There are many great Hollywood romances. Not all of them, however, end in happy and enduring marriages. This was certainly the case for Burt Reynolds and Sally Field, whose relationship was complicated but endlessly fascinating. And after Reynolds passed away in September 2018, Field released a statement about the late actor and the feelings that she still harbors.
Reynolds died on September 6, 2018, following a heart attack; unfortunately, heart problems had been plaguing him for a while. The 82-year-old actor had fallen ill at his home and was consequently rushed to hospital. Sadly, though, he didn’t recover, and the star ultimately passed away in his hospital bed in the company of his family.
Once, though, Reynolds was one of the biggest film stars around. In the ’70s he appeared in a string of hit movies, including Smokey and the Bandit and Deliverance. And while his career entered a slump during the ’80s, the actor returned with a vengeance in the following decade by earning an Oscar nomination for his role in 1997’s Boogie Nights.
And perhaps due in part to Reynolds’ enduring fame, tributes poured in after news of his death had broken. Dolly Parton, who had starred with Reynolds in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, made some particularly touching comments honoring the late actor. “I know we will always remember [Reynolds’] funny laugh, that mischievous sparkle in his eyes and his quirky sense of humor,” she wrote. “You will always be my favorite sheriff. Rest in peace, my little buddy. I will always love you.”
Movie director Kevin Smith also wrote in praise of Reynolds on Twitter. “I always loved how Burt Reynolds worked with his friends as often as he could and then showcased the fun of movie-making in the end credits of his flicks,” Smith said. “He was a true American icon. Hate to see him go…”
However, one Reynolds tribute was particularly noteworthy. It came from Sally Field, who had been his partner for five years in the late ’70s and early ’80s. During that time, the pair had worked together on four movies: Smokey and the Bandit, Smokey and the Bandit II, The End and Hopper.
But Field’s and Reynolds’ off-screen relationship was perhaps even more fascinating than the chemistry between them seen in those movies. To Reynolds, it seemed that Field would forever be the one who had gotten away. In his 2015 autobiography But Enough About Me, he called losing Field “the biggest regret of my life.” He blamed himself for the failure of the relationship too. “I would’ve been better when I was grown up and a lot more mature,” Reynolds admitted. “I was pretty wild.”
And when the subject of Field came up in a 2015 Vanity Fair interview, Reynolds said much the same thing. “I miss her terribly,” he confessed. “Even now, it’s hard on me. I don’t know why I was so stupid. Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up.” Tellingly, he also called Field “the love of [his] life.”
Ultimately, however, Reynolds and Field both wed other people after their split. In 1988 Reynolds got hitched to actress Loni Anderson, but the relationship ended badly and they parted ways in 1993 amid a flurry of accusations. Field also divorced her second husband, Alan Greisman, in 1993.
But even though a great deal of time had passed between Reynolds’ and Field’s relationship ending and the actor’s death, it was clear that Field’s memories of their years together remained vivid. “There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away,” she said in her statement following Reynolds’ passing. “They stay alive, even 40 years later.”
“My years with Burt never leave my mind,” Field continued. “He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live. Rest, Buddy.” Buddy was Reynolds’ nickname, and while Field’s statement was a simple one, it appeared that plenty of sadness lay behind her words.
Reynolds and Field had come close to getting married, in fact, with the subject raised during a 1979 joint interview with People. However, Reynolds was holding off on tying the knot, he said, because Field had children from a previous marriage. “I don’t want them to think of me as this guy who moved in with their mother,” he explained.
“I am planning to get married, but I don’t know when,” Reynolds continued. “The kids and I have a great relationship, but we haven’t had enough time together. Am I supposed to tell Sally to drop them off and screech away?” And Reynolds had plans for himself and Field to have children of their own. He added, “I want a kid so bad that I ache, and yet I have this incredible fear.”
What’s more, Reynolds reportedly asked Field to marry him more than once while they were together, although no wedding ever ensued. He did eventually get the child he so desired, though: after marrying Lori Anderson, the couple adopted a boy named Quinton. And despite the viciousness of the Reynolds-Anderson divorce, Anderson also released a statement following Reynolds’ death saying how much she would miss him.
Meanwhile, in the very same month that Reynolds passed away, Field’s new autobiography, In Pieces, was published. And during the press tour for the book, the actress spoke about Reynolds and the difficulties of their relationship. Their life together was, as she told The New York Times, “confusing and complicated – and not without loving and caring – but really complicated and hurtful to [her].”
In the book, Field didn’t sugarcoat her time with Reynolds, either. Indeed, although she’d clearly had very strong feelings for him when they met, Field claimed that he had been controlling. For instance, the actor had reportedly tried to stop her from going to the 1977 Emmys, where she had ultimately won an award.
Since Reynolds’ death, Field had also been “flooded with feelings and nostalgia” about him, she told The New York Times. Nevertheless, the star admitted that she was also relieved that Reynolds would never read her memoir. “This would hurt him,” Field said. “I felt glad that he wasn’t going to read it, he wasn’t going to be asked about it, and he wasn’t going to have to defend himself or lash out, which he probably would have. I did not want to hurt him any further.”
And it seemed that there had been some hurt when Field and Reynolds’ relationship finally imploded too. In September 2018 actress Angie Dickinson told People about how she’d comforted Reynolds following his breakup with Field. “It was after we’d done The Tonight Show, and we talked afterwards in his dressing room, and [Reynolds] was very open about hurting,” Dickinson said. “He was in agony over that.”
Soon after Reynolds’ death, though, the star’s funeral took place. He was cremated at Florida’s Gold Coast Crematory, The Blast reported, and his niece took charge of his ashes. It remains to be seen whether any kind of public memorial will be created in honor of the star.
But perhaps the final word should be given to Field, who summed up her relationship with Reynolds in a September 2018 interview with NPR. “I was only with [Reynolds] for about three years and then maybe two years on and off after that,” she said. “But it was so hugely important in my own existence [and] my own movement as a person.” Then she touched upon what may have been the main reason for the couple’s split, adding, “We were a perfect match of flaws.”