Tag Archives: Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds is Gator McKluskey


Burt Reynolds played Gator McKluskey in White Lightning (1973) and again in Gator (1976). These are two fantastic films about a moonshine-running King of the Bayou, with high octane, super-charged, double-barreled action, mystery, murder and adventure.  I loved these films and really wished they made more of them.1973-white-lightning-movie-poster

The fun starts with White Lightning, that was supposed to be Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical film, as he spent months on the pre-production, but was eventually replaced with Joseph Sargent, who himself was fired from Buck and the Preacher and replaced by Sidney Poitier the year before.   Joseph would go on to make the very successful The Taking of Pelham One Two Three the year after.  Burt Reynolds met the writer, William W. Norton on Sam Whiskey (which he wrote) and Burt loved the idea of this ex-con character that gets drawn into working with the feds to catch a moonshine ring.

Burt’s good friend, Hal Needham, did the stunts in this movie and would eventually direct Burt in several films including Hooper (a film about a legendary stunt man) and the Smokey and the Bandit films. There was a scary moment in the chase sequence that ends with Gator’s car sailing from a river bank onto a barge that went seriously wrong. The plan was for the car (driven by Hal) to land squarely on the mound of soft earth in the barge, on the take he fell short and landed on the rear of the barge with the rear of the car hanging into the water. Hal was hurt and stunned, Burt watching the scene from behind the camera, dove into the water, swam to the barge and helped pull Hal out of the car. Needham recovered from his injuries and would go on to do the stunts in Gator three years later.gator posters

The film was so successful that Burt decided he wanted to do another film with the character and decided to direct the sequel himself. Up until this point he had only directed one episode of the TV Show, Hawk (which only lasted for 1 season) 10 years before, but managed to get the studio to agree to let him direct the film.  Burt got William to write the sequel and also had Hal doing the stunts again.

Hal Needham’s luck didn’t change on this film as he was hurt again on a stunt at the end of the final chase scene.  The truck that Gator (Hal doubling for Burt) gets thrown from flips over and it broke Hal’s back in the process.  He was a very good stunt man, by all accounts, but this does make sense why he turned to directing in the subsequent years.

Great films, both of them are a lot of fun to watch.  Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Dar Robinson and Sharkey’s Machine


Two things instantly struck me about Sharkey’s Machine (1981); number 1 was that it felt like a remake of the movie Laura (1944), which I loved, because the lead character in each, a detective, falls in love with the murder victim when they are trying to solve the cases only to find the woman they thought were the murder victims, were alive and well.  Pretty interesting plot and I felt Sharkey’s Machine had a tone more like a modern day film noir than what Burt Reynolds kept calling “Dirty Harry in Atlanta” in the 80’s.sharkeys photo

The second thing that struck me is the writer is William Diehl, who would go on to write the incredible movie, Primal Fear (1996) with Richard Gere and an unknown Edward Norton…who was so good in it, he was robbed of an Academy Award!  Aaron Stampler is such a devious character, Diehl ended up writing 2 sequels Reign in Hell and Show of Evil (both are good books), and Stampler seems to rank up there with Hannibal Lecter for me as far as evil literary creations go.

So now there are some other really great things about this movie, Rachel Ward’s debut for one, Burt Reynolds moody and awesome directing for another, incredible supporting cast with Brian Keith, Charles Durning, Bernie Casey, Henry Silva, Earl Holliman and Richard Libertini and of course who can forget about the incredible high fall by Dar Robinson at the end of the movie!
Shrkey Dar Fall

Dar Robinson, doubling for Henry Silva, drops 220 feet into an airbag from the Hyatt Regency Downtown, which at the time was a world record for the highest wireless freefall from a building.  It really is a great stunt, and the behind the scenes stunt footage is really impressive.  Which is all the more baffling when you watch the movie and halfway through the fall they cut to a long shot of what is obviously a DUMMY falling from the building.  Why they didn’t use the whole jump in the movie is beyond me.Sharkeys Dar Robinson

People to research on IMDB:

  • Burt Reynolds
  • Dar Robinson
  • Henry Silva
  • Charles Durning
  • William Diehl
  • Brian Keith
  • Rachel Ward

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM