Veteran actor and former college football star Burt Reynolds died unexpectedly on September 6 as a result of cardiac arrest (heart attack) in Jupiter, Florida at the age of 82.
Long before he was known for his appearances in such smash films at “Smokey and the Bandit”, “Cannonball Run”, and “Deliverance”; Reynolds played football for the Florida State University Seminoles. An All Star running back, Reynolds was set to become a member in the NFL until a knee injury and subsequent automobile accident sidelined his plans.
An ardent fan of the Seminoles, it is reported that Reynolds had it written into his contract that he would wear an article of Seminole clothing at some point in every one of his films.
Never forgetting his Alma Mater, Reynolds has provided the funding for new football uniforms and when the university wanted to set up a new film school, it was Reynolds who provided the money to get the school started. He also founded the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre and the Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum. At one point in his life Reynolds was part owner in the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits and the NASCAR Cup Series team Mach 1 Racing with Harry Gant driving the car.
Reynolds has earned an Emmy Award for his sit-com “Evening Shade”, but also noted that he is the only actor to have been fired by all three of the major television networks. His other accomplishments include winning a Florida Drama Award, two Golden Globe Awards and is a member of the Florida State Hall of Fame.
Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger called Reynolds, “a trailblazer” for showing the way to make the move from an athlete to a successful actor.
He made his only Broadway appearance in 1961 in the original play “Look, We’ve Come Through”.
His Hollywood film career began as a stuntman before making his acting debut in 1958 and went on to appear in nearly 200 film and television productions.
Still working at the time of his death, Burt Reynolds has appeared as a once time guest on a television show, made numerous appearances in others, starred in more than a few, and appeared in numerous hit films.
His guest television appearances include “Pony Express”, “Johnny Ringo”, “The Blue , Angels”, “Ripcord”, “Route 66”, “Perry Mason”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Flipper”, “12 O’Clock High”, “Gentle Ben”, “The F.B.I.”, an uncredited role in “The Golden Girls”, “Beverly Hills, 90210”, “King of the Hill”, “The X-Files”, “The King of Queens”, “Robot Chicken”, and “My Name is Earl”,
He has appeared in numerous episodes of “Riverboat”, “Gunsmoke”, “Out of this World”, and “Hitting the Breaks”.
Reynolds has been the star in “Hawk” , “Dan August”, “B. L. Styker”, and “Evening Shade” where he created an episode that featured FSU football coach Bobby Bowden.
His many film roles include “Navajo Joe”, “Sam Whiskey”, “Deliverance”, “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing”, “White Lightning”, “The Longest Yard” – twice, “Hustle”, “Silent Movie”, “Gator”, the “Smokey and the Bandit” trilogy, “Hooper”, the “Dan August” movies, the “Cannonball Run” movies, “Paternity”, “Sharky’s Machine”, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” as the sheriff, “Stroker Ace”, the voice of Charlie B. Barkin in “All Dogs Go to Heaven”, “Boogie Nights”, and has complete “Shadow Fighter” and “Defining Moments” this year.
He also directed ad produced a number of productions including “Evening Shade”, an episode of “The New WKRP in Cincinnati”, “B.L. Stryker”, “Sharky’s Machine”, “Gator”, “Hawk”, and “Hooper”.
As himself, Reynolds made over 200 appearances including a fill in for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show”, various talk and late night talk shows, documentaries, game shows, variety shows, and award shows.
One role he regretted for the rest of his life was that of being the first male centerfold in “Cosmopolitan” magazine.
He was born Burton Leon Reynolds on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan the son of the police chief but grew up in south Florida.
Married and divorced twice, Reynolds is survived by his son Quinton and niece Nancy Lee Hess.
feature photo credit: By Photobra – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14928776