If you were pop-culturally aware in the 1970's, you knew Burt Reynolds even if you never saw a single one of his movies. You see, Burt Reynolds was everywhere. There he is on Merv Griffin. Ooh, he's Johnny's first guest tonight! Daytime TV? Why, look -- he's on Dinah Shore's show! He's the cover story this week on People Magazine! It's all about his romance with Sally Field! Then there's Cosmopolitan Magazine...
Burt Reynolds could thank his winning personality for his storied movie career. Fans showed up at the movie theater to see a Reynolds film because they liked the guy. They liked his sly smile, his rapacious arched brow, and his cackling laugh.
I don't remember if I ever saw Smokey and the Bandit; I think I probably did, but it wasn't memorable. It was silly and dumb. Even his country music co-stars couldn't lure me to his mid-career lowbrow movies.
I did see Deliverance, but I'll just say that Reynolds was not the most memorable aspect of that movie...
I also saw The Longest Yard, which was a good movie -- catch it sometime on the oldie movie channel.
Nowhere in his numerous obituaries is WW and the Dixie Dancekings mentioned. I saw that movie -- for the music. I have absolutely no memory of the film itself. And I thought that the music was really good, until I Googled the soundtrack and found that basically every song was performed by Jerry Reed, even though I swear Mel Tillis was a featured player. I think in 1975 I was so stunned that any flick would include (gasp!) country music that I was determined to support it with my three dollars. Apparently Ned Beatty was also in that film, and hopefully he had a less strenuous role then he did in Deliverance.
To see a Burt Reynolds flick was to leave the theater with a smile (mostly - Deliverance notwithstanding). Like I suppose Clark Gable and Cary Grant were in their day, when one slapped their dollars on the counter to buy a ticket to a Reynolds movie, they knew what they were getting.
Burt's career continued after the seventies ended, but by then most of us had moved on. He had a TV show called Evening Shade that I don't think I saw more than a snippet of one episode, but I'm sure he was good in it - Burt Reynolds good. I didn't see Boogie Nights, but I'll accept the critics' word that his performance was excellent.
I appreciate that Burt liked country music and wasn't ashamed to admit it. He was like Clint Eastwood in that respect. I didn't especially care about Reynolds' love life. Loni Anderson always seemed like a bit of a drama queen to me. Sally Field was a better choice; she was at least sweet and likeable. That was the extent of my interest in Burt's private life.
Two songs will always be associated with Burt Reynolds. Of course, the first:
And this one, even if you, like me, didn't appreciate the "artistic statement" of Smokey and the Bandit:
Rest in peace, Burt Reynolds. Thanks for the seventies.
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