American actor Burt Reynolds died from cardiac arrest in a place called Jupiter in the State of Florida.

The name Burt Reynolds may not have any meaning to some people these days and I guess if there is, it’s probably from Boogie Nights (1997). The film earned him his only Oscar nomination for best supporting actor as pornographer Jack Horner (a poor man’s Hugh Hefner). The star of the film was a young actor called Mark Wahlberg playing a struggling porn star Dirk Diggler AKA Eddie Adams.

Wimbledon Times:
Boogie Nights with Mark Wahlberg

I wonder what happened to him?

The film made a star out of Wahlberg and projected director Paul Thomas Anderson into the spotlight.

However, Reynolds did win a Golden Globe for Boogie Nights.

Being a kid of the seventies I think I watched just about every Burt Reynolds movie around right through to the eighties. The best years as far as I’m concerned. I guess you could say he was one of my guilty pleasures.

He was pretty much always the hero, often a police detective or private eye in the early days. He cut his teeth on US television series such as the Western  Gunsmoke (1962- 1963) as character Quint a sidekick to the main star Marshall Matt Dillion (James Arness) and TVs Lt. Dan August (1970-1971). The success of Dan August saw him on the big screen in another police story called Fuzz (1972) with Raquel Welch and Tom Skerritt.

In the same year Reynolds had his finest hour as Lewis the macho survivalist who heads up an outdoors excursion to canoe down the Cahulawassee River one more time before the authorities flood the area making one big lake.

Wimbledon Times:
As survivalist Lewis in Deliverance (1972)

His fellow adventurers Ed, (John Voight) the quiet family guy who is probably the closest to Lewis, Drew, (Ronny Cox) the voice of reason and Bobby, the podgy obnoxious insurance salesman (Ned Beatty) who’s only there for the beer and cheap thrills.

But it’s Lewis who is the only one who knows the forest and the woods and how to live of the land in necessary but also a bit of a loner.

The film in question was Deliverance (1972) directed by British director John Boorman. The film was also famous for a controversial male rape scene which was quite risky for the 70s. There have been hundreds of films that followed Deliverance with the theme of people fighting against the elements and the not so friendly locals.

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Nothing has ever come close to Deliverance or matched the films realism and hard-hitting scenes. There was some restpite with the introduction of a short musical duet between Drew with his guitar up against a young hillbilly boy with a banjo. The scene became famous and was played over the radio in the US and UK called ‘Duelling Banjos’. The only other backwoods thriller that came close to Deliverance was ‘Southern Comfort’ (1981).

Reynolds admitted himself that Deliverance was the best movie he ever made and showed people that he could act.

He went on to make more thrillers with White Lightning (1973) as Gator McKlusty and ex-con helping the FBI to run down a drugs cartel, which also starred Ned Beatty as the corrupt Sherriff this time.  Reynolds played the same character again in a sequel Gator (1976).

Wimbledon Times:

Reynolds was also an accomplished American Football star and another great movie recommendation is The Mean Machine (1974) which was called The Longest Yard in the US. Reynolds played Paul Crewe a professional American Football player who ends up in prison and has to organise a football match between the inmates and the prison officers organised by the sadistic Governor played by Eddie Albert. This was remade in 2001 featuring Vinnie Jones (I kid you not!)

But things were soon to change in 1977 with a comedy called Smokey and the Bandit which released the Burt Reynolds sense of humour. From then on he became this comedy movie icon. The film was the inspiration for the TV series The Dukes of Hazard (1979-1985). He teamed up with director Hal Needham an ex stunt man who became close friends with Reynolds and they went on the make Smokey and the Bandit 2 and the Cannonball Run series in the eighties with an all-star ‘whose who’ of Hollywood greats.

Wimbledon Times:
Smokey and the Bandit

He was never taken really seriously as an actor after the comedies but they were extremely successful movies. The other thing that trivialised his star quality was the famous nude pose Reynolds agreed to do for Cosmopolitan in the 70’s, which he always regretted.

Nobody could pull off the sexy moustachioed look like Burt Reynolds (except me in the 80’s) and he really enjoyed life!

A very sad loss…He was a Good Ol’ Boy! and a big part of my childhood.

That’s my personal take on the great Burt Reynolds.