The Fearless Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds’ stuntman personality forged a new type of Hollywood heartthrob.

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Burt Reynolds has died at age 82.

When Reynolds spoke to The Saturday Evening Post in 1978, he was in the midst of releasing his second film as a director. The End was a black comedy with Sally Field and Dom DeLuise, and the movie received mixed reviews, partly because, critics said, Reynolds was playing fast and loose with the difficult genre. Reynolds opined, “It’s a subject that’s been in the closet too long. I remember Steve Martin walked out on the ‘Tonight” show one night and the audience clapped. He said, ‘Why are you applauding? You’re all going to die.’ There was total silence. Like somebody had just told them something they didn’t know.”

“It’s amazing to me that people don’t talk about it,” Reynolds said. “Realizing the inevitability of death makes life more worth living. It makes me want to make this day more important and not waste it.” At the time, the actor was at the height of his career, rounding out a decade of blockbuster hits and serious dramas as a national heartthrob and even posing nude in a Cosmopolitan centerfold. From movie stunts to publicity stunts, Reynolds seemed to have a firm grasp on his career and his life and what he wanted out of each.

A cover of The Saturday Evening Post featuring Burt Reynolds wearing a ski jacket and a cowbow hat.
Read “More Than Macho” by Betty White. Published September 1978 in the Post.

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  1. Thanks for doing this feature on Burt Reynolds, including the 1978 article itself by Betty White no less. I read it at the time, and still have the magazine (along with many other wonderful ’70s POST issues) in my storage. It’s ironic he was on the cover following Woody Allen, but more so that he passed away 40 years later to the month. Reynolds own insights/attitude toward death in the feature do seem understandably eerie right now, but really showed his zest for life and taking career risks. In some ways he was kind of the male equivalent of Raquel Welch, who didn’t take herself that seriously, and poked fun at the whole ‘sex symbol’ image. Actually the two of them in a well written comedy would have been a hoot. No relation despite the same last name, I’ve often thought a comedy starring Burt Reynolds and Debbie Reynolds would’ve been good too. They were both comedians at heart. I’d like to think they’re both young again, having some laughs right now.


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