Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Burt Reynolds

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.


Michael Berry said...

Reynolds claims that his career took a significant downturn after "City Heat," when he was clocked on the jaw with a break-away chair that didn't break away. The injury put him out of commission for a significant amount of time, and his sudden loss of weight spurred the mid-80s rumor that he had AIDS.

Anonymous said...

Did decent to better work in the sitcom EVENING SHADE and the film BOOGIE NIGHTS, but apparently pulls the divo act as well.

Stephen Gallagher said...

When you look at movies like the Smokeys and Hooper, which seem to mark both the peak of his popularity and the end of his professional development, you get the feeling that from that point on Reynolds was choosing his projects based on the time he'd have making them. His one-time stunt co-ordinators became his directors and his long-time drinking buddies became his costars. And the projects play like lazy parties.

Maybe there's some parallel with the Ratpackers -- Sinatra and Martin could carry a serious movie when the pressure was on, but look at some of the crap they made.

Anonymous said...

And how it gets remade, with a not dissimilar laziness and even greater success (the OCEAN films, of course).

Another Reynolds, another in the wake of BOOGIE NIGHTS, that I can recommend though I doubt it's much of a commercial landmark for him or anyone, is HOTEL. Rather an art version of an OCEAN'S film, in the experience of physically making it (thus supporting Stephen's point), perhaps, but an excellent film by me.