Patterico's Pontifications


Burt Reynolds, 1936-2018

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:21 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Burt Reynolds, who practically invented the good ‘ol boy movie in the 1970s, died from a heart attack at age 82, as confirmed earlier today by his publicist. No other details are available at this time.

I won’t make a point of recapping his career here, as the obituary in Variety does a far more thorough job than I possibly could. Along with Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Clint Eastwood, Reynolds was probably the biggest box-office star of the 1970s, with one of those four being the highest-drawing male star for eight of the decade’s years (John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone account for the other two years). Apart from Eastwood, who was a top ten box office draw every single year of the decade, no other actor appeared in the top ten as often as Reynolds who made the list every year from 1973 through the end of the decade.

Though Reynolds was certainly excellent in his “Acting!” roles, he seemed to really enjoy portraying roughneck characters devoted to good times, even if that meant running somewhat afoul of the law. He didn’t play the grizzly sergeant exhorting his men to take the strategic hill from the enemy, nor did he play crusading lawyers out to challenge a rigged system, nor did he play the rich debonair businessman romancing the beautiful but troubled young woman from the wrong side of the tracks. Instead, he specialized in playing rascals, scalawags, libertines, and reprobates, but always with a dollop of good humor and bonhomie. A former college football star who famously posed nude for Cosmopolitan at the beginning of his career, Reynolds enjoyed physical roles that showcased his athleticism through intricate stuntwork.

By far, my favorite two Burt Reynolds roles are Bo “Bandit” Darville from Smokey and the Bandit and J.J. McClure from The Cannonball Run. Both movies were directed by Reynolds’ longtime buddy Hal Needham, a Korean War paratrooper and one-time stunt coordinator who made sure that all four Smokey and Cannonball movies were virtually reel-to-reel car-chases with as little plot as possible getting in the way of the story. These movies were part of my boyhood, and I especially loved the Cannonball Run movies because Reynolds & Needham assembled a fun cast (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Farrah Fawcett, Jackie Chan, Roger Moore, Mel Tillis, and on and on), rolled cameras, and just let everybody yuk it up. Imagine being 12 years old and dreaming about racing from Connecticut to California in a purloined ambulance with Dom DeLuise, Jack Elam, Burt, and Farrah; I hoped perhaps someday that would be me.

Burt Reynolds, as much as this is a pretty trite cliché, lived life on his own terms. He went through a string of high-profile paramours, including a marriage to and ugly divorce from the beautiful Loni Anderson. He allegedly turned down the role of Han Solo, and in his most critically-acclaimed role he lost the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award to Robin Williams’ annoying scene-chewing in Good Will Hunting. He feuded with the media and, depending upon his mood, he could apparently be pretty surly towards his fans, especially in the final three decades of his life. But he damn near wrote the book on roguish charm (pipe down there Errol Flynn fans) and it’s impossible not to think of him every time I see a black TransAm or a truckload of Coors Beer.

Ave atque vale, Bandit.

ADDENDUM — I should have mentioned one other thing I love about Burt Reynolds: to the best of my knowledge, he never told anyone how they ought to vote.


33 Responses to “Burt Reynolds, 1936-2018”

  1. If anyone wants to talk about Hooper or Gator or Stoker Ace or any other movie I didn’t mention, have at it.

    JVW (42615e)

  2. Don’t do anything stupid. “I have a great idea for a movie.”

    felipe (023cc9)

  3. Love it, felipe. One thing about Burt is that he always seemed to be willing to poke fun at his career.

    JVW (42615e)

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way through Deliverance.

    Dave (445e97)

  5. Good stuff
    thanks, JVW

    mg (8cbc69)

  6. He had to have made 70 or so movies.

    mg (8cbc69)

  7. I had the pleasure of seeing Burt in a one man show in Vegas at the Orleans Casino theater. The stage was set as a living room, in which he moved about, and he just recounted his life for us. He was quite humble about it. He also spoke about his failed marriage to Loni Anderson in a very gentlemanly manner. It is one of my favorite Vegas experiences.

    felipe (023cc9)

  8. they are starting to play his movies on cable ugh!

    lany (41c90e)

  9. A personal favorite as a youngster was a TV series he did: ‘Riverboat.’ Great memories.

    Can double check the numbers but if memory serves, Smokey And The Bandit had the second highest boxoffice numbers in ’77-’78 behind one other film: ‘Star Wars.’

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  10. “Official ‘Unofficial’ Trump Death Tweet” [patent-pending]:

    “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of [insert name here: Burt Reynolds.] Our hearts and prayers are with you.”

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  11. FWIW, the record for the Cannonball Run was crushed a few years back by a team of three who made the trip from the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach (2813 miles) in 28h50m.

    But they didn’t have Farrah with them, so I’m not sure what the point was…

    Dave (445e97)

  12. Just this spring, I bought a DVD of a Burt Reynolds film called The Last Movie Star. He plays a thinly fictionalized version of himself, a faded Hollywood great invited to receive a career achievement award at a film festival in Nashville which turns out to be not quite the red-carpet affair it was advertised as. At a couple points in the movie, he acts opposite earlier iconic performances of his…Smokey and the Bandit, and Deliverance. But ultimately, that’s not what the movie is about. It’s a fascinating depiction of a man coming to grips with his own life and legacy. It was perhaps his finest hour as an actor. I highly recommend it, and will watch it again tonight in tribute.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Reynolds.

    Demosthenes (09f714)

  13. I remember him best as a gum-chewing young actor in the Twilight Zone episode in which he is punched out by William Shakespeare. From all his movies, I remember Bama McCall’s double-barreled pistol shotgun best.

    nk (dbc370)

  14. While I think his best role by far was as Louis in Deliverence, he had some good moments in other films:

    Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex (but we’re afraid to ask)
    The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing
    White Lightning
    The Longest Yard
    WW And The Dixie Dancekings
    Semi Tough
    Starting Over ( the movie sucks but the scene where Candace Bergen sings to him is priceless)
    Breaking In
    Boogie Nights

    and whatever movie that was where he kept calling the albino ‘bunny eyes’. Great tower stunt scene in that one.


    harkin (c7ccf8)

  15. oh sweet merciful goddess of douche

    did we know douchebag jack dorsey had a nose ring this summer

    nobody tells me anything

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  16. Starting over, gack, but ill raise you Malone, where he squares off against cliff robertson,

    narciso (d1f714)

  17. “Stick”, also with Candice Bergen.

    And how did I forget “City Heat” with Clint Eastwood? It’s in my “movies you must see” list.

    nk (dbc370)

  18. I meant “Stick” is the one with “bunny eyes”.

    nk (dbc370)

  19. @15

    Be insufferable in a different thread please

    Davethulhu (fddbc4)

  20. Sharkeys magazine, is Another good one, hawk was shot in new York in the 70s (I only know that from an archer episode)

    narciso (d1f714)

  21. #15 Ackkkkk. Gross. Grounds for termination.

    Bob the Builder (564d53)

  22. Trump probably does know him, Jupiter being not that far from palm beach.

    narciso (d1f714)

  23. Stick was elmore Leonard, Sharkeys was William diehl, and some years ago, he guess starred on burn notice.

    narciso (d1f714)

  24. I meant “Stick” is the one with “bunny eyes”.


    harkin (c7ccf8)

  25. Alex Jones permanently banned from Twitter.

    “This is a conspiracy!” – ADA Tommy Chamberlain [Rudy Vallee] ‘The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer’ 1947

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  26. Alex Jones permanently banned from Twitter.


    Dave (445e97)

  27. But Hezbollah (they blew up marines) and ffarkhan get their blue check.

    Narciso (636179)

  28. ADDENDUM — I should have mentioned one other thing I love about Burt Reynolds: to the best of my knowledge, he never told anyone they were not allowed to attend his funeral”


    harkin (c7ccf8)

  29. I loved his many appearances on Johnny Carson. Burt was a man who loved to laugh.

    Bandit is my favorite movie of his and role he played. I got a big kick out of his cameo in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie. We see him showering and then from out of frame, Mel, Dom Deluise, and Marty Feldman appear soaping and caressing Burt. Reynolds’ facial expressions (no sound in a silent movie) were priceless. I thought, “What a great guy. Willing to mock his sexy image. Doing anything for a laugh.”

    I believe he was a member of the first class at FSU to include males. It was founded as a women’s teaching school.

    RIP, Seminole. Thank you.

    Ed from SFV (6d42fa)

  30. Lost to Robin Williams. That’s gotta hurt.

    I can remember only two Robin Williams roles that didn’t make me want to hot the character with a shovel; The Djinni, and The King of the Moon in THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN. People kept raving at me about one movie of his or another, and I would try once more time, and come away swearing “never again”. The imbecile in GOOD MORNING VIETNAM deserved to be shipped out on a Section 8. Mrs. Doubtfire was a creepy stalker who should have been locked up. And so on, and on. Williams made a career of playing ‘Mavericks who fought the system’ in such a way that I entirely sympathized with the system.

    I liked Reynolds. I even liked his so-so action films like STICK and MALONE. I saw SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT five times the summer it came out, only partly because the family vacation home was infested with a cousin’s boyfriend who I couldn’t stand. I missed the Cannonball films until they came out on tape, but liked HOOPER a lot.

    C. S. P. Schofield (043293)

  31. Its amazing to think of it, but for about 10 years Burt Reynolds was THE No. 1 Box Office draw in the World.

    I give the guy credit for going on Carson and other late night talk shows and creating a wisecracking, good ol’ boy persona that led to “Smokey and the Bandit” and a dozen other movies.

    And he was great in “Sharkey’s machine” and “Deliverance”

    From what I can tell, everyone who worked with him, liked him. Which is a Hollywood miracle.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  32. Robin Williams. Weirdly I liked the Serious Robin Williams. He did some movie called “Photo shop” – as a creepy stalker – or something and was quite good.

    I hated *Funny* Robin Williams movies. In fact, I could only tolerate the guy in small doses. If you’re going to rattle off 15 jokes a minutes, at least *one* of them should be funny.

    rcocean (1a839e)

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