Burt Reynolds was the epitome of what it meant to be macho and yet we loved him! Being macho in the 20th and 21st century, after all, was a mixed bag of blessings with macho men treading a fine line between being loved and hated. But Burt – yes, we knew him as Burt because it just suited him and there was no other like him – successfully became the movie star/macho man that audiences loved on and off the screen.
Burt was so macho in fact that he often made fun of his macho-ness and, in the process, we laughed with him instead of at him. He had such a self-deprecating sense of self that we can’t help but laugh with him even when he portrayed more serious characters. We even forgave him – nay, adored him – even as he wore tight pants, shiny boots, and large buckles that on a less macho man would be laughable.
And then there’s the dark, bushy mustache that defined his Hollywood persona that added to his macho-ness. His hirsuteness extended even to his chest, a fact that was evident whenever he took off his shirt – and, boy, did he take off his shirt many times to the delight of his female fans.
The Laugh of a Kid at Heart
Burt had a laugh that was mismatched with his macho persona but it only added to his universal appeal. It wasn’t a macho laugh – it was instead boyish, loud and rambunctious with a higher pitch that reminded many of a hyena. It was also surprising considering that he was a hunk of a man who made it his living to become the stereotypical macho man of his generation.
But it was also a laugh that made it possible for his characters to get into trouble and laugh his way out of it, perhaps with a rakish smile thrown in for good measure. We will surely miss his laugh now that he’s gone although there are always his movies to remind us of it.
He often portrayed characters that was both the strong silent type and the rambunctious adventurer with an anti-establishment attitude. He may have personified these characters in real life, too, but he was also careful not to blur the lines between what he is in real life and what he is in his movies.
In the ‘70s until the early ‘80s, Burt was the biggest movie star of the time and no matter what he did, he was likely to get away with it. Not that he was the bad boy or anything but he had an impish attitude that made it seem like he was most likely to get into trouble than his peers.
A Male Sex Symbol
With his macho physique – he was a former football star – and his handsome looks that people compared to Marlon Brando during his early days in Hollywood, Burt was the perfect make sex symbol of his generation. His status as THE male sex symbol and matinee idol was cemented by his legendary Cosmopolitan centerfold, a spread that was present on the walls of millions of swooning girls and women.
Even in that spread, his self-deprecating personality was evident yet it didn’t take away from his macho appeal. He was naked, of course, but he kept his privates covered so the ladies have something to fantasize about, a present to the imagination, if you will.
Did you know that nearly four decades after it was published, Facebook users were posting it on their walls? But that isn’t the most surprising thing either – Facebook locked down these Facebook accounts because it was considered pornographic!
A Wide Range of Roles
But Burt isn’t just about the body and the face. He was also a great actor, as evidenced by his wide body of work. Admittedly, he didn’t win many acting awards for his roles – his first and only Oscar nomination was his role in Boogie Nights as a middle-aged porn director struggling to gain artistic credibility – but his work was admirable, nonetheless.
He was a self-destructive policeman in Sharky’s Machine and Hustle; an outdoorsman with stoicism seemingly engraved in every part of his body in Deliverance; and a thief in Breaking In. He played so many roles that it just doesn’t seem possible that he played according to type although that may have been the fear.
He was also a leading man in many comedy films including Paternity, Best Friends, Rent-a-Cop, Cop-and-a-Half, and Paternity. He wasn’t above being in ensemble movies as well, a few of them so bad they were good, such as The Dukes of Hazzard, The Player, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Ask).
His last movie was 2017’s The Last Movie Star where he played the title character – it was, thus, his final starring role. This was an indie film that should be on your must-see list of movies to see about movie stars of yesteryears. It may or may not be shown in mainstream cinema chains like Empire Cinemas but maybe his past movies will be shown later as a tribute to a great movie star.