Archive for September 16th, 2018

Burt Reynolds 1936–2018

We lost Burt Reynolds last week at the age of 82.  In a conversation at work in the following days it appears that he is an actor not on the radar of a lot of younger film fans.  Growing up in the 80’s he was a mainstay of my movie watching with Smokey and the Bandit being one of my favourite films, I probably watched it once a week for a couple of years!  For a time he was a massive box-office draw.  In 1977 Smokey and the Bandit came second only to Star Wars beating Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Saturday Night Fever at the American box-office.  For those who don’t know his films, a good way of giving an idea of the type of actor he was, is to look not at his films, but the ones he turned down (and regretted turning down): James Bond (after Sean Connery quite the first time), Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Han Solo in Star Wars, the Richard Gere role in Pretty Woman, and posibly his biggest regret, Jack Nicholson’s roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Terms of Endearment.  He is also reported to have turned down Die Hard but has said in a couple of interviews that he doesn’t remember being offered it.  Now you know the films he could have made, sit back and watch some of the ones he did make.  Most of his best films were in the 1970’s and are very much of their time, here a few highlights and my favourites as they spring to mind, in chronological order:

Sam Whiskey (1969)  – A comedy western and heist movie with a twist, he is trying to get gold back into a mint. Sam Whiskey

Deliverance (1972) – His first iconic role, in a film that works as an allegory in a couple different ways, as well as being a great action adventure drama on the surface, also one of John Boorman’s best movies. Deliverance

White Lightning (1973) – An early example for Reynolds of the good ol’ boy movies that he would become associated, as kim morgan of Sunset Gun calls them “wily, rough and tumble men (and some women) usually of the Southern persuasion”.  Also take a look at the sequel Gator (1976), this was his directorial debut. White Lightning

The Mean Machine (1974) – For those scratching their heads, this was the UK title, you may know it as The Longest Yard.  Having attended university on an American Football scholarship this was the perfect vehicle for the rising star. The Mean Machine

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) – The ultimate good ol’ boy movie, Reyolds most iconic, and the most fun car chase movie you will ever see. Smokey and the Bandit

Hooper (1978) – Honouring his time as a stuntman, the unsung heroes on movie making, and directed by stuntman turned director Hal Needham.  Not as fun or as funny as Smokey and the Bandit, but a film I have revisited it a couple of times, it has aged really well.   Hooper

The Cannonball Run (1981) – Probably the last great film of the type for Reynolds, and the best of many coast to coast race movies that came out around that time.  The ensemble cast is amazing, and also the first time I (like many western audiences)  had seen Jackie Chan. The Cannonball Run

Sharky’s Machine (1981) – An attempt at a more serious cop thriller, Reynolds made a few, this is the one I remember as the best. Sharky's Machine

Boogie Nights (1997) – After two decades of TV, and average movies Reynolds was back with his last great role.  Although he reportedly didn’t like the movie, it earned him his only Oscar nomination, It is also probably my favourite Paul Thomas Anderson movie. Boogie Nights

Al the films mentioned above are worth a look, but if you only watch one of them, It has to be Smokey and the Bandit, enjoy!

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