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Burt Reynolds, who during the ’70s and ’80s was one most of the most popular actors in movies - often turning out films that, while dismissed by critics, were embraced by audiences because of his panache and evident glee at being paid to drive cars fast, kiss beautiful women, and crack wise (not necessarily in that order) - has passed away. He was 82.

In his appreciation in the New York Times, film critic A.O. Scott writes that Reynolds “may not have lived up to his full potential as an actor — he often said so himself — but he was one of the great drivers in American popular culture. This isn’t a minor accomplishment. The pride he took in performing his own stunts was partly the bluff machismo of a former athlete and partly a commitment to screen acting as a physical rather than a cerebral or emotional undertaking. He could play romantic leads, detectives and football players: The range was always there, even if he didn’t always use it. He was sometimes clean-shaven, and not always southern. But if you grew up in the prime of his stardom, you most likely remember him, with a mustache and a cowboy hat and maybe a pair of aviators, behind the wheel of a car.”
KC's View:
I always have been a Burt Reynolds fan, while at the same time believing that his was a classic case of a career being inhibited by bad decisions. He could’ve had the same kind of career as Clint Eastwood - they both started directing movies at around the same time - but instead seemed to choose the easy paycheck and the less challenging projects, usually while wearing increasingly unbelievable toupees.

Reynolds also is well-known for the roles he supposedly turned down - like the Jack Nicholson roles in both Terms of Endearment and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (To make, in the first case, Stoker Ace? Geez…) Plus, the Richard Gere role in Pretty Woman. An, the opportunity to replace Sean Connery as James Bond.

That said … Reynolds has the distinction of having made at least two movies that will stand the test of time and be defined as great - Deliverance and the original The Longest Yard. (The less said about the execrable remake, in which Reynolds took a small role, probably for a paycheck, the better.) And, he made a bunch of movies that I think were very, very good - Semi-Tough, Starting Over, Boogie Nights, Hooper, and Sharky’s Machine would be the ones that would make my list.

I was thinking about this recently after reading the Ace Atkins novel, “The Sinners,” which was dedicated to Burt Reynolds. There are a ton of testosterone-driven characters of various ages populating the book, which is set in the deep south. I may be wrong about this, but it seemed to me that Reynolds could’ve played many of them at various points in his career … and he would’ve been great.