Rest in paradise, Burt Reynolds

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 22: Actor Burt Reynolds attends the “Dog Years” Premiere during 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Josh Simpkins
Special to the Sun

Friends and neighbors, I have some truly melancholy news. Bandit is running from Smokey in the Great Hereafter. It is with a heavy heart I report that Burt Reynolds, the charismatic star of such films as Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Semi-Tough, The Best little Whorehouse in Texas, and the beloved Smokey and the Bandit Trilogy, passed away on September 6, 2018, of cardiopulmonary arrest in Jupiter, Florida. He was 82.

Burton Leon Reynolds, Jr. was born in Lansing, Michigan on Feb. 11, 1936, the son of Fern and Burton Milo Reynolds. After World War II, his family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida, where his father, an Army veteran, became Chief of Police, in the little beach community located not too far from the Everglades. Then known as Buddy Reynolds, Burt played halfback at Palm Beach High School, where his teammate happened to be future New York Yankees manager Dick Howser. He then suited up at Florida State, where Lee Corso, later a college coach and ESPN analyst, played on both sides of the ball. However, Burt suffered a knee injury as a sophomore, and that was it for football and for Florida State.

From there Burt enrolled at Palm Beach Junior College and appeared in a production of Outward Bound. This led to a scholarship and a seasonal stint at the Hype Park Playhouse in New York. There Burt roomed with another aspiring actor, Rip Torn, and the duo studied at the esteemed Actors Studio. After a few appearances on Broadway and television, Burt was off to Hollywood, where he signed with Universal. And the rest is cinematic history.

Though beloved by audiences for his brand of frivolous, good-ol’-boy fare, playful Burt with the golden grin was rarely embraced by the critics. The first time Burt saw himself in Boogie Nights, he was so unhappy he fired his agent. However, despite his early misgivings, he went on to win a Golden Globe for Boogie Nights but lost the supporting actor Oscar race to Robin Williams for Good Will Hunting. As a boy I always enjoyed Gator, Stroker Ace, The Cannonball Run and of course Smokey and the Bandit. As a man grown and film critic, I still enjoy a good ole Burt Reynolds flick.
Unfortunately, Burt had suffered from several health issues over the last decade. In 2010, he underwent a quintuple heart bypass one year after entering rehab to end a reliance on prescription drugs, a habit acquired after a previous back surgery. In 2013, he was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Florida hospital due to dehydration and severe flu symptoms. And still the Bandit kept on grinning.

Burt Reynolds was married to actresses Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965 and Loni Anderson from 1988 to 1993. He had a son, Quinton Reynolds, with Anderson in 1988. In March 2018, he said on the “Today” show that ex-girlfriend Sally Field, who was his co-star in Smokey and the Bandit, was the love of his life. Rest in Paradise, Burt Reynolds.