Passage: Remembering Burt Reynolds

It happened this past week ... the loss of an actor who never failed to capture our attention both on and off the screen, for we learned of the death on Thursday, in Florida, of Burt Reynolds.

Raised in the Sunshine State, Reynolds was a rising football star at Florida State University until injuries from a car crash led him to acting instead. He found work on television starting in the late 1950s, and for a time had a continuing role on the TV western "Gunsmoke."

But it was his breakthrough role as mountain man Lewis Medlock in the 1972 film "Deliverance" that put Burt Reynolds on the map.

Deliverance (1/9) Movie CLIP - You Don't Beat This River (1972) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

Other big roles followed, including the 1977 hit "Smokey and the Bandit" opposite his co-star and burgeoning real-life love interest Sally Field.

Smokey and the Bandit (4/10) Movie CLIP - Runaway Bride (1977) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

By the late '70s, Burt Reynolds was the highest-grossing star in Hollywood. But it wasn't all a smooth and untroubled ride.

Reynolds' 1972 decision to pose nude for Cosmopolitan magazine won him plenty of notice, but undercut his reputation as a serious actor. "It was really stupid," he once said. "I don't know what I was thinking."

Reynolds was also known for some of the plum roles he let get away, including the "Terms of Endearment" lead that went to Jack Nicholson, and a one-time chance to play James Bond.

A string of bad movies and health problems put his career in eclipse for many years, but he came back strong in the 1997 film "Boogie Nights":

Boogie Nights - Burt Reynolds by GrandUniversalDave on YouTube

Although his performance won him an Academy Award nomination, the Oscar itself was denied him.

Along with Sally Field, Burt Reynolds was long and prominently linked romantically with Dinah Shore, and his marriage to, and divorce from, Loni Anderson was the stuff of tabloid headlines.

Still, through all the ups-and-downs, Reynolds projected his easy-going mischievous persona virtually right up to the very end.

Burt Reynolds was 82.