Remembering Burt Reynolds: ‘The Bandit’ of Hollywood

Actor Burt Reynolds in "Smokey and the Bandit."

Eastbound and Down, Burt Reynolds was the good ol’ boy making good ol’ money throughout the 1970s and early 1980s thanks to films such as DeliveranceWhite LightningThe Longest YardGatorHooper, and Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run films.

But it was 1977’s Smokey and The Bandit from director Hal Needham that Reynolds did what they say couldn’t be done: become the top-grossing box office star over the next five years.  Co-starring Sally Field, Jerry Reed and Jackie Gleason, audiences watched ol’ Bandit (Reynolds) run from the law in the form of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Gleason) when he and his friend Snowman (Reed) set to do what they say couldn’t be done: transport 400 cases of beer from Texas to Georgia in just 28 hours.  Along the way, the Bandit picks up the runaway bride Carrie (Field), who fell for the charms of this show-off with the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

The success of Bandit not only led to two sequels (1980’s Smokey and the Bandit IIand 1983’s Smokey and the Bandit, Part 3 with Burt making an cameo in the latter), but gave way to CBS’ Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85) with Tom Wopat and John Schneider as good ol’ boys Bo and Luke Duke, cousins who fight the system like a two modern-day Robin Hood with their orange 1969 Dodge Charger nicknamed ‘The General Lee’.

In 2005, Reynolds returned to his good ‘ol boy roots with a supporting role in the remake of 1974’s The Longest Yard opposite Adam Sandler and Chris Yard, followed by the role of greedy and corrupt county commissioner Jefferson Davis (J.D.) ‘Boss’ Hogg in the big-screen adaptation of Dukes alongside Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville as Bo and Luke, Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse and Jessica Simpson as Daisy, and TV’s Wonder Woman Lynda Carter.

Still, Reynolds was not considered to be taken seriously as an actor (with the exception of his Emmy and Golden Globe-winning role on the CBS sitcom Evening Shade) due to being both the Bandit and a good ‘ol boy until his comeback role as a porn director in 1997’s Boogie Nights: earning him an Oscar nomination.

Lansing, Mich. native Burt Reynolds died Thursday at the age of 82.  He is survived by Quinton, his son with ex-wife Loni Anderson.

 

 

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