Friday, September 07, 2018


Burt Reynolds is dead of a heart attack at age 82.

I have only the vaguest of memories of "Smokey and the Bandit." I need to go back and rewatch that movie; I wonder how well it's aged. For my money, Reynolds's best performance was in "Deliverance," an incredible movie that I really need to write a review for (we'll add it to the to-do list, alongside "The Way"). "Deliverance" uses a type of psychology found in many horror/thriller movies: take out the competent people first, then focus the rest of the film on the weaker, more unlikely-to-survive characters. James Cameron did this to great effect in "Aliens," wiping out all the obviously skilled Colonial Marines first, then leaving us with the quiet Corporal Hicks and with the shell-shocked-but-fiercely-maternal Ellen Ripley. In "Deliverance," Reynolds plays the guy who's everyone's top candidate for "survivor of an outdoor adventure gone wrong," but his character is among the first to be seriously injured. Reynolds plays the role with guts and feeling, and while he doesn't get the chance to portray the sort of man's man that he played in other roles, his Lewis Medlock is memorable—and he does get that one classic arrow shot in. I'll also remember Reynolds very fondly for his role as second fiddle to Clint Eastwood in "City Heat," which ends with Eastwood growling the line, "You'll always be 'Shorty' to me!" as the two stare each other down. Reynolds himself wasn't very happy to play "the wimp" opposite Eastwood (I thought of him more as the funny guy opposite Eastwood's straight man), but I may be one of the few people out there to really like that movie, which again featured Reynolds in a not-so-macho light.

In looking over Reynolds's Wikipedia page (already updated to include his death), I was reminded that Reynolds was hilariously smarmy in "Boogie Nights" as Jack Horner, a maker and distributor of porn movies. At that point, Reynolds was transitioning into the plastic-surgery nightmare that he would become in his later years, but the more I think about it, even that nightmare was in keeping with the tacky trajectory of Reynolds's life. He recently released "The Last Movie Star," which looked interesting to me, but which has been critically panned. I might still see it; it's available on iTunes. And in that creepy way of deceased modern movie stars, Reynolds still has a handful of films in which he will appear posthumously.

The man led an interesting life, I'll give him that. And for a time, his candle burned quite brightly. Too bad it was a heart attack that took him, but given the smash-'em-up athletic nature of many of his movie roles, it's not a surprise that his body decided to go out with a bang. RIP, Mr. Reynolds.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

I'm older than you, but my first memory of him is his role on the TV series "Gunsmoke". He played a half-breed blacksmith as I recall.

Althouse had a post today talking about Sally Field being the love of his life and how 40 years later he still regretted mucking that relationship up. I can relate...