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Burt Reynolds Memorial Tribute
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Burt Reynolds Memorial Tribute - 12/26

Burt Reynolds, who passed away on September 6, was a beloved leading man of comedy and adventure films whose very real acting talent was sometimes obscured by the magnetic charm that he seemed to exude so effortlessly. A favorite of both male and female audiences, Reynolds had an air of easygoing masculinity that men were comfortable with and women certainly noticed.

Burton Leon Reynolds Jr., born in 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, moved with his family to Florida as a youngster and would go on to attend Palm Beach High School and, on a football scholarship, Florida State University. He began acting on television in the late 1950s and soon was cast in a costarring role in NBC's Riverboat (where he appeared from 1959-60).

Reynolds made his movie debut in Angel Baby (1961) and continued doing extensive TV work including stints on CBS's Gunsmoke (1962-65), ABC's Hawk (1966) and ABC's Dan August (1970-71). His breakthrough movie role came in Deliverance (1972), after which he ascended to major film stardom in the 1970s and '80s. This is the period from which we draw the high-profile Reynolds movies that are being shown in remembrance of this Hollywood idol.

Deliverance (1972) is director John Boorman's compelling version of the James Dickey novel about four Georgia suburbanites who make a harrowing journey down a river in a rural part of their state. Reynolds' Lewis Medlock is the most macho of the quartet, which also includes characters played by Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox.

The Longest Yard (1974, TCM premiere) is a football comedy directed by Robert Aldrich and set in a prison where a former NFL player (Reynolds) coaches fellow prisoners in a match against the guards. Eddie Albert costars as a sadistic warden, and several real-life football players appear as members of the prisoners' team.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) is an action comedy directed by former stuntman Hal Needham and featuring Reynolds and Jerry Reed as truck drivers hired to transport a load of bootleg beer across state lines. Costarring are Jackie Gleason as the sheriff in hot pursuit and Sally Field as a runaway bride. The movie inspired other "trucker comedies" including two direct sequels starring Reynolds.

Hooper (1978) is an ode to movie stuntmen and stuntwomen, with Reynolds in the title role as a veteran stunt coordinator whose abuse of his body over the years is catching up with him. Hal Needham directed the action comedy, which costars Sally Field, Jan-Michael Vincent and Brian Keith.

Smokey and the Bandit II (1980, TCM premiere), a sequel to the 1977 movie, again has Reynolds and Reed as truckers running afoul of the sheriff once more (Jackie Gleason), with Field returning as Reynolds' love interest. This time around the boys are transporting an elephant to the GOP National Convention.

Best Friends (1982) is a romantic comedy based on the real-life relationship between the authors of the script, Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin. Reynolds and Goldie Hawn play a pair of romantically involved screenwriters who worry that they may have made a mistake in marrying. Norman Jewison directs a cast that also includes Jessica Tandy, Barnard Hughes and Keenan Wynn.

Reynolds continued acting until shortly before his death, earning particular praise for such late-career films such as Boogie Nights (1997, OscarĀ® nomination as Best Supporting Actor) and The Last Movie Star (2017). Reynolds was married to and divorced from actresses Judy Carne (1963-65) and Loni Anderson (1988-93). He also had lengthy and well-publicized relationships with Dinah Shore and Sally Field.

by Roger Fristoe


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