Come on, gentlemen, admit it: That's a hell of a specimen...
Well, he said he was gonna do it, I had no reason to think he wouldn’t, and by gum, now he’s gone and done it. Larry Aydlette has devoted the entire month of February to Burt Reynolds and the festivities comprising Welcome to L.A.’s delicious Burt Reynolds-a-Thon are now and fully under way. Day One is a spectacularly visual accounting of Reynolds’ impact on pop culture—Larry’s got a major roundup of one sheets (my favorite: White Lightning), important and not-so-important moments surrounding the Reynolds legacy (including that infamous Cosmo layout in which Burt reveals just how extensive that chest hair really is), and lots of other juice.
Day Two is devoted to one of Reynolds’ sharper movies, Semi-Tough, a picture I’ve always felt ambivalent about, one which Larry’s review has got me interested in all over again. Warts and all, he likes Semi-Tough better than North Dallas Forty, which has always been a personal favorite, and The Longest Yard, a sloppy cheeseburger of a movie that conveys the fierceness and brutality of the sport better than just about any other. And I’ve always thought very highly of Semi-Tough’s director, Michael Ritchie, at least up through about 1982. So maybe I need to add Semi-Tough to my list of movies that need revisiting that are likely much better than I first thought. Who wouldn’t be newly intrigued after reading Larry here:
“The film swings all over the place, from Altman-esque comedy to Philadelphia Story-style romance to a sly sendup of the '70s love for self-improvement movements. Ritchie's style, which was weirdly criticized at the time for not being "personal" enough, indeed has all the hallmarks of '70s filmmaking, especially a sense that the audience is smart enough to roll with its tonal shifts. And Ritchie realizes the secret of Reynolds' screen power: If you can keep Burt's larky sense in check, he's got a brooding mystique that comes across with gravity and sensuality. And when he doesn't overdo it, the comedy rings much truer, as well. Kris Kristofferson, an actor I like for his earthy, Shaggy Man portrayals in '70s films, is simply blown off the screen here by Reynolds; it's like he ought not to even be in the same space with him. Only Jill Clayburgh, playing the Hepburn gal in the middle, holds her own with Burt.”
I’ve never been a big Burt Reynolds fan, but it's easy to see his importance to an entire era of American movies. I like how Larry takes his personality and his acting seriously, in this review and throughout the Burt-a-Thon, and how Reynolds, in his view, can end up being the standard bearer not only for a personality like Kristofferson, but for an actress like Clayburgh who was, when Semi-Tough was released, on the downside of the top of her game, but near the top nonetheless.
These are the kinds of treats in store for those of us who hitch a ride with Larry’s hairy-chested express and ride the Burt Reynolds-a-Thon to its leap-year climax. I have no idea what’s in store, and I don’t want to know. I just hope Larry can get his hands on some info on Skullduggery, or maybe Don Siegel’s Rough Cut. And I’d love to hear him on Robert Aldrich’s wonderful and disregarded Hustle.
And special for this weekend, check out Larry’s Super Bowl of Pop Culture quiz. Yes, Burt is featured prominently (he’d have to be, wouldn’t he?), but it’s a wide-ranging cornucopia of nuggets, some of which you’ll have to work extra hard to get dislodged from the furthest recesses of your pop culture memory. I got 43 out of 50, which Larry says is good enough for MVP status, the first time such an honor has ever been bestowed on me, I’ll confess right now. Hurry on over and take the quiz, and also vote on your favorite Burt Reynolds leading lady-- you’ve only got five hours to do so before Larry puts up another poll question, but only on this one will you have to pull individual hairs out over whether to vote for Angie Dickinson or Catherine Deneuve. Larry, you make life hard sometimes, and that’s only one of the reasons I love ya!