Burt Reynolds died yesterday at 82.
I love 70s movies, as I have said here before and will say again. It was a cinematic decade of the auteur. Post-1960s disillusion left a thick layer of cynicism over cinema that made for some great storytelling. But, most of all, the 70s was the last decade Hollywood was comfortable telling stories about the working class in flyover country. And the king of those movies was Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds leaves behind an undistinguished athletic career as a football player at Florida State and a very distinguished career in film that covers six decades.
His glory years were in the 70s, though: Deliverance (1972), White Lightning (1973), The Longest Yard (1974), Gator (1976), and Smokey and the Bandit (1977).
I will cover all of the above at Hillbilly Highways, along with Stroker Ace (which I’ve never seen) and the Dukes of Hazzard remake. (I already covered In the Name of the King over at the other blog.) Maybe even Cannonball Run.
Deliverance and The Longest Yard are great movies. But the crown jewel in Burt Reynolds’ movie career is Smokey and the Bandit. I have no more conscious memory of being introduced to Smokey and the Bandit than I do to my mother’s milk. I was weaned on it. If you grew up in a broad swath of the country over a goodly stretch it was simply part of the cultural landscape. So it was Smokey and the Bandit that I chose to commemorate the man.
Burt Reynolds has always had a special place in my heart. Mostly due to that movie. He was the perfect for that sub-genre of films. He had “a lyrical way of cutting through the bullshit.” He allegedly had a mansion tucked away in some forgotten corner of my home county. I didn’t put much store by it, but damned if one day in high school I ain’t driving down the damnedest remote dirt road over the mountain and I don’t drive past this gaudy, godawful Pepto-Bismol pink mansion tucked away in the woods. It did not, I assume, belong to Burt Reynolds, but isn’t it pretty to think so?