Monday, September 10, 2018

Laugh, I Thought I'd Die

What I may remember most is the laugh. It had a way of cutting through any and all pretense. That is a mighty impressive capacity in a town like Hollywood. Burt Reynolds was a guy who seemed to effortlessly rule the box office of the 1970's. Whether it was from the driver's seat of that black Trans Am, immortalized in Bruce Springsteen's Cadillac Ranch, or from the stern of a canoe bouncing over the rapids in Deliverance, Burt delivered.
What did he deliver? A smart aleck who seemed to glide effortlessly in and out of trouble. When asked by his costar Sally Field in Smokey and The Bandit just what he's good at, Burt replies, "Showing off." All of those stunts and all of those movies, there must have been some hard work in there somewhere, but you never would have known it by watching him. Or listening to him.
That laugh.
I was always happy to go out to the drive in with my older brother to catch the latest hard-boiled, southern fried detective flick. How cool would it be to have a name like Gator McKlusky? As cool as it would be to have Jerry Reed as a partner in crime. Live fast, and drive even faster. Burt Reynolds was fast and furious before Vin Diesel was driving bumper cars.
As the eighties came, Burt's career slowed a bit, but there was still plenty left in the tank. Sharky's Machine was a fine example of new noir through gritted teeth. If I watched that one once, I watched it a hundred times.
But mostly there was that laugh. And there was nowhere better to hear it on display than the outtakes from all those Hal Needham films. A feature that may have improved Burt's opinion of one of his last roles, as the porn auteur in Boogie Nights. It's something that might have widened the appeal, Boogie Night Bloopers. With Dom DeLuise. More giggles.
Burt Reynolds stomped on the Terra, and he is missed even now. Aloha, Burt. See you at the drive in.

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