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A Paean to Brother Burt

Dave Randall

Posted on September 9, 2018 22:45

1 user

Burt Reynold's career was full of action and laughs, across the arc of many a Baby Boomer life.

I was first aware of Burt Reynolds' star power the summer before I entered the second grade. On the hottest days, my sister and I would be indoors with the fan on, watching TV. It was impossible to miss ABC's deluge of promos for Hawk, a new police series set to debut that September at 10pm Pacific, Thursday nights. The time slot meant we'd never get to see it, because we would have been sent to bed by then. Most of the country wouldn't see it because it was on against The Dean Martin Show on NBC, and CBS was running recent feature films. Hawk ran 17 episodes before ABC cancelled it. 

The promos highlighted Reynolds as a Native American NYPD detective, pedal to the metal of his unmarked car, lights whirring, siren screaming, roaring through the streets of Manhattan after some maniac, inevitably punching the miscreant through a wall or down a flight of stairs. Exciting stuff to an elementary school student who saw much the same on double episodes of Batman, each week--though the Dynamic Duo did it in a more tongue in cheek way. Besides, all westerns and cop shows in the '60's concluded with an elaborate fight.

In 1970, Reynolds' returned to ABC as Dan August (A Quinn Martin Production!). This one lasted longer, 26 episodes, but the results were the same: a lot of action, with Burt leaping on to moving vehicles, and diving down the aisle of a church in the opening credits, but eventual cancellation. 

Both series, however, enjoyed a syndication renaissance after Reynolds' infamous Cosmopolitan centerfold. CBS re-ran Dan August in the summer of 1973, and Hawk turned into an unlikely late night favorite in 1986. By then, Burt had been the 1970's biggest box office star, and was only beginning to see his star diminish by '86. Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, et al; the romances ( Judy Carne, Dinah Shore, Sally Field, Loni Anderson), the hysterical Tonight Show appearances...at each point in life, there was some Burt Reynolds moment, big screen or small, that would remind me of where I was and what I was doing.

In early 1987, I was working nights in San Diego, looking for something to do one afternoon. I went to the multiplex at University Towne Center, and decided on the newest Burt Reynolds film, Heat. It was probably his worst movie. Awful. That's why it was so rewarding that 10 years later, he was brilliant in Boogie Nights. His career played out the analogy of show business being like a Ferris Wheel: as it turns, you'll reach the top and hit the bottom, over and over again.

In 2002, He made an interesting film with Julie Christie, Snapshots, pretty much relegated to premium cable, but a very nice dramatic performance. I believe it would have brought him much satisfaction to know a random fan would remember his career moments that most have forgotten.

Dave Randall

Posted on September 9, 2018 22:45

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Burt Reynolds was a great example. Of how big a movie star could be, of how a movie star should not manage his career, and...

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