The news of an 82-year-old Burt Reynolds dying is by no means a shock. Sad. And blog-worthy. But by no means out of the blue. If you’d seen any of his recent movies, you knew he looked frail and was probably 1st & goal near the end zone of life. I caught the trailer for last year’s The Last Movie Star and didn’t want to actually see it. Because I wanted to remember him as he was back in the day. Which is nothing less than the embodiment of an almost extinct species that was known as The American Male.
Burt Reynolds had it all. Looks. Athleticism. Testosterone to spare. A sense of humor. Acting chops. Likeability. The greatest mustache in the history facial hair. And that indefinable quality that you can’t define but you know it when you see it and it just gets your attention and doesn’t let go. He was without question on that short list of guys of whom you can say “Women want to be with him and men want to be him.”
And he made movies for both. He gave nothing less than the best performance by an actor playing and athlete of all time in The Longest Yard (We will not discuss the Adam Sandler version, the most unnecessary reboot ever done because Reynold’s version is not only not dated, it is still perfect.) as Paul Crewe. Ball breaking, 69 jokes and all:
Not to mention playing Billy Clyde Puckett in Semi-Tough. And the reason he was so convincing as a football player is that he was a football player. At Florida State, no less.
He knew how to make mass appeal movies for wide audiences, tapping into that great American archetype, the Good Looking Rebel Who Plays By His Own Rules and Drives the Authorities Fucking Nuts and Then Gets the Girl, from the Smokey and the Bandit movies to the Cannonball Run movies to Stroker Ace.
And while popcorn movies like those are much more my thing, to me he was never better than in the gritty, horrifying and timeless Deliverance. As the one guy in a group of buddies who go on a canoe trip in hillbilly (shudder) country who knows how to handle himself in survival situations. Reynolds put on a master class of action/adventure acting.
Of course, if you’re under the age of … oh, say … me, you’ll remember him most as the porn producer in Boogie Nights, which rebooted his career and got him well deserved Oscar nomination.
And while Reynolds is in his grave, I won’t go to mine without mentioning the classic Burt Norm MacDonald turned into a recurring character on SNL. Which wasn’t really an impression and ultimately made no sense, but was never not goddamned hysterical.
RIP, Turd Ferguson. And godspeed to the late, great Burt Reynolds. As the rich chick he was doing in Longest Yard called him, The All American Son of a Bitch.