February 11: Happy Birthday Burt Reynolds and Leslie Nielsen


Burt Reynolds is celebrating his 82nd birthday today.  After an injury during his sophomore year of college ended his hopes of a football career, Reynolds was encouraged to go into acting by an English professor.  By the early sixties he was working hard on television, most notably as Quint Asper for three seasons of Gunsmoke.  He also starred on a one-season crime drama on ABC, Dan August.

Reynolds began working in film in the sixties as well, but didn’t become a major film performer until about 1972, when he played the macho Lewis Medlock in Deliverance.  In the next few years he emerged as major box office draw in films like The Longest Yard and W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.  In 1977 he had a huge success, starring in the biggest hit film of that year not to involve lightsabers.

In the wake of Smokey and the Bandit, Reynolds was ranked #1 on the Quigley’s List of top box office stars for five consecutive years, from 1978-82 (a feat equaled only by Bing Crosby).  He reunited with Bandit director Hal Needham for several films, including Hooper and The Cannonball Run, and also starred in hits like The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  By the last half of the eighties, although he still headlined films, his box office power was gone and he had a string of flops.  He recovered with a starring role on TV in the early 1990s on Evening Shade, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe, and was an Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner as Jack Horner in Boogie Nights.  Although his health is reported not to be great these days, he is still working, even headlining last year’s The Last Movie Star.

Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010) was a Saskatchewan native, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and then moved to New York to go into acting in the late 1940s.  He did a lot of television work in the early fifties, and then signed with MGM, where he had a brief stint as a leading man in films like the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, and the rom-com Tammy and the Bachelor (opposite Debbie Reynolds).  In the next two decades, he worked hard and at times had high-profile roles: starring on a short-lived, Disney produced TV seires, The Swamp Fox, or playing the captain of a doomed ocean liner in The Poseidon Adventure.  But by the late 1970s his career definitely seemed to be fading.

So, in 1980, he reinvented himself.

While Nielsen did not become a comic actor exclusively from 1980 on, it’s for his comedies that he is certainly best known.  Aside from Dr. Rumack in Airplane!, the other key role in his career reboot was Lt. Frank Drebin, first on the short-lived 1982 series Police Squad (for which he was an Emmy nominee), and then in the three Naked Gun features.  He also starred in parody-comedies like Spy Hard and Wrongfully Accused, and had smaller roles in films like Surf Ninjas and two installments in the Scary Movie franchise.

Q’orianka Kilcher, who is 28 today, became known for starring as Pocahontas in Terrence Malick’s The New World, and most recently had a prominent role in Hostiles.  German actress Lisa Vicari, who starred in the thriller Luna’s Revenge and is a regular on Netflix’s first German-language series, Dark, is 21.  Thomas Turgoose is 33.  The English actor is best known for starring in This is England as Shaun Fields, and returned to the role for the three subsequent TV miniseries.

Sonny Landham (1941-2017) was familiar to fans of 1980s action films for the roles of Billy Bear in 48 Hrs. and Billy Sole in Predator.

Physicist Leo Szilard (1898-1964) was the first scientist to conceive of the idea of a nuclear chain reaction in 1933, and in 1939 drafted a letter to President Roosevelt, which he persuaded Albert Einstein to sign, which led to the creation of the Manhattan Project.

Jennifer Aniston and Sheryl Crow headlined the February 11 article a year ago.

Jennifer Aniston is turning 49.  She appears in two films that will release this year, The Yellow Birds (which actually screened at Sundance in 2017) and Dumplin’, and also has an “Untitled Aniston and Witherspoon Project” in development for television.  Rocker Sheryl Crow, who celebrates her 56th, released her ninth studio album, Be Myself, last spring, and is working on an album of duets with a number of collaborators.

Damian Lewis, who is 47, continues to star as Bobby Axelrod on Showtime’s Billions, and will have a supporting role in Ocean’s Eight.  Erstwhile werewolf Taylor Lautner, who is turning 26, is still a regular on the BBC sitcom CuckooNatalie Dormer, who celebrates her 36th, starred in last year’s Patient Zero, and this year will appear in a feature adaptation of Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman, and an Australian miniseries adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock.  Former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, who is 37, is currently a coach on the Australian version of The Voice.

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.


Posted on February 11, 2018, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The Film That Stopped Burt Reynolds Working for Two Years

    Burt Reynolds was one of the biggest movie stars in the world in the early 1980s. But then he made a film with Clint Eastwood…

    Burt Reynolds was, at one stage, the biggest movie star in the world. His movies regularly topped the box office, and as such, move studios were eager to work with. That made the union of him and Clint Eastwood in the 1984 project City Heat such a big deal.

    Little did Reynolds know, however, that City Heat would have a hefty impact on his career, and his star power.

    The film was originally set to be directed by The Pink Panther’s Blake Edwards, but Eastwood instead wanted, and got, Private Benjamin’s Richard Benjamin behind the camera. On the first day of shooting for the movie, though, came an accident that would have serious ramificaitons.

    Burt Reynolds tells the story of what happened in his memoir But Enough About Me. “The first night of shooting was magical,” he wrote. “The timing was perfect, the jokes were working, and everyone was having fun.”

    However, then they got the last scene of the night, a fight scene as it happened. Reynolds’ character was to be hit in the head with a chair, and the scene was set up with a special chair that would easily break when it came into contact with the actor.

    Yet the man fighting Reynolds made an error. He picked up a metal chair instead, and “caught me flush on the jaw.”

    Reynolds hit the floor, and tried to shake the incident off. He finished the scene, but the day after, he had a “blinding headache and ringing in my ears.”

    “Every time I tried to speak my face clicked,” he wrote. “My bite was so lopsided I couldn’t chew. I could only drink liquids, and I began losing weight.”

    Reynolds kept working though, and Eastwood spotted his co-star was struggling a few days’ later, and arranged an early finish one day. Instead of going to hospital, though, Reynolds took painkillers to get through the project, but felt that “I ruined the movie.”

    The accident, though, took its toll. Reynolds couldn’t work properly again for two years, leading to press rumors that he was in fact battling AIDS (this being the 1980s, when AIDS was at its least understood, and when survival rates were at their lowest). His weight plummeted, and eventually, he got to the bottom of the problem.

    Reynolds was diagnosed with temporomandibular disorder (also known as TMC of TMJ), which he explained “affects the joint that connects the lower jaw with your skull. It messes with your balance and your sensory perception. It’s like being seasick all the time.”

    It hit Reynolds hard. “It felt as if I had an army of people in my head and they were trying to get out through my eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.”

    A solution wasn’t easy to find – a dentist sawed all of his bottom teeth off at one point – but he did find one. His teeth had to all be realigned, and he ultimately recovered. “I feel as though it all made me strong in the end,” he noted, “but I still can’t forgive he people who deserted me.”


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