Film News: Burt Reynolds, The Movie Star King, Dies at 82

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JUPITER, FLA – When I met Burt Reynolds in 2011, I knew I was meeting Hollywood royalty… he filled the room as a Movie Star King. He was frail at that time, complaining of the injuries he endured in the over 90 films in his career, but nothing stopped his stardom until it was over. Reynolds died on September 6th, 2018. He was 82.

Burt was age 75 at our meeting, and he still had that the charm bearing that audiences adored in his heyday in the 1970s and early ‘80s, when he was the King of the Box Office. He started in 1950s TV, bounced around in that and B-movies in the ‘60s, and found his niche as a humor-motivated “good old boy” in a series of films in the ‘70s, culminating with “Smokey and the Bandit” in 1977, his most memorable hit. But even in his later years, he broke ground with “Boogie Nights,” and worked up to the end… in 2017 he was the lead in a Adam Rifkin film, appropriately titled “The Last Movie Star.”

Burt Reynolds, Movie Star King, in Chicago in 2011
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Burton Leon Reynolds was a Florida native, raised in Riviera Beach, where his father was the Chief of Police Burt “Buddy” Reynolds, and he was Buddy, Jr. A stellar all-state football player in high school, Reynolds got a scholarship to Florida State and played halfback. An injury ended his football dreams, but a chance meeting with a play producer while attending classes at a community college afterward launched Reynolds into the acting profession.

He won the Florida State Drama Award, which included a scholarship to be on the summer stock stage in New York State. From there, he worked his way up the theater ladder in New York City, finally getting a break co-starring with Charlton Heston in a revival of the classic stage play ‘Mr. Roberts.’ The director of that play, John Forsythe, arranged a screen test for Reynolds in Hollywood.

He started there in TV around 1961 (and made his film debut in “Angel Baby”), taking on parts in dramas and westerns primarily. This led to a part in the series “Gunsmoke,” where he portrayed blacksmith Quint Asper from 1962 to 1965. Along the way he dipped his toe in movies, doing mostly b-movies and an infamous spaghetti western, “Navajo Joe” (1966). He kept building TV popularity (“Dan August,” 1970-71) and box office until his big break, the classic “Deliverance” (1972).

The Charmer: Burt Reynolds in ‘Smokey and the Bandit’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The 1970s then belonged to Burt Reynolds, evolving to his status as the number one box office draw in film. It was Western TV series producer Jules Levy who steered Reynolds into his popular “Southern charmer” phase with “White Lightning” (1973), followed by “The Longest Yard” (1974), “Gator” (1976), “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977, created and produced by Jules’ son, Robert L. Levy) and “Starting Over” (1979). He even directed both “Gator” and “The End” (1978, with best friend Dom DeLuise). Throughout his career, Reynolds had been directed by such diverse talents as John Boorman, Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovich and Blake Edwards.

After conquering the box office, Reynolds went back to TV with “Evening Shade” (1990-94), for which he won an Emmy, and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the film “Boogie Nights” (1997). He is also known for connecting with notable female celebrities such as Judy Carne (his first wife), Dinah Shore, Sally Field and Loni Anderson (who was his second wife). Through his 50 year career, he had over 90 feature film roles and numerous TV credits. He has two films on IMDB scheduled for 2018, and was cast in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but had not filmed the role at the time of his death.

Burt Reynolds died of cardiac arrest near his home in Jupiter, Florida. He is survived by his son Quinton.

In published audio for the first time, Patrick McDonald of interviews Burt Reynolds in 2011.

Sources for this article came from Wikipedia and The Movie Star King, Burt Reynolds, 1936-2018 senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2018 Patrick McDonald,

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