If there is an icon of the early days of cable tv, for me it would be, without a doubt Burt Reynolds. Every time I tuned on the tv and that little light on the cable box would glow yellow, I would switch it to either channel 14 or 16 HBO and Showtime respectively and invariably I would stumble across the films Reynolds made with director Hal Needham which I consider his best work, those being: Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit II, Cannonball Run, Stroker Ace, and Cannonball Run II. Needless to say every time I saw the man, he was behind the wheel with that million-dollar grin and mustache.
I remember my dad being more partial to his anti-hero roles like Gator, City Heat, Stick, and Sharky’s Machine, but for me the fun-loving ladies man Burt was the one I enjoyed the most. My favorite of his hard-edged performance like so many others is of course Deliverance, even though I didn’t see it in all its “squeal like a pig” glory, I did see it several times on basic cable where the bad-assness of Burt could not be denied. With television and film credits going back 60 years this legend was almost consistently working all the way up till this year.
In 1997 it took director Paul Thomas Anderson and his masterpiece Boogie Nights to remind us what a treasure Reynolds was to the film world. Adult film director, Jack Horner is still by far his best performance outside Deliverance. But to me he will always be J.J. McClure from the Cannonball series, even more so than the Bandit. With a huge body of work that deserves re-visiting, I will without a doubt head back into his world of cars, gals and grins. Godspeed Mr. Reynolds. Thank you and may you rest in peace.