Burt Reynolds received 4,000 fan letters after his first ''Gunsmoke'' appearance

Quint Asper was an audience's delight from the start.

CBS Television Distribution

In today's world of social media and instant connections, it can feel almost impossible to remember ye days of old when people would put pen to paper and write a letter to someone they cared about. Well, in the age of cell phones and computers and other technology, we'd like to make an argument for the written letter. Things like instant messages can be so impersonal; there's an emotional element to writing a letter that shows the sender that you feel strongly about the message within the envelope.

If you need one good reason why letters are important, we'll do you one better and give you 4,000 reasons instead — ever heard of a little show called Gunsmoke? Of course, you have, it's one of the most popular series of all time, and for good reason. According to James Arness's memoir, James Arness: An Autobiography, letters were a big method of support for then-new actor, Burt Reynolds.

Although Arness had played the role of Marshal Matt Dillon since the show's beginnings in 1955, Reynolds was a later addition, taking on the role of blacksmith Quint Asper in 1962. Because of the actor's later entrance, Gunsmoke producers chose to gauge fans' reception of Asper and use that to direct their decision about whether Reynolds would make the graduation into the main cast.

Luckily, Reynolds was well-loved by fans from the moment he appeared on screen, and there were heaps of evidence to prove it. "This was Burt's first major role, and he made the most of it, drawing an immediate reaction from our viewers," Arness wrote. "He bared his chest during his first appearance, and CBS got 4,000 fan letters for Burt that week."

Support from fans became a deciding factor in keeping Reynolds on the show, where he remained just as well-loved as he had always been, until his departure in 1965.

Watch Gunsmoke on MeTV!

Monday - Saturday at 1 PM & 1:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

3 Comments

Mystery99 26 days ago
I wonder how many he got after his nude appearance in Cosmopolitan magazine.
davewest183 Mystery99 25 days ago
Playgirl not Cosmopolitan
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?