Today I watched about ten minutes of a late-career Burt Reynolds picture called Malone. Though it's in modern dress and has to do with scientific secrets it's really a western, Reynolds as the disinterested cowpoke who gets mighty interested when things go wrong in Dodge. This is my recollection, anyway. Believe it or not I saw it in a theater back when Carol and I went to two or three movies a week. I remember it being much better than it should have been. A strong B.
But when I saw Reynolds today I wondered again why he handled his career the way he did. Deliverance, Semi-Tough, Starting Over...these were Movie Star pictures and he did well in them. One story goes that he constantly needed cash to support a) an expensive wife and b) his theater in Florida. Maybe.
Whatever happened he suddenly started turning out crap at an assembly line rate. Where his buddy Clint Eastwood chose material carefully, Reynolds seemed to take the least bad thing on his desk. Smokey 1 was hokey enough. By the end the Smokey were more like a Dean Martin Roast than a movie--knocking out the fourth wall, the actors all doing numbrs on each others so the yokels (us) could see How Real Hollywood People Behave. Yuks galore.
I saw him interviewed at length a couple of times. He's a bright enough guy but I never sensed any real commitment or interest in craft other than stunt work. Eastwood, though I think he's over-rated as a director and certainly as an actor, has a decided world view and the talent to turn that world view into entertaining and sometimes disturbing pictures.
Maybe all he wanted to be was a movie star. A male fold out. A smart ass on Carson. A seemingly self-deprecating ass bandit.
Too bad. I think he had a modest amount of real talent that he never let himself use.