Born in Cleveland in 1923, Reynolds’ first jobs in the entertainment business were as a child actor, appearing in an Our Gang short in the ‘30s as well as films like Love Finds Andy Hardy, Santa Fe Trail, and Boys Town. While acting, though, Reynolds realized he had more interest in being a director, and he started doing more behind-the-scenes TV work. By the late-’50s, Reynolds was ready to fully transition into writing, directing, and producing, with his first big TV hit coming in the form of 1957's Tales Of Wells Fargo on NBC (which he co-created with pulp writer Frank Gruber.
Reynolds went on to direct episodes of many popular shows over the next few decades, including Leave It To Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan’s Heroes, and Room 222. That last series in particular, which tackled heavy themes and social issues from the perspective of high school kids with a healthy dose of humor, proved to be a helpful experience when CBS came along and asked Reynolds to produce a TV adaptation of Robert Altman’s black comedy war movie M*A*S*H in 1972.
With writer Larry Gelbart, Reynolds helped create one of the most popular TV shows of the time (if not all time) in M*A*S*H, using its team of vaudevillian military surgeons to tell thoughtful, impactful stories that transcended the wartime setting. Though Gelbart left relatively early on in the show’s lengthy run, Reynolds stayed on as a producer until 1977 and continued serving as a consultant. When he finished with M*A*S*H, Reynolds worked with Alan Burns and James L. Brooks on the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Lou Grant. Focusing on the eponymous character’s life as a newspaper editor, Lou Grant also tackled weighty social issues and won a handful of Emmys.
Reynolds served as president of the Directors Guild Of America for four years and received 24 Emmy nominations over the course of his career (he won six).