With his American cowboy good looks and natural acting ability, you would think that acting was Burt Reynolds was his first dream. But it was not. He was well on the path to becoming an NFL star. When he attended Palm Beach High School, he acquired the distinction and was named First Team All State and All Southern fullback. Since he was such a good football player, he received several scholarship offers.
After graduating from Palm Beach High School, he went to Florida State University on a scholarship. He played halfback. Everything was going well for him, as a player, until he got hurt in a game. In his Sophomore season, he injured his knee. Later on that year, he was in a car accident and lost his knee. He also injured his other knee.
After his injuries, he continued to play football, but it was never the same for him. His team had a 7-0 loss to North Carolina State on October 12, 1952. After that big loss, he decided not to play football ever again. After this setback, he had to reinvent himself. He even considered becoming a police officer like his dad. Knowing the importance of acquiring an education, his father, Burton Milo Reynolds, advised his son to become a parole officer instead.
Enrolling at Palm Beach Junior College (PBJC), Reynolds began a new chapter in his life. During his first semester at PBJC, he was in Watson B. Duncan’s III English class. When Professor Duncan heard Reynolds read Shakespeare, he was very impressed. Duncan decided to give Reynolds the lead part in his play, Outward Bound, a play that he produced.
In Outward Bound, Reynolds performance was so good that he acquired the 1956 Florida State Drama Award. Even after becoming famous, Reynolds never forgot Duncan, the professor who discovered his hidden talent. In his autobiography, Reynolds describes Duncan as the most important individual in his life. Even with his prestigious award, Reynolds was still skeptical that he could actually make a career in the acting business. He was a very practical person.
With his Florida State Drama Award scholarship, he worked at Hyde Park Playhouse, a theater in Hyde Park, New York. While he worked at the theater, he met Joanne Woodward who helped Reynolds get an agent. He was cast in Tea and Sympathy at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. He made his Broadway debut in Look We’ve Come Through. For his first Broadway performance, he received great reviews.
After working at the Hyde Park Playhouse, he returned to New York to register in acting classes. Even though he knew that it was hard to break into acting profession, he was already hooked.
Before making it big in Hollywood, Reynolds had several jobs in order to survive. He waited tables, washed dishes and drove a delivery truck. He was also a bouncer at the Roseland Ballroom.
Reynolds made his acting debut in television in the late 1950s. His first film on the big screen was Angel Baby (1961). He made many entertaining movies that brought joy to our lives. My favorite Reynolds’ film is The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1983). Playing the lead role with legendary country star Dolly Parton, Reynolds proved that he could not only act but sing as well.
Another Reynolds’ film that I enjoy watching is Best Friends (1982). This film delves deep into how complicated relationships are in a very comical way. Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn really had natural chemistry in this film
For the film Boogie Nights (1997), Reynolds received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He won a Golden Globe for his moving performance in Boogie Nights. In this critically acclaimed film, he showed that he was also a dramatic performer. Even though he never won an Oscar, he made all of his fans laugh hard. If there would have been an Oscar for best entertainer, he would have won many Oscars.
The Last Movie Star (2017) was his final film. In May 2016, he was cast for Quentin Tarantino’s film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Unfortunately, he passed away on September 6, 2018, at the age of 82, before his scenes were shot.
Unlike few actors, Reynolds had this natural ability to make us laugh. His films were so entertaining that we forgot all our worries when we watched them. For the first time, he has made us cry. But we will always have his films for posterity to make us smile.