Burt Reynolds was one of those guys that even though I never really thought of him as an actor I was particularly fond of or was enthralled by his work, he was ever present in my formative years. I grew up watching Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, The Longest Yard, Semi-Tough, and of course him and Dom Deluise making each other laugh like they were huffing airplane glue. Hell, the guy practically invented the blooper reel. It seemed like all his movies ended with them.
Those Burt movies were prominently shown on network television in the late 70s and early 80s and I sat in front of the Zenith console and ate them up. No cable television. Just a 40ft antenna tower and a handful of channels. Burt was always there, chomping on his gum with his porn mustache chasing tail and being chased by the long arm of the law. Cracking jokes and never taking himself all too seriously. As a kid that made an impression, but as an adult not so much.
But as I got older I found him rather good in Deliverance, and in 1997 I found a new appreciation for the man in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. I’m not sure if Anderson walked away from that experience the same way I did in terms of Reynolds, but I thought he was damn good in it. I can appreciate the man a little more the older I get. Not necessarily the films, but more so the guy. He always had a natural swagger about him. He held himself with an ease that I sometimes sorely lack.
In every role he played he was pretty much just Burt Reynolds, regardless of what the role called for. He wasn’t method acting. He was just Burt acting in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, or Stick, or Sharky’s Machine, or Rent-A-Cop, or goddamn Cop and a Half. He wasn’t trying to teach us a lesson in his work, or make an artistic statement. He was just trying to support ex wives, keep his homes and afford his toupees. I can respect that. Acting was a job, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy that job.
Reynolds died yesterday at the age of 82. Here’s to him, Johnny Carson, and Dom Deluise on the old Tonight Show set in the Great Beyond having a few cocktails and a few laughs.
By the way, I loved him on Jeopardy.