Burt Reynolds, Hollywood Mega Star, Dead at 82

Obituaries   Burt Reynolds, Hollywood Mega Star, Dead at 82
 
The rakish leading man, who became a household name thanks to starring roles in Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, and more, appeared on Broadway early in his career.
Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds NYPL for the Performing Arts

Burt Reynolds, the quintessential leading man for most of the 1970s and 1980s, died at age 82. Though best known for his Hollywood heyday—during which he was the top box office draw for five years straight—Reynolds made one brief foray to Broadway, in 1961's Look, We've Come Through, written by Harold Wheeler and directed by José Quintero.

The play, about a young woman who is stood up by her date but encounters a closeted gay man with whom she develops a close friendship—lasted only five performances in October 1961; a decade later, Reynolds would make Deliverance and would be on his way to superstardom and more hit films such as The Longest Yard, Cannonball Run, Smokey and the Bandit, Gator, and Semi-Tough.

He also made two musicals: Peter Bogdanovich's ill-fated paean to 1930s musicals, At Long Last Love, and the more successful adaptation of the Broadway hit The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, in which Reynolds appeared opposite Dolly Parton.

Though his career slowed somewhat in the 1980s, Reynolds turned to television with Evening Shade (opposite stage regulars Elizabeth Ashley, Ossie Davis, Charles Durning, Ann Wedgeworth, and Michael Jeter) and scored an Emmy Award. Later, he would experience a career renaissance with his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, which earned him an Oscar nomination.

Reynolds was also dedicated to his Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Florida, which was in operation and attracting major celebrity performers from 1979 to 1989. Among the opening season's productions: Vanities, starring Sally Field, Tyne Daly, and Gail Strickland. Reynolds also founded the Burt Reynolds Institute, featuring post-graduate acting classes taught by Reynolds and other celebrity performers.

Reynolds was born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr., in Lansing, Michigan, on February 11, 1936. He is survived by adopted son Quinton.

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