Thursday, September 06, 2018

Burt Reynolds RIP

I returned from an overcast and rainy day at the coast to find that Burt Reynolds had died, news which simply added to the feeling of melancholy which always afflicts me as I near the end of my Summer break.  The fact that he was eighty two was shocking enough - it seems only yesterday that he was in his hey day and the fact that this was actually forty odd years ago now is yet another reminder of my own encroaching years - let alone the news that he had died.  But that's the thing about celluloid - our heroes are forever preserved in their prime.  Our constant exposure, via TV and DVDs, to their greatest hits helps create the idea that they are somehow unchanging, their celluloid image preserving them from the ravages of time.  Sadly, though, unlike Dorian Grey's portrait, it is the image which stays young and the real thing which ages away. 

But to get back to Burt Reynolds, he was just one of the coolest of movie stars when I was growing up: tough, handsome but never taking himself too seriously, both on and off camera.  Indeed, it was his adoption of a less serious screen persona which proved the key to his success, marking him out from his contemporaries.  Some of his earlier films, made mainly in the late sixties, are somewhat odd to watch now, with Reynolds playing it relatively straight as a more or less conventional leading man.  Sure, a lot of his best known films are pretty lightweight, but they were hugely popular, providing solid entertainment to cinema audiences in the seventies and eighties.  The fact is that there is nothing wrong in turning out movies intended to be entertaining - it's more difficult than it looks and Reynolds was remarkably consistent during the seventies and early eighties when it came turning out such hits.

But Reynolds also turned out some more 'serious' pictures, always acquitting himself well.  Hustle, in particular, stands out for me. What initially looks to be a Dirty Harry inspired 'maverick cop' movie quickly turns into something very different, taking a detour into noir territory.  It's well worth a look.  While a lot of Burt Reynolds' later output was of hugely variable quality, he leaves behind a solid body of work which continues to entertain.  Like I said earlier, he was something of a hero to the younger me.  Damn it, he drove a Trans Am (the coolest car I've never owned) when he was'The Bandit' and he made moustaches cool for good guys (pre Burt, only villains sported them - only Errol Flynn or Ronald Coleman could get away with a pencil 'tache when playing heroes).  Above all, he always embodied the values of liberalism and tolerance, something relatively unusual in a Hollywood action star of his era.



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