Thursday, September 06, 2018

Burt Reynolds (1936-2018)

Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd has left the building.

Burt Reynolds, who played the combative sheriff in the big-screen adaptation of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, died today in Florida at the age of 82. In recent years, he'd looked increasingly frail during his in-person appearances, so I can't say I'm terribly surprised by this news. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy of work.

For anyone born after, say, 1980, it's hard to fathom just how big a star he was in the late 1970s/early 1980s. After getting his start in television, Reynolds shot to stardom with 1972's Deliverance. The 1977 mega-hit Smokey and the Bandit elevated him to a whole other level. Reynolds, already an 800-pound gorilla in Hollywood, grew to be an 8,000-pound gorilla after that. He was the star, and his involvement could make or break a project.

That star power is what ultimately landed him the role of Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd in the film version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas--bumping Willie Nelson from the role, despite the fact that Reynolds couldn't sing. Here's the Dolly Parton-penned "Where Stallions Run," which was cut from the film:

This song was added back for the TV broadcast to make up for the time cut because of swear words and nudity. Seriously. In this case, Reynolds' involvement probably didn't do the production any favors. The film was happening with or without his involvement, but to secure his cooperation, Reynolds demanded a lot of changes to the script: More action and more romance with co-star Dolly Parton. Larry King, who co-wrote the Broadway play and original Playboy article everything was based on, angrily complained complained of the changes, "They just want to make Smokey and the Bandit Go to a Whorehouse!" And really, Reynolds looked nothing like Sheriff Jim Flournoy, upon whom then part was based.

Still, Reynolds was a big deal. I remember back in the early 80s in elementary school hearing that Burt Reynolds was filming a movie in nearby Hallettsville. Wow! Hollywood was practically next door! My friends who had brothers in high school talked about riding over there to watch production. Excited, when I got home I asked my folks to take me to Hallettsville. "No," came the answer. Well then, can we at least watch the movie when it comes out? "No," came the answer again. But why? "Because of the title," my parents answered, refusing to explain what a whorehouse was. Several decades later, I think I've figured that part out on my own:

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