Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Burt Reynolds

Considering I just devoted a blogathon to him, I would be remiss in not wishing a happy 75th birthday to Burt Reynolds. In honor of the occasion, here’s an anecdote from Deadwood’s W. Earl Brown on working with Burt and the power of Burt’s “silly movies.” And one of my own: a nurse’s aide who used to work with my mother drove a Trans Am identical to Burt’s in Smokey and the Bandit. So moved was she by this film that she would only answer to the name “Bandit,” even in her professional capacity. A man who has that powerful an impact on a health care worker must be celebrated.

Some of Burt’s work is now available via Netflix Instant, including my all-time favorite of his performances. In 1989’s Breaking In, written by John Sayles and directed by Bill Forsyth (Local Hero), Burt is an aging burglar trying to teach his trade to eager young kid Casey Siemaszko. He plays a role that strikes a bit close to home in the uneven The Hollywood Sign: a fading actor and stuntman planning a caper. At his lowest ebb, his character puts in a videotape of one of his old westerns. The camera stays on Reynolds, his face altered by multiple plastic surgeries, as he watches his impossibly handsome younger self on TV and weeps. One of Burt’s finest moments.

Or you could watch Smokey and the Bandit, and let it serve as a reminder to read people’s nametags.