Born in the Bronx, New York, on April 11, 1902, to a school principal and his wife, Reynolds grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Manual Training High School. He enrolled at Brown University and excelled in football, boxing, and swimming. In fact, after earning his Ph.B. he spent a year on a professional football team. Going from job to job, Reynolds couldn't find a career he enjoyed. His father suggested law school, and by the time he earned his degree, Reynolds had finally figured out what he wanted to do.
Journalism--not law--appealed to Reynolds, and he worked as a reporter and then a sports columnist. In 1933 he was sent as a feature writer to report on Germany and the rise of Hitler. At that time, Reynolds was writing for the International News Service. The Germans didn't approve of Reynolds's slant against the Third Reich and socialism; however, from the article Reynolds gained employment at Collier's for whom he eventually penned 384 articles and short stories over a fifteen year span. A prolific writer, Reynolds's fame came during an assignment to cover the erupting World War II.
Reynolds spent time in France and then fled to England. While there he came to appreciate and respect the British. In account after account he portrayed the strong will and determination of a nation fighting for its very survival. He penned seven books about the war, broadcasted for the British Broadcasting Company, narrated two film documentaries, and lectured in the United States. Reynolds's popularity soared as people learned of his bravery and the risks he took to get the story.
Unfortunately for Reynolds, not everyone found him admirable. A Hearst columnist disputed his claims and suggested Reynolds was cowardly. After five years in the court system, Reynolds won over $175,000 in the libel judgement. This wasn't his only time he was brought to the public's attention for questionable acts. In 1952 Reynolds had penned a book about a Canadian spy, only to later find out that he had been duped and misled into believing a false tale. The publisher in turn changed the book from nonfiction to fiction.
When Reynolds traveled to Manila, Philippines, to research the president for a biography, he became ill with abdominal cancer. His life and literary career ended on March 17, 1964. He was sixty-four years old.