Glory days: by the late 1970s, Reynolds and Clint Eastwood were the two most bankable stars in the world.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Burt Reynolds has died at age 82 from a heart attack in his home town of Jupiter, Florida. Reynolds had been suffering from poor health in recent years but was still appearing in films. He was announced as one of the stars of Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood". Reynolds entered acting in the 1950s but his rugged good looks sometimes worked against him as he was told he bore too close a resemblance to Marlon Brando. He made "B" movies before gravitating to television where he landed a recurring role as a blacksmith in the hit series "Gunsmoke". Reynolds would go on to star in other short-lived TV series that never capitalized on his real life wit and humor. Of playing the title character in the "Dan August" detective series, Reynolds would quip that he had two expressions: "Mad and madder". Reynolds slogged through undistinguished feature films in the 1960s, some of which were undeniably appealing but none of which resonated with the public. However, he gained considerable attention with his frequent appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" where his self-deprecating sense of humor and racy quips endeared him to Carson's mammoth nightly audience. He agreed to pose nude (well, mostly nude) for Cosmopolitan, which caused a sensation. However, Reynolds said he regretted the decision because it detracted from his ability to be taken seriously as an actor. The release of director John Boorman's "Deliverance" in 1972 changed that. Reynolds gave a terrific performance and the "A"-list roles started pouring in. Most of his films had a considerable element of humor attached to them, combined with Reynolds' ability to do his own stunts. He became popular playing wise-ass characters with a penchant for towel-snapping humor. In 1977, he struck gold by starring in "Smokey and the Bandit", a film which became a phenomenal success with rural audiences. The Reynolds persona was often that of a good ol' boy from the south who took on corrupt cops and politicians. For a period of years, Reynolds could do no wrong and became one of the biggest stars in the world. However, his judgment often failed him and turned down major roles in classic films in order to star in forgettable movies. A misguided stunt on the set of "City Heat" in the early 1980s caused him severe injuries and helped spread rumors that was was suffering from AIDS. His career never fully recovered, but in 1998 he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for "Boogie Nights". He didn't win and he also squandered the newfound respect he had earned by churning out mediocre films and TV movies. Not helping matters was his messy personal life that saw marriage problems, nasty divorces and bankruptcy issues spread across the pages of tabloids.
Still, Burt Reynolds was a genuine superstar at his peak and he never went out of style, as evidenced by the enduring affection for his films- and yes, he certainly could act.