Burt Reynolds passed away last year. I thought about writing a proper tribute when it happened but I figured I’d leave that to the super fans.
Growing up, I wouldn’t necessarily say I was a huge Burt Reynolds fan. That being said, there was once a time when pretty much everyone in America was.
In the late 70s, he was THE biggest star in Hollywood. Period.
Long before Hooper, Burt Reynolds established “how a man should be” status in Deliverance and later, The Longest Yard. (Seriously, watch these movies again if you haven’t. They’re both amazing!)
Growing up in that era, you didn’t necessarily want to be Burt Reynolds. You just knew you eventually wanted every woman you ever met to fawn over you the way Sally Fields did him.
My all-time favorite Burt Reynolds roles are Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Boogie Nights and of course, Hooper.
When my blogging brother from another mother asked his fellow net-dwellers to come up with the assignment to recall memorable movies starring athletes but not necessarily about athletes, Hooper was the first film that came to mind. I figured reviewing the film would serve two purposes: honoring Reynolds in a way that I had wanted as well as reminiscing about a movie I enjoyed so much as a child.
For some reason, the bar scene with Terry Bradshaw always stood out in my mind, which is ironic considering I now work in a bar for a living. Back then, Bradshaw was racking up Super Bowls at a Brady-like pace. To this tiny, little, ten-year-old, Bradshaw was an intimidating dude. This wasn’t the goofy, balding Bradshaw we see commentating on Fox every Sunday. This was a mean dude who once beat the shit out of Burt Reynolds in a country bar. Brady might have six Super Bowl rings but there’s no way he’s taking a motorcycle helmet to the chin or being thrown through a glass window into a dumpster full of trash.
Hooper (1978) came out in between Smokey and the Bandit I and II so Reynolds was at the top of his game. Smokey and the Bandit had made over $100 million at the box office back when that number meant something. In Hooper, Reynolds plays a stunt man which is actually how he began his career. Hooper was so successful in the box office that ABC decided to air The Fall Guy with Lee Majors only a few years afterwards.
When I heard that Hooper’s other star Jan Michael Vincent had also passed, I thought I’d write the review before anyone else kicked the bucket. The film also stars Robert Klein, Adam West and obviously Sally Field.
In Hooper, Reynolds plays an aging stuntman whose alpha male status is threatened when a young Jan Michael Vincent steps onto the set. The film is very 1970s, including a scene where Hooper comes home tired from work one day to find a short-shorts wearing Sally Field waiting for him out front with hugs, kisses and a cold beer in hand. Ah, the good old days.
The scene that impressed me so as a kid, takes place at the fictional Palomino Club, a watering hole where stuntmen go after a hard day’s bruise. What follows is a classic Western movie bar brawl with bodies flying everywhere.
Bradshaw and his crew, who happen to be sitting a few tables over, find that Reynolds’ band of stuntmen (and women) are being a little too rowdy for their liking. Bradshaw and company had just put fifty cents in the jukebox and were upset that they couldn’t hear the songs they had requested. They demand Reynolds refund their money.
The wise-cracking Reynolds puts on a motorcycle helmet and runs head first into the juke box to refund Bradshaw his quarters. The two then go toe to toe. Reynolds lands the first blow, which barely phases Bradshaw. Reynolds knocks out Bradshaw’s front tooth; all he does is smile back, front-toothless. “We may be in trouble,” Reynolds mutters to his friends. He then chin-bumps Bradshaw with his motorcycle helmet which evokes nary a response. “We are definitely in trouble,” Reynolds says again. Bradshaw then cracks open Reynolds’ helmet and all hell breaks loose.
Now, this might sound cheesy to you but to a ten-year old, this bar fight scene was larger than life.
After getting tossed out of the Palomino’s window, Bradshaw and Reynolds kiss and make up after which Reynolds invites them all back to his place. The very next scene features the entire crew passed out on his sofa beer-drunk, with Reynolds watching Deliverance dailies.
I’m not sure why that scene stands out so but it does to this day. Hooper is a fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Much like Quentin Tarantino’s current box office smash Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, it’s an old school salute to the hard work and broken bones that stuntmen put into films. It’s also a film about passing one’s prime, not that I can relate, of course.
I’m not too sure a Burt Reynolds could exist in today’s America: a wise-crackin’, denim-wearin’, shirt-half-unbuttoned, slightly sexist and occasionally, womanizing box-office mega-draw. But he did once. I remember it. Fondly. Thanks, Dubs, for allowing me to reminisce.
Movies were more fun back then. I think Brian Keith played his father in law. A very underrated actor. RIP Mr. Keith.
1) I will include this in my upcoming football blog-a-thon, even though you’re a month early…and like you said…you missed the “Box Office Jocks” one by a cool six months. It’s all good, I know you are working on a career losing golf balls at a professional clip. But if anybody else has a football or football-related, here’s the details and how you can join our pigskin party.
2) I have a file which contains stories that I can’t tell until people are dead. When that sad day comes for Terry Bradshaw, there’s a great story I’ve got about him.
Once Upon a Time was really good, not great. Then again, maybe I was expecting too much because I love Quentin movies. Hopefully like all the rest, it gets better the more times you watch it.
Never seen Hooper, but it’s on the watch list now.
The good old days indeed. Burt’s porn stache’ is legendary. Nowadays craft beer swilling Hipsters with overly manicured facial hair accompany it with a twat knot on top and wax the hair from their chest. Burt flaunting his torso jungle, driving gas guzzling American muscle cars and womanizing embodies the manliness they love to hate. May have to hunt this movie down tonight just to spite these new age clowns.
That was him, Deac. Solid role too.
You know how I like to make an entrance.
I’ll see if I can muster something up for the football blog-a-thon… which means it’ll probably be ready by the NBA playoffs.
I too liked “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood” but like you, I also hold Tarantino to extremely high standards. Not sure what it would take for a movie to top Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs or even True Romance, whose screenplay he wrote. A lot, that’s for sure, or perhaps even a time machine.
Speaking of time machines, Hooper is uber 70s, man, including a line where he says he wouldn’t kick Sally Field out of bed for his horse or where Brian Keith utters the delightful phrase to the non-committal Burt Reynolds that “even queers are getting married these days.”
I was gonna include that gem in the post but figured I’d save it for the comments section when someone asked.
Now….if Sally Field would have met him with cinnamon rolls and bacon, that would have made it much better. Just sayin.
Yeah?….I see your even queers and raise you.
tbh, I’m scared af to see the flop
I hear women used to make breakfasts like that for their men…. back in the day.
Or to see who catches the bouquet.
Yea, Bleed, not too sure how Hooper and Keith would have felt about that one.
You guys should do more of these. Heck, I’ll join in if it’s the right one.
You know Dubs always has an assignment or two up his sleeve.
I’ve never seen this film, and normally I would pass it up, but your enthusiasm has me convinced I should take a look. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this much-loved movie from your childhood.