A Reynolds wrap

Kyle Smith of, of all places, National Review:

The list of movie stars who commanded the U.S. box office for five consecutive years is short: There’s Bing Crosby, and there’s Burt Reynolds. Along with Shirley Temple, herself Hollywood’s leading attraction for four straight years, Reynolds is one of the great movie stars of yesterday who seem most in danger of being completely erased from the cultural memory. Let’s not allow that to happen. May this week’s retrospective celebration of five of his films at New York City’s Metrograph cinema prompt a renewed appreciation of his good-humored vitality.

There is a reason for Reynolds’s precipitous fall, or rather about 40 of them: Rent a Cop and Cop and ½, Stroker Ace and Stick, Heat and City Heat,Cannonball Run II and, for that matter, The Cannonball Run. His mustache-first persona became a walking joke, a precursor to those man-parodies Ron Swanson and Ron Burgundy. Burt! The name itself, immediately summoning him and only him, became funny, at the other end of the naming scale from Eggbert, the hypermasculine end. In part because of Burt, macho and manly became words that could no longer be used, except jokingly. The sketch-comedy version of Reynolds was a swaggering dope, a sexist jerk, the guy whose chest hair clogged up the drain in the hot tub. He married Loni Anderson; he was Brawny Man come to life. The proud emblem of hairy virility on his upper lip became ridiculous, downgraded to the status of “pornstache.” After a while, its like became unwearable except ironically.


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