series Riverboat. Neither of them particularly liked the series, but couldn't quite bond over the fact. On the contrary, the two Hollywood tough guys clashed almost immediately on the show's set, making everyone around them uncomfortable.  

Some of the surrounding incidents are recalled in Sylvia Resnick's 1983 biography Burt Reynolds

"I was a green kid as far as working in films was concerned," said Reynolds regarding his role as the young riverboat pilot, Ben Frazer.

"Instead of helping me, McGavin looked on me with contempt. He did everything but destroy me on camera."

According to a 1963 interview, Reynolds was constantly undermined every time he stepped in front of the camera.

"We'd run through a scene a couple of times and then just before the camera rolled, McGavin would say to me, 'You're not going to play it that way, are you?' What little confidence I had would go right down the drain."

Reynolds was in a tough position. He was the low man on the totem poll, given McGavin's experience and tenure in Hollywood. He needed to keep his cool on the set, for fear of risking his reputation, or worse, his career. 

Instead of exploding in front of the cast and crew of Riverboat, Reynolds had to find another way to vent.

"I'd drive down to Skid Row and walk into a bar. Then I'd wait for someone to make the inevitable crack, belt the guy in the teeth, and go home feeling so much better."

On-set reports publicized an incident wherein Reynolds threw an assistant director into a lake. He wanted out of the show, but Universal did what it could to keep him locked into the Riverboat contract. 

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4 Comments

McGillahooala 16 days ago
I saw a story where Burt threw Darren overboard from the riverboat when Darren was harassing a female assistant. Who knows what the truth is?
SteveMcnary 16 days ago
I heard an interview with Burt Reynolds in which he said he threw McGavin overboard & he was then fired from the show.
CaptainDunsel 16 days ago
"Reynolds threw an assistant director into a lake..."
I suspect a little bit of Reynolds's love for ADs ended up in the character of "Tony" (Alfie Wise) in the 1978 movie "Hooper".
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