By Charles Bruce • The Times-Independent
As Moabites recognize the passing of famed actor Burt Reynolds, many still remember his time in Moab when he filmed “Fade In,” a companion movie to the feature “Blue” in 1967.
When producers came to Moab to scout for “Blue” they came up with the idea of simultaneously filming a companion movie that told the story of a small town overtaken by a large Hollywood movie production. In the plot, a local rancher (Reynolds) falls for the production’s film editor, played by Barbara Loden. Reynolds had made his mark in television as a featured player in “Riverboat” and “Gunsmoke” and starring as a policeman in “Hawk” and “Dan August.” Between those two cop shows he was tapped to star in one of his first features – filmed here in Moab.
Bette Stanton, the former director of the Moab Film Commission, dated Reynolds that summer. “He would talk of his dreams … He was fabulous, very intelligent, not the womanizer image that seemed to stick to him later on. I found him very much a thinker,” said Stanton in an interview for the book “When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah.”
The plan was to film “Blue” during the day and use the same crew to film “Fade In” at night.
“Fade In” opens with British star Terence Stamp driving the length of Moab’s Main Street in his Jaguar XKE convertible. Stamp makes a quick pit stop where the local gas jockey asks if they were making a film in town. “Is John Wayne in it?” he asks. Stamp shrugs that off and roars south out of town.
Reynolds’ tenure here provided grist for several Times-Independent stories. Leaning against a dusty truck he was quoted spinning tales of his days as a stuntman. In “Fade In” he takes a spill off a bucking bronco, and takes on a local tough guy in fight scene near Woody’s Tavern.
Another article “Film Star Can’t Resist Swimming Hole,” revealed that a local, Jerry Miller, who was working as an extra, guided him to the pool just below the waterfall on Mill Creek. Reynolds had hoped to use the location for a nude swimming scene in the movie, but logistics called for a more accessible location on the Colorado.
Later Reynolds confided that he was so taken with Moab he was seriously looking at some river property near where some ranch scenes were filmed.
Reynolds died Sept. 6 at age 82. He starred in numerous TV shows and over one-hundred movies. The movie “Fade In” was never released theatrically, but can be found on DVD as “Iron Cowboy.” Reynolds, who at the peak of his fame tried to buy the film, said it should have been titled “Fade Out.”