The End (1978 film)

The End is a 1978 American black comedy film directed by and starring Burt Reynolds, written by Jerry Belson, and with music composed by Paul Williams. The film also stars Dom DeLuise along with Sally Field, Strother Martin, David Steinberg, Joanne Woodward, Norman Fell, Myrna Loy, Kristy McNichol, Pat O'Brien, Robby Benson and Carl Reiner.

The End
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBurt Reynolds
Produced byLawrence Gordon
Written byJerry Belson
StarringBurt Reynolds
Dom DeLuise
Music byPaul Williams
CinematographyBobby Byrne
Edited byDonn Cambern
Gordon-Reynolds Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 10, 1978 (1978-05-10)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$44,917,151[2]

Reynolds later said he "loved" the film. "Nobody wanted to do it. They allowed me to do The End if I did Hooper, which made a fortune for Warner Brothers. But The End eventually made $40 million."[3]


Wendell "Sonny" Lawson (Reynolds), an unscrupulous real-estate promoter, learns that he has a fatal blood disease and decides to commit suicide rather than endure a slow, painful death. He then takes the time to meet with several friends and family members for one last time, while hiding the fact that he plans to end his own life.

After a suicide attempt, Sonny ends up in a mental institution, where he very quickly befriends fellow patient, Marlon Borunki (DeLuise), a deranged schizophrenic murderer, and enlists Borunki’s help with his suicide.[4][5]



Reynolds said he wanted to do the film because "I'd read an awful lot of comedies and none struck me as especially funny, according to my strange sense of comedy. There are a lot of minefields in this topic, death, and that's why everybody turned it down over the last five years."[6]

He elaborated: "You can deal with death on a totally Mel Brooks level, but when you try to make a film with parts that are really real amidst the comedy, that's a big risk. What's really funny is what's real. When I was very sick, if I told you what I did, it was funny."[6]

The studio was reluctant to finance The End. They were unhappy with Reynolds wearing a beard and wanted his profession to be a stock car racer. But Reynolds insisted.[6]

Reynolds said "Some people think the guy in The End is as far away from me as anybody could be, but people who really know me realize that it's very close to what I am. The guy crying in the doctor's office, that's me. This guy is totally nude."[6]

The original ending had Marlon (Dom DeLuise) kill Burt Reynolds. Reynolds said he changed it "because I thought it had to have some hope."[6]

Reynolds said, "If I do anything similar to other directors, it's very much like European directors in the sense that in The End I crowd the actors with the camera. I do that because he's suffocating, so I used an inordinate number of close-ups, using close-ups the way others would use masters. Wertmüller did it a lot in Seven Beauties. Mr. Klein had a lot of tight close-ups."[6]



When The End was released in the spring of 1978, the mixture of comedy with the dark subject of suicide wasn't what critics were expecting from a Burt Reynolds film, and was not well-received.[7] New York Times critic Vincent Canby gave the film a negative review, placing most of the blame on the shoulders of Burt Reynolds, the director. He felt the film was uneven, writing, "this is half-heartedly satiric material that's been directed by Mr. Reynolds as if it were broad, knock-about comedy sometimes and, at other times, as if it were meant to evoke pathos, which it never does."[4] The staff at Variety magazine was even more critical of the film, calling it "a tasteless and overripe comedy that disintegrates very early into hysterical, undisciplined hamming." The magazine's terse review was particularly harsh when it came to the supporting cast, calling Dom DeLuise "absolutely dreadful," Sally Field "phoning in a kooky-pretty role," and Joanne Woodward, "poorly utilized."[8]

It was, however, well enough received by audiences and was a moderate box office success, making nearly $45,000,000 in the US domestic market alone.[9]


  1. I'm a Star in Spite of My Movies': Burt Reynolds By ROBERT LINDSEY. New York Times15 Jan 1978: D11.
  2. "The End, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  3. REYNOLDS RAP Scott, Jay. The Globe and Mail27 June 1987: E.1.
  4. Canby, Vincent. "Movie Review - - Movie: 'The End' With Burt Reynolds:Director and Star -". Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  5. Bleiler, David (2004). TLA video & DVD guide : the discerning film lover's guide, 2005. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 192. ISBN 0312316909. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  6. McBride, Joseph; Riley, Brooks (May/June 1978). Film Comment: "'The End' is just the beginning". New York Vol. 14, Issue 3. pp 16–21.
  7. Stafford, Jeff. "The End". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  8. Staff (1 January 1978). "Review: 'The End'". Variety. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  9. "The End, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
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