The 20 year heartbreak of Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds. Photo - Shutterstock

He said goodbye to the love of his life ... and has regretted it every day since ..

Every February, an elderly man, now grey and stooping, walks alone through Forest Lawns Cemetery, Palm Springs, California, and places a wreath of roses on the grave of the woman he loved and lost.

Now 78 and in frail health, former Hollywood heart-throb Burt Reynolds never misses the anniversary of the death of the  woman he never married but who he regards as the love of his life - Dinah Shore, still remembered as the golden girl of movies.

They had met in 1970 when Burt Reynolds was 35 and Hollywood's most sought-after leading man. She was 53, now the grande dame of TV talk shows, cool, aloof and still hauntingly beautiful.  

Reynolds had burst into movies from college football and his dark macho looks made him the star of half a dozen big-earning Westerns and the dream lover of millions of women fans.     
He had married and divorced TV Laugh-In star Judy Carne, and had well publicised affairs with Sally Field, Raquel Welch and tennis star Chris Evert. He was living with Japanese actress Miko Mayama and Hollywood rumour was that they would get married.

But meeting Dinah Shore, as a guest on her TV chat-show, changed all that. "I had never met her before but out of the blue I asked her to come to Palm Springs for the weekend. She said no, but I knew it was the beginning of the most special relationship of my life.

"I'd never met anyone like her. I realised there was a big age gap between us but it didn't make the slightest difference. I was already in love with her."

Returning home, he told Miko what had happened. He offered her a beach apartment, a Cadillac convertible and $500 a week for two years. She accepted and moved out that afternoon.

When the news that Dinah Shore had taken a toy-boy made the headlines, Dinah and Burt were holidaying in Palm Springs. On returning they moved into Dinah's Beverly Hills mansion.

"Being with Dinah opened every Hollywood door," Reynolds said. "I got to know Sinatra, Jack Benny, Edward G. Robinson, Groucho Marx, Peggy Lee, Orson Welles. Everyone knew Dinah and they all loved her."

After four years together, the happiness and closeness of Burt Reynolds and Dinah Shore had become Hollywood legend. "We dreamed of building a house in Hawaii. We couldn't have been more in love. But there was a snag. Dinah wouldn't marry me.

"She said it was because she couldn't give me children and it's true I wanted them badly. But we could have adopted. I knew it was more than that.

"Even so, Dinah had everything I ever wanted in a woman. And when I told her: 'I want to be with you for the rest of my life,' I really meant it. And yet a year later he was telling friends: "Breaking up with Dinah is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I knew it was time to get married or move on, and she refused to marry me."

During a tearful confrontation in 1975, Reynolds told Dinah Shore: "I will love you all my life.  The hardest part is that I'm falling deeper in love with you every moment." Then he turned and walked away.

Reynolds cried for days afterwards. "A piece of me was lost. I missed the closeness and the friendship and to be truthful I've never stopped missing it ever since. Every time I picked up the phone I wanted to call her".

Burt Reynolds' desire for children made him marry glamorous Loni Anderson. They had a son, Quinton, but the marriage was soon in trouble and ended in a $10 million divorce.

Alone again, Burt Reynolds rang Dinah Shore hoping to get together again. But she refused to see him despite his pleading.

Finally, from a friend, he discovered her tragic secret — the reason why she had refused to marry him and why she now had broken off the relationship for good. Dinah Shore had terminal cancer.

He had one last conversation with her over the phone and again she refused to let him see her. "You know I love you," she said. "And I love you," Reynolds replied. She died a week later in February 1993.

"No one's death, not even my mother's, affected me like Dinah's," he said later. "I was privileged to have been part of her life. If I hadn't been so preoccupied with myself, we could have been together until the end.

"That's something that, for as long as I live, I will never be able to forgive myself."


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Thats really hard to understand considering the age difference and coming from completely different generations. Plus, after spending a few years with someone and then moving on ... you dont have the memories of years and years together going through arguments and bad times. All Burt remembers is the high of first few years.

Oh Lord, and now hes writing a tell-all (on the news today). This will probably be the best work of FICTION weve read all year. Do you even remember what poor Loni Anderson went through with this man? Thank God everyone he tortured mentally in his life has moved on and found peace. This book is his last grasp at fame before he passes. I wish him no harm; he used to be my favorite actor way back when...until so many truths came out. I guess this is his last stab at self-elevation. Well go at it Burt. A few more unkind words about Loni or Sally and making yourself look like a martyr...and I guarantee you, your sales will be nil.

They adopted that kid. Loni never gave birth to Burts child. Who researches this stuff?

No offense, but I dont believe a word of Reynolds self-sacrificing grandiosity. He made life hell for every path hes crossed - from Sally Fields to Loni Anderson to Christian actor David A.R. White, whose career Reynolds ruined (but he has since moved on to make a niche for himself in the Christian film industry - probably a blessing in the end). Burt Reynolds was/is a miserable wretch of a man, and no offense, but Dinah Shore was never a Hollywood darling. Go research the names of the people I have mentioned, and their relationship to Reynolds. Heck, Reynold wouldnt even go to the academy awards when Sally Fields was nominated for an Oscar. Talk about smallness. When youre as old as me, you remember what really happened way back when in Hollywood.

He was robbed of the Best Actor Oscar for Boogie Nights. He should have won .

Wow, this was so sad. Im sorry for Burts financial woes, health issues and his broken heart. Hes a funny, talented actor who never got the critical acclaim he deserved. Hes pushing 80 but it would be great to see him shine in one last film role.

This is a touching article, but the writers have completely mischaracterized Dinah Shore. She was never "the golden girl of movies." She barely had any film career to speak of. They make it sound like she was Doris Day or June Allyson. She was instead a radio singing star and later a huge TV entertainer for many years. And, calling her "hauntingly beautiful" is another whopper. She was certainly pretty in a wholesome way and had a sharp figure, but she was no Ava Gardner. Who does the research for this stuff?