William Reynolds’ second television series was intended as a companion series to “Adventures in Paradise.” “The Islanders” was an MGM adventure show also set in the South Pacific. Reynolds and James Philbrook starred as “Sandy Wade” and “Zack Malloy”—co-owners of a one-plane airline service. Also featured were Diane Brewster as office manager “Willy Vandeveer” and Roy Wright as “Shipwreck Callahan,” an island personality.
While filming the show in February 1960, a plane carrying five members of the production from Montego Bay to Miami crashed off the coast of Jamaica into the water. The men were Reynolds, show creator Richard L. Bare, Glenn Kirkpatrick, pilot Howard Smith and cameraman George Schmidt. Schmidt died in the crash. The others survived after swimming four miles to the coast of Jamaica. Reynolds suffered several broken ribs and broke his right ankle.
"We have a show that has all the meat and potatoes," said William Reynolds during filming. "All it lacks is the gravy... we may be trying to place too much in a small screen." The Los Angeles Times noted that the show “did achieve a certain flavor with its tropical background" adding "if the series scores at all - and it does show some promise - it will largely be due to Reynolds."
ABC debuted the hour-long series on Sunday, 2 October 1960, at 9:30 PM. There it went up against the CBS comedy powerhouses of “The Jack Benny Show” and “Candid Camera,” the #10 and #7 shows, respectively, on television that season. “The Islanders” quickly became an also-ran and was cancelled after 24 episodes. Later, William Reynolds remarked that "The series went from being sort of like a ‘Terry and the Pirates’ or a ‘Maverick’ type of concept to becoming just a bunch of people skulking around. It wasn't very good."
William Reynolds’ third television series was Warner’s “The Gallant Men” This World War II drama followed the 36th infantry as it fought its way through Italy under the spirited leadership of “Captain Jim Benedict” (Reynolds). Imbedded with the soldiers is war correspondent “Conley Wright” (Robert McQueeney). Featured among the soldiers was flirt “Pete D'Angelo” (Eddie Fontaine), who carries his guitar along. “John McKenna” (Richard X. Slattery) was the freewheeling Sergeant.
William Reynolds and Robert McQueeney in “The Gallant Men”
“The Gallant Men” premiered on ABC on Friday, 5 October 1962 at 7:30 PM. The show went up against “International Showtime” on NBC and the popular “Rawhide” (the #22 show that season) on CBS. Critics were lukewarm about the show, and audiences were skimpy. After a mid-season move to Saturday nights, the show as cancelled after a single season of 26 episodes.
William Reynolds briefly returned to feature film work in the crime drama FBI CODE 98. The film finds three executives of an electronics firm (Jack Kelly, Ray Danton, and Andrew Duggan) discovering a bomb aboard their airliner--and the FBI's investigation puts everyone under a magnifying glass of suspicion. In a foreshadowing of what was to come, William Reynolds and Philip Carey played the FBI agents.
Leslie H. Martinson directed the picture, which was originally produced in 1961 by Warner Bros. as a pilot for a potential television series about the FBI, after the success of the Warner film THE FBI STORY, which starred James Stewart. When the pilot was rejected, the film was released in theaters overseas instead, beginning in early 1963. The format was reworked, and a year after the film's 1964 release in the U.S., the TV series “The FBI” (1965) was launched. William Reynolds was the only actor from the film that was retained for the eventual series.
Although Max Steiner receives score credit on the film, stock music cues of his were used.
A DISTANT TRUMPET is set at Fort Delivery, a frontier outpost in Arizona Territory. There, rookie Second Lieutenant “Matt Hazard” (Troy Donahue) falls for “Mrs. Kitty Mainwaring” (Suzanne Pleshette), the lovely and lusty young wife of his commanding officer, First Lieutenant “Teddy Mainwaring” (William Reynolds). Then Hazard’s fiancée turns up too. She is “Laura Frelief” (Diane McBain), the niece of Major General “Alexander Upton Quaint” (James Gregory). Meanwhile, Apache Chief War Eagle and his braves are on the warpath.
Troy Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette were married to each other at time of filming. This was the final film for director Raoul Walsh. A re-recording of the main title from Max Steiner’s score has appeared on several Silva Screen compilation CDs. The Variety review stated that “Max Steiner's score is a driving dramatic force, but the use of the main theme seems a trifle excessive.” The film grossed a modest $3.4 million domestically.
After A DISTANT TRUMPET, Reynolds went two years with no acting jobs. Reynolds decided to enhance his education, and he passed the examinations to become a lawyer specializing in real estate.
His subsequent acting roles included two guest appearances, one each in the first two seasons, on “The FBI”, Quinn Martin’s new crime series airing on ABC. In the show, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. played “Inspector Lewis Erskine,” a widower whose wife had been killed in an ambush meant for him. Philip Abbott played “Arthur Ward,” assistant director to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Stephen Brooks played Inspector Erskine's assistant, “Special Agent Jim Rhodes,” for the first two seasons. In 1967, Brooks left the series and was replaced by William Reynolds, who played “Special Agent Tom Colby” until 1973. The series would enjoy its highest ratings during this time, peaking at No. 10 in the 1970–1971 season. For the final season, Reynolds would leave, and Shelly Novack played Special Agent Chris Daniels.
William Reynolds and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in “The FBI”
The show aired on ABC on Sundays at 8 PM for its entire run, except for the ninth and final season (1973-74), when it moved up to 7:30 PM. Bronislau Kaper provided the series’ famous theme music.
William Reynolds left show business after “The FBI” ended its run and became a businessman, returning to television only once to appear on the Jack Webb-produced series, “Project U.F.O.” in 1978.
Looking back at his career, Reynolds said, “I loved working as an actor. But I was one of those folks with more talent than ambition. When I was working regularly, I am sorry to say, I took it all for granted. Good actors work at their craft, look for challenging parts, and opportunities to act. I think I knew that. But, in retrospect, I didn't want it enough to pay the price.”
William Reynolds…a good working actor who didn’t seek stardom. Farewell, Bill.