That devilishly handsome ol' son-of-a-gun Burt Reynolds turns 75 on Feb. 11, so let's raise a cold one in his honor (bet he's a PBR man). Over the years, Burt's seen his career fever chart hit peaks (Deliverance) and valleys (Rent-a-Cop). Off the movie set, he bared it all (sorta) on a bearskin rug for a Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold and his nasty divorce battle with Loni Anderson played out in the tabloids for months. But how many actors have enjoyed a career renaissance in their 60s? Burt's one of the few. So let's take a look at some of The Mustachioed One's notable roles:
- Deliverance (1972): A group of businessmen head for the great outdoors on a canoe trip and run into danger in the form of toothless (and possibly inbred) backwoods-types. As Lewis, Burt's the level-headed one in the group (played by the excellent cast of Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and a very brave Ned Beatty). The movie features controversial scenes (and made "squeal like a pig" a much-used punchline), but in the hands of Burt and his sturdy co-stars, Deliverance is a timeless thriller. Strike up the banjos!
- The Longest Yard (1974): It wasn't a stretch for Burt to take on the role of Paul Crewe, a former football player turned convict in this sports comedy (which has its dark moments). In real life, Burt received a football scholarship to Florida State University, but an injury put an end to his gridiron dreams. This is mega-buff Burt at his peak and The Longest Yard spawned a few other football comedies (North Dallas Forty, Semi-Tough - which also stars Burt). Unfortunately, the 2005 remake (starring Burt as the coach) fell flat.
- Smokey and the Bandit (1977): The film that made a black Trans-Am the "must" car of every high-school boy in the '70s. Burt's the truck-drivin' Bandit who, along with his cohort Cletus (Jerry Reid), is haulin' a load of beer - and a runaway bride (Sally Field) across Texas. With the volcanic Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) on their tail, there's a lot of fancy stunt driving and gags along the way. Smokey drew box-office bank and also cemented Burt's place as a good ol' boy in comedies such as Cannonball Run, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Stroker Ace.
- Boogie Nights (1997): Even though Burt received accolades for his "comeback" role in 1996's Striptease, the film itself wasn't well received by critics. Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson's unflinching look at the porn industry, officialy breathed new life into Burt's career. With a standout cast (Don Cheadle, Julianne Moore, Mark Wahlberg), an older Burt plays porno filmmaker Jack Horner to perfection. He makes Horner likable (in spite of the guy's chosen profession) and his character provides a stabilizing influence on the rest of the coked-out characters. Burt received an Academy Award nomination for his work in Boogie Nights. Bonus points for the movie soundtrack that captures the essence of the '70s and '80s. -- Francine Ruley