Thursday, September 27, 2018

Remembering James Dean

James Dean, 63 Years After His Death

James Dean Photo courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

written by Bio Staff and the LA Times, edited by James Karthauser

On September 30, 1955 James Dean died in a high-speed car crash at the age of 24. Even today, 63 years after his death, he continues to be immortalized around the world.

"If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he's dead, then maybe he was a great man," James Dean once said. It appears the world thinks Dean was a great man.

James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause."
James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause." Photo courtesy of AP Photo

After the actor's death in 1955, Dean was immortalized as a Hollywood icon — a symbol of brooding, restless rebellious youth in post-war America. He had been filming Giant at the time his Porsche 550 Spyder (nicknamed Little Bastard) fatally collided with another car off a California highway. The driver of that car, as well as Dean's mechanic, who was accompanying him to an auto race in Salinas, both survived the crash. Dean had only completed two other films, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, both released the same year he died.

The following obituary ran in the LA Times the next morning:

Film Star James Dean Killed in Auto Crash

OCT 01, 1955 | 2:00 PM
James Dean, 24, one of Hollywood's brightest new motion-picture stars, was killed early last night in a head-on collision at the rural town of Cholame, about 19 miles east of Paso Robles, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The young actor met death in his German-built Porsche sports car while en route to road races at Salinas. Patrolmen said Dean was dead on arrival at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital following the crash at the intersection of State Highway 41 and U.S. 466.

Mechanic Injured

His mechanic, identified by the CHP as Rolph Wuetherich, about 27, of Hollywood, suffered a fractured jaw, fractured hip and body lacerations. He was described as in "moderately serious condition."
The CHP office at San Luis Obispo said a car driven by Donald Turnupseed of Tulare made a left turn on Highway 41 while traveling east, colliding almost head on with Dean's tiny sports car. Investigators said Turnupseed suffered minor injuries.
An attending physician was quoted as saying Dean died instantly at about 5:30 p.m. from a broken neck, numerous broken bones and severe lacerations over the entire body.

Completed Role

The Indiana-born star left Hollywood with Wuetherich several hours before the fatal crash for a week end of racing at Salinas. He had just this week completed a role in "Giant," the film version of Edna Ferber's book about Texas.
He became a sports car racing enthusiast only last spring, shortly after he rocketed to stardom in "East of Eden," made from the John Steinbeck story of early days in the Salinas Valley.
Under contract to Warner Bros. studios, the intense young star frequently had been compared to Marlon Brando and both were products of Director Elia Kazan’s school for amateur actors. Dean’s activity in television earned him his first motion-picture role, plus parts in two New York plays: “See the Jaguar” and “The Immoralist.”

Attended UCLA

Another film still unreleased in which Dean has the starring role is "Rebel Without a Cause," made at Warner's last summer.
Born at Marion, Ind., in February, 1931, Dean attended Santa Monica Junior College, later transferring to UCLA, where he majored in dramatics.
He left UCLA to seek an acting job in New York and won the David Blum Award for promising newcomers several years ago, the accolade helping him to starring roles in such television dramatic programs as Studio One, You Are There and Television Playhouse.
George Stevens, who produced and directed Dean's last picture, termed the young star's death a "great tragedy . . . he had extraordinary talent.”
One of Jimmy's co-stars in "Giant," Elizabeth Taylor, broke down when the news reached her: "I can't believe it; I'm just stunned," was all she could say.
Stevens and Warner Bros. said Dean had been forbidden to enter any sports car races while the picture was in production.

Just Got Car

A studio photographer, Sanford Roth, a few miles behind the Dean speedster, told the CHP Dean had just received delivery on the new car and was anxious to race it following the enforced studio layoff.
Ironically, Dean decided at the last minute to drive the sports car to Salinas. Stevens said the actor originally planned to travel north in his station wagon but changed his mind in favor of driving the small car just before departure time.
Dean was unmarried. He leaves his father, Winton A. Dean, a dental technician at Veterans Hospital, Sawtelle.

James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of "Giant."
James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of "Giant."
Photo courtesy of Screen Icons, Inc./Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

Dean's funeral was held at a church in Fairmount, Indiana on October 8, 1955 with 600 hundred mourners in attendance. Another 2,400 fans gathered near the procession to pay their respects.

Fans gather at the crash site where James Dean died at Intersection 41 and 46 H.
Fans gather at the crash site where James Dean died at Intersection 41 and 46 H.
Photo courtesy of Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Even today, passersby leave beer bottles, sunglasses, cigarettes, and other paraphernalia at the spot where he died as homage to the actor. The area has been renamed James Dean Memorial Junction, but local authorities say they have issues with the signage repeatedly being stolen.

We here at l'art et l'automobile have always been avid fans of James Dean, a true Hollywood Hero.  We lost an Icon that day in 1955, and every time I go to the Monterey Peninsula for Carweek, I always pass by that particular spot, which reminds me every time about this champion of the silver screen and great Porsche Enthusiast.

In 1954, Dean became interested in developing an auto racing career, as well as developing a deep fondness for Porsche Automobiles. He purchased various vehicles after filming for East of Eden had concluded, including a Triumph Tiger T110 and a Porsche 356. Just before filming began on Rebel Without a Cause, he competed in his first professional event at the Palm Springs Road Races, which was held on March 26–27, 1955. Dean achieved first place in the novice class, and second place at the main event. His racing continued in Bakersfield a month later, where he finished first in his class and third overall. Dean hoped to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but his busy schedule made it impossible.

His brief career was put on hold when Warner Brothers banned him from all racing during the production of Giant. Dean had finished shooting his scenes and the movie was in post-production when he decided to race again. But his racing aspirations were cut short by his tragic death in his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder.

To share our memories of this Legendary figure, we have gathered a special collection of all our James Dean and Porsche Artwork and Memorabilia and present them to you.  Please take this opportunity to tour the Gallery and perhaps find something there that will embody your memories of the true american rebel, James Dean.  

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, or share a photo on Instagram.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Man Who Would Have Every Name (Signed)

102nd Indianapolis 500 field begins to take shape.  After Danica Patrick's announcement of joining Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2018 Indianapolis 500, this year's field for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is beginning to settle.

Indy 500 autograph collectors find friendship and rivalry

written by Jordan J Wilson, edited by James Karthauser

Mike Thomsen and some of his Collection. 
 Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
Mike Thomsen approaches his title as the No. 1 autograph collector of Indy 500 drivers with an admonition.

You see, Thomsen’s 594 signatures only became the largest publicly known collection when the previous leader, Dr. Harlen Hunter, started auctioning off the 597 signatures he had last year.

“I really won’t consider myself No. 1 until I pass 597 because that’s where he got to,” said Avon's Thomsen, who won't divulge where he keeps his collection. “I picked up a rare one this month that made it 594, then I should be getting another one to make it 595, then all five rookies (this year) will make it exactly 600.”

Thomsen already belongs to “The 500 Club,” a self-appointed tag pinned to the highest-end collectors who have amassed autographs from at least 500 of the 758 starting drivers to have ever competed in the Indianapolis 500.

To his knowledge, Thomsen is one of just seven collectors in the world to eclipse 500. As far as anyone can tell, he would also be the first to reach 600 — though, he admits, there could be others “flying under the radar” elsewhere in the world.

This is in Mike Thomsen's collection of Indy 500 drivers' autographs, Friday, May 27, 2016. He has the most autographs from different Indy 500 drivers, in the world. After the green flag waves, he says will have autographs from 600 of the drivers who ever drove in the race. This photo is of Barney Oldfield in the "Blitzen Benz" car. Oldfield set the world's speed record of 131.75 mph in 1910, in this car.  Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This is in Mike Thomsen's collection of Indy 500 drivers' autographs, Friday, May 27, 2016. He has
the most autographs from different Indy 500 drivers, in the world. After the green flag waves, he says
will have autographs from 600 of the drivers who ever drove in the race. This photo is of Barney
Oldfield in the "Blitzen Benz" car. Oldfield set the world's speed record of 131.75 mph in 1910, in
this car.  Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar

Otherwise, Thomsen knows most big-time 500 collectors and considers several to be close friends after working together over the years. For those he knows best, he tries to keep their “want lists” handy so that if he comes across a piece already in his collection that another collector needs, he can pass along the details.

“It’s kind of a little bit of camaraderie, but there’s competition, too,” Thomsen said. “There are guys in this industry that are willing to work with you, help you, share their knowledge; and then there are some guys who are willing to cut your throat to get the piece.”

This photo is of Frank Lockhart, from about 1927. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This photo is of Frank Lockhart, from about 1927. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar

A cutthroat approach never suited Thomsen. For him, forming connections and friendships, and sharing his knowledge has always been part of the fun.

“That’s what I enjoy about it,” said Knightstown's Jim Vogel, who owns 513 signatures and considers Thomsen a friend. “It’s nice going to the track, and no matter what track I go to, I find somebody that I talked to or got autographs with. Everywhere you go, you’re seeing people (you know).”

Whenever he can, Thomsen stresses to new collectors the value of strong networking with previous generations, if simply for the invaluable knowledge veterans can pass along from their experiences.

Thomsen still credits much of his success as an established collector to his personal mentor, Jack Mackenzie, former caretaker of the Borg-Warner Trophy. As Mackenzie once told him, the biggest mistake new collectors make is trying to do too much. That’s to say, trying to collect every program, pit badge, autograph and everything in between. So, Thomsen focused exclusively on being the top guy in driver autographs.

This is a photo of Pat O'Connor, 1958, Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This is a photo of Pat O'Connor, 1958, Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar

Veterans can also educate newcomers on the factors that make certain pieces more valuable: condition and quality, supply and demand, popularity of the driver. Without help, rookies might unknowingly pay more for a common autograph or pass up a lesser-known driver’s signature without realizing its value.

“Learn from everybody that made a mistake,” Thomsen said he tells new collectors. “There are so many mistakes you can make, and if you do your homework, you won’t make those mistakes.”

Mackenzie and Hunter, a retired orthopedic surgeon from Bedford, would be what Thomsen considers first-generation 500 collectors: people who spent time in the '70s and '80s building collections of autographed memorabilia ranging from programs and pennants to old autograph books.

“It was the time to get those guys from the '30s, '40s, '50s before they died,” Hunter said.

When it came to hunting down missing pieces, Hunter avoided websites like eBay for issues of authenticity. He recalls once seeing a listing that claimed to have the ballpoint pen of Gaston Chevrolet, who won the 1920 race and died in November of that year. Modern ballpoint pen designs, like the one in the listing, weren’t made commercially available until the 1940s.

This photo is of Ralph Mulford, the second place winner of the first Indy 500 race. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This photo is of Ralph Mulford, the second place winner of the first Indy 500 race.
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar

Instead, Hunter cut out the middleman and purchased official documents that guaranteed authenticity, such as track licenses, check or entry forms that already contained drivers’ signatures. Or he would seek out drivers’ addresses and personally mail them memorabilia to sign.
Mike Thomsen shows some of his many
Indy 500 drivers' autographs and photos.
This photo is of the first two-time winner
Tommy Milton. Photo Courtesy of
Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar

“And I always wanted to talk to (the driver),” Hunter said of a request he sent along with any mailed memorabilia. “Then, it becomes real, and you’re a real person to them.”

At 13, Thomsen discovered a similar sentiment when he wrote John Paul Jr. asking to have a photograph signed shortly after seeing him win the 1983 Michigan 500. Not only did Paul Jr. sign the photo, he also hand wrote Thomsen a two-page letter in appreciation of his interest.

“What if he wouldn’t have said anything back?” Thomsen wondered decades later. “It wouldn’t have set me on this path. But because he was so interested in it, he helped spur me into the interest.”

Oftentimes, seeking out the lore and history of 500 drivers matters more to collectors than the monetary payoff. Thomsen and collectors like him want to downplay the money involved — though some rarer autographs have been sold for upward of $1,500.

For Thomsen and most serious collectors, though, nothing quite compares to getting a new autograph and calling up friends to learn more about who the driver was.

“We’re not doing it because we’re going to be the Rockefellers or Bill Gates because of it,” Thomsen said. “To me, the cash at the end is learning about these guys.”

Top Five Collectors:

Mike Thomsen (594), Avon, Ind.

Dr. Steven Clinton (576), Dublin, Ohio

Stu Slifkin (564), Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Dr. Allen Hanson (553), Centuria, Wis.

Jim Vogel (513), Knightstown, Ind.

If you collect autographs, at l'art et l'automobile, we have a good selection of photographs, prints, trophies, paintings, programs and other memorabilia that have been autographed by some of the most successful drivers, team owners, manufacturers and famous celebrities of the 20th century. Enjoy looking through our collection and tell us which ones you would like to own. Please Tour the gallery at, and perhaps add a piece to your collection.

All our best from the staff at l’art et l’automobile,

Jacques Vaucher

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, share a photo on Instagram and read our Blogs.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Remembering Burt Reynolds, 1936-2018

An Interview with a Legend

Burt Reynolds in 2016. Photo courtesy Christoper R. Phillip.

[Editor’s note: Burt Reynolds, perhaps best known for his role as Bo “Bandit” Darville in 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit, died on Thursday, September 6, at age 82. The cause of death was an apparent heart attack. We thought a fitting way to remember Reynolds would be to republish Tom DeMauro’s detailed 2016 interview with the star, which first appeared in the August 2016 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.]

Had Burt Reynolds’ life adhered to his plan, he would never have starred in popular car movies like White Lightning, Smokey and the Bandit I and II, Hooper, The Cannonball Run and the rest. Nor would he have amassed hundreds of other movie, stage, and TV credits, been the top box office draw from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s, a Golden Globe and Emmy winner or an Oscar nominee. That’s because young Burt, then known as “Buddy,” had his eye on a pro-football career.

Burt was born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1936, but raised in Palm Beach County, Florida; his father, “Big Burt” Reynolds, was an authoritarian and the local police chief. His mother, Fern, a former nurse, doted on Burt and his sister, Nancy Ann, who was six years his senior.

He was a strong-willed child, who by his own admission courted trouble. By the early 1950s, however, Burt had channeled his energies into football. After making First Team All State and earning an All Southern Honorable Mention in high school, he fielded various college offers. He ultimately accepted a scholarship to Florida State University (FSU) in 1954, and played halfback for the Seminoles.

According to Burt’s recent memoir, But Enough About Me, an on-field knee injury in his sophomore year that required surgery, followed by further damage sustained in a life-threatening car accident some time later, conspired to end his football career, and his time at FSU. At Palm Beach Junior College, an English professor, whom Burt would soon view as his mentor, convinced him to act in a play he was producing. Acting became Burt’s new calling, and he immersed himself in the craft.

After graduating in the late 1950s, Burt played supporting roles in TV shows like Riverboat and Gunsmoke, and appeared in episodes of other programs into the mid-1960s. His talent earned him progressively better roles, and his athleticism enabled him to do many of his own stunts.

Lead roles in TV series followed, as would more stage work and an illustrious movie career, all of which has now spanned six decades. Given his collaborations with stuntman/director Hal Needham in the 1970s and ’80s, some (but not nearly all) of Burt’s more famous movies included high-speed car chases, jumps and crashes–the latter, ironically, the same circumstance that ended his football career and led him to acting.

At 80 years old, Burt is as busy as ever. He’s still acting, teaching, and making guest appearances at various events. His memoir, written with Jon Winokur, was released in late 2015 and it’s a riveting read. HMM contacted Burt to learn more about his contributions to the car-movie genre. What follows are his personal recollections.

HMM: Over the years, you’ve played many characters who drive and appreciate fast cars. Have you cultivated that same admiration for them in your private life?

BR: I do admire them, but it had to develop over the years. Growing up the son of a police chief, the idea of a fast car was not a romantic one–when a cop drives fast it might turn out pretty bad–plus we couldn’t afford one; our family car was a secondhand Buick. I was never big on fast cars personally–that was Hal–he had a Ferrari that I would borrow from time to time. I’ve always liked something a little more upscale, but they can go fast too! I used some of my Navajo Joe paycheck to get my first brand-new car: a European Mercedes 230 SL that I had imported. Later, I had a Rolls. I’ve had Caddies over the years, and drive one now, but my all-time favorite was the 1955-’57 T-Bird.

HMM: You’ve starred in several movies that employed car chases, stunts and/or racing and even a speedboat chase–White Lightning, The Longest Yard, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit II, The Cannonball Run, Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run II, The Dukes of Hazzard and Driven, etc. Were you enticed by these roles at least partly due to your appreciation of cars?

BR: One of the things that few people realize is that cars all have unique personalities; I know your readers understand that. The Oldsmobile Anniversary Edition we had made up for W.W. was as critical to that film as was the General Lee in Dukes, but neither one could have played the part of the Bandit car, and it could not have worked in Driven. Why did I get “enticed” to do the parts? Probably more due to my background in stunts on the pictures you mentioned–in The Longest Yard, the Maserati [a Citro├źn SM with a Maserati engine] was only a minor role, but a great car. I chose that picture because I had played halfback for FSU, and wanted to get paid to play football. Chase scenes are a good addition to any picture, whether it’s the speedboats in Gator or the chariot in Hooper, and I always had fun doing them, so that’s what it’s really about–the fun!

HMM: When you met Hal Needham, what was your first impression of him?

BR: He was doubling Richard Boone, on Have Gun Will Travel, and we crossed paths when I first went to Hollywood in the fall of 1958. He doubled me on Riverboat prior to Gunsmoke. I liked him immediately, and thought he was fearless, but not in a crazy way. He had a quiet confidence and was what they call “handy” in the stunt biz.

HMM: Hal had told me in a 2007 interview that when he approached you for feedback on the Smokey and the Bandit idea, he’d assumed the role of Bo “Bandit” Darville would be played by Jerry Reed. You’ve said that the original Smokey and the Bandit script was the worst that you have ever read. Despite the fact that Hal was your good friend and was living in your guesthouse at the time, even he admitted he was quite surprised that you, a top box office draw, decided to star in his movie. What convinced you to do it?

BR: This is a good question, and I wish I had a better answer–a more complex one. It just seemed like it would be fun–there’s the ‘fun factor’ again. I knew if we got Gleason, it would really be something. They couldn’t get him without me, so I said okay. Then I wanted Sally, but nobody wanted her–they all said, “Gidget? For this picture? Are you kidding?” and I said, “She’s sexy–talent is sexy!” She proved them all wrong with the Emmys and Oscars she received later on.

HMM: You and Jackie Gleason had a definite chemistry while the cameras rolled. Did it carry over off camera as well?

BR: Funny you should say that–it was actually all off-screen until we were almost done. We were sitting at lunch one day and realized that we didn’t have any scenes where we were actually together. We found the diner and improvised the whole thing, our only scene together in the whole film. Gleason was called “The Great One” because that’s what he truly was. When we shot the scene, nobody knew what he was going to do; Hal just said to keep the camera on him. And to this day, nobody knows what a “Diablo Sandwich” is!

HMM: Jackie Gleason said that you could easily be a great comedian. Do you view yourself as a dramatic actor first and a comedic actor second or vice versa? Do you feel that one is more difficult than the other?

BR: I am touched to hear that. I’m an actor. People are complex, so a character needs to be as well. When I teach class, I always tell the kids to use a lot of colors–nobody is serious all the time, you have to have humor in your life. Comedy is tougher, with timing and the pauses, but to be playing Lewis in Deliverance is just as tough as Phil Potter in Starting Over. The scene when W.W. torches his beloved car is a dramatic turn in an otherwise lighter picture, and it was just as difficult to show his joy when Art Carney fixed it to snare him at the end of the movie.

HMM: How did you and Jerry Reed become friends?

BR: I met him in Nashville, hanging out at a club in 1971. I’ve always enjoyed live music, usually jazz or country. He was such an amazing guitar player, he really deserves to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. He did it all, from playing on Elvis’s records, to writing and singing his own stuff. What you saw onscreen was exactly like he was off-screen–talking slow and laughing. And that “Son!” thing of his was really his own–just a great, talented friend. I miss him a lot. So do many others. He seemed like one of those “nice people” you hear about, but later find they were not that way, but Jerry Reed actually was!

HMM: Smokey and the Bandit came across as a group of actors having a great time making a movie. Since that’s not always the case during the making of a movie, how was that atmosphere fostered on the set?

BR: Gleason, Jerry, Sally, Mike Henry, Hal, and we had a bunch of friends like Alfie Wise, Pat McCormick, and Paul Williams, and for Part II we added Dom DeLuise and Terry Bradshaw. With a group like that, how could the atmosphere be any other way?

HMM: How did making Smokey and the Bandit II differ from the original? Was there added pressure from the studio to produce another hit?

BR: Nobody expected anything from the first–only Star Wars was bigger that year–plus I was “falling in like” with Sally. Part II was just as much fun, and we knew we had something, but the studio still wasn’t convinced.

HMM: Was additional support evident from the studio to facilitate the process of making Smokey and the Bandit II, based on the success of the first movie?

BR: Not really. The budget was bigger, but they just thought it was a payback for the first one being done so cheaply. We did get to shoot it in Florida, though. I’d been trying to do that for a while, but the governor wasn’t a fan, so we had been going to Georgia. I now call Georgia my “Lucky State”–I’ve made more pictures there than anyplace else. My last one, Hamlet & Hutch, was made very close to where we shot Deliverance, and I was just presented with the “Georgia Film Legend” award by the Macon Film Festival.

HMM: Do you prefer one Smokey and the Bandit movie over the other?

BR: The first: Sally. In the first one we were getting to know one another and “falling in like.” Part II was a rough patch–if you remember that scene when she leaves the bar and we go walking and she is berating me? That was all real, we had just had a big argument and I told her to get it all out. She did, and it was therapeutic. We made up, but there was some tension on the set. Sequels are just never quite as good.

HMM: Can you recall any happy accidents that made it into Smokey and the Bandit or some of your other movies?

BR: The football field spinout was almost a disaster in Smokey [the Trans Am wasn’t supposed to go through the dugout, but the wet grass caused it. No one was injured.]. In Hooper, the “Ca-Ca Dancer” stunt [Sonny (Burt) tells his horse Dancer to relieve himself in Ski’s (Jan Michael Vincent) El Camino and the horse obliges] was based on a real prank on the set of 100 RIFLES. During the filming of Smokey and the Bandit II, anything with Dom was pretty much an accident. He was nervous I’d be mad when he screwed up, and I let him think that, so it just fueled the fun! In the Cannonball Run, Farrah and I weren’t acting. In Cannonball Run II, watch the orangutan–the same one Clint used in Every Which Way But Loose–he had entered puberty and was “unruly” at times.

HMM: Can you recall any funny and/or interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the movies mentioned above?

BR: Snowman’s dog was mine. The search for Fred was a publicity stunt and none of the dogs worked out–we used mine and always knew it was a fallback. Hal loved the dog, and since he had been the inspiration to begin with, we finally figured why not just use him? He wasn’t the smartest dog on the block; he only had one trick. God love him, he’d be walking along and I’d call him; he’d look back at me but still keep walking, and he’d walk into the wall. He gave me a lot of love and a lot of laughs.

HMM: What are your impressions of driving the movie-prepped Trans Ams on the set of Smokey and the Bandit versus those of Smokey and the Bandit II?

BR: In the second, the cars were faster [it was reported at the time that they were fitted with nitrous systems] but heavier and didn’t handle as well.

HMM: Describe your relationship with Pontiac following Smokey and the Bandit. Was it on-again off-again?

BR: Ha! It was on and then it was just off! They told me they’d give me a Trans Am every year, and they did for a few, but then they just stopped. No note of thanks or anything, so I called to see what was up. They said there was a new president of the company and he didn’t like my pictures!

HMM: You limited your role to a cameo in Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 and Hal chose not to work on that film at all. What was your reason for not accepting the starring role, given the successes of the previous two films?

BR: That was pretty much a scheduling thing: Hal and I were finishing Cannonball Run, and going right into Stroker Ace, so he couldn’t direct it, and I couldn’t be in it. Gleason was hot, so he ran with it.

HMM: Did your previous experience of doing stunts yourself provide an advantage to you while making the Smokey and the Bandit movies and Hooper?

BR: No question. I was like a little kid with Hooper. We had Yakima Canutt gaff the chariot race just like he did for Spartacus. Working again with Sally, Hal behind the camera, along with Jimmy Best and Bradshaw again! I loved every second of making that one.

HMM: Can you recall any notable stunts that you performed yourself in those three films that normally would not be attempted by the lead actor?

BR: “No second takes!!” The chariot race and the falls in Hooper would never be done by a lead actor today. Nor would the helicopter jump, which I also did! Glenn Wilder and I were in the Trans Am in Alabama when the smokestack went down. We just did a short film called When The Stack Fell–it played at a film festival. Glenn’s twin daughters, Myja and Kyja, were the writer and director.

HMM: What do you feel was the most dangerous stunt you ever performed in any film, and why?

BR: The rapids in Deliverance–I broke my tailbone. You can’t control nature, I was lucky to get out of that one. The helicopter jump in Hooper and Dom shoving me out on the ledge in The End were both dangerous simply due to the height. In Shamus, I just missed the branch in the tree I was trying to grab and fell four stories and landed on my upper back–the shoulder blade region. Had the impact been one inch higher, that would have been it.

HMM: Given your vast body of work that includes dramatic and comedic roles, does being remembered by many as the Bandit remain a virtue or has it at times been a vice?

BR: It’s just great to be remembered! Given a choice, though, I’d rather be remembered as a triple-threat–actor, teacher, stuntman, and I’d rather be thought of as a teacher than an actor.

HMM: Which cars have you found to be the most enjoyable to drive over the years and why?

BR: Usually Caddies, T-Birds, or ‘Vettes. Handling, comfort, and power. In film, the T/A was tops.

HMM: In your opinion, could Smokey and the Bandit be made today and be as successful as the original was?

BR: Probably not. It just happened. It wasn’t trying to be a “big” picture. There’s one of those every year and they usually fall flat. We got away with having fun, and it all transferred to the screen. That doesn’t always happen. It’s a rare blend of chemistry that holds up. There’s no way you could get anyone to do what Gleason or DeLuise did either. Who could ever fill their shoes? Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter confirmed that he said Smokey and the Bandit was his favorite film–his secret pleasure.

HMM: Over the span of your legendary career, which three performances are you most proud of and why?

BR: Deliverance–four guys literally bonded on the river in a remarkable picture that was so well cast, everybody was superb. Starting Over–the role that is closest to me in real life. I felt vulnerable and exposed on screen. For the third, I have to say it is a toss-up, roles that are more complex than I’m usually offered–Breaking In and Physical Evidence. The characters aren’t very nice, but the performances are.

HMM: What current projects are you enthusiastic about?

BR: Hamlet & Hutch. I play a New York actor with early onset Alzheimer’s. Shot in my “lucky state” of Georgia, Hutch moves in with his granddaughter in the Blue Ridge Mountains and brings the family together. This family film also focuses on greyhound adoption and has been awarded the Dove Foundation Seal of Approval. Teri J. Vaughn costars and produced. I got to do some scenes from Hamlet onstage. I’d love to get back on Broadway, and this was a little taste for me. They say you’re not supposed to work with children or animals–well, I do both, and loved it. There’s a Trans Am cameo, too!

The author would like to thank Christopher R. Phillip and Gene Kennedy for their efforts to facilitate this interview, and Burt for his candid responses.

This article originally appeared in the August, 2016 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.

At l’art et l’automobile we have had a long and lasting love for the films and TV shows that highlight and celebrate automobiles, the heroes who drive them and their influence on our culture, but the works of the legendary Burt Reynolds stand alone. The loss of this mountain of machismo will leave a sorrowful shadow in every car guy’s heart, and probably his ego…  To celebrate the life of one of the all time classic Auto Actors, we have republished this article in memoriam.

Ten-Four Burt,

Jacques Vaucher

To tour a great collection of automotive memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many categories on our Website. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, share a photo on Instagram and read our Blogs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My Week at Pebble Beach

Several Classic and Contemporary beauties lined up in front of the Lodge at Pebble Beach

An Automotive Adventure on the California Coast.

written by Jacques Vaucher, edited by James Karthauser

Monterey Week has come and gone, having been held August 17th to the 26th. The motoring world converged on the Peninsula for a 10 day long event that was packed with racetrack activities, the Concours d’Elegance and other automobile shows, numerous manufacturers’ meetings, car club reunions, forums, vintage car auctions and so much more. I had the privilege of attending, speaking and showcasing items from the gallery, accompanied by my wife Karen, and let me tell you, it was great fun, though exhausting!

Several Classic beauties lined up at the Concours on the Avenue at Pebble Beach.
Photo courtesy of My Car Quest

My Week started on Tuesday, at “Concours on the Avenue,” with a nice representation of sports cars from the 1950’s through the ’70’s.  The event featured a great lineup of beautiful automobiles from most of the manufacturers from around the world, which filled Ocean Avenue in Carmel. A big thank you to our old friends Genie and Doug Freedman for organizing this spectacular event and then inviting us to the Concours Luncheon at the Cypress Inn, Doris Day’s Hotel and Restaurant in downtown Carmel.  

Our Gallery.  We brought plenty of exquisite pieces and  everyone wanted to see them
Our Gallery.  We brought plenty of exquisite pieces and
everyone wanted to see them. 
Wednesday we started setting up and laying out our gallery for the weekend at the Spanish Bay Inn for the Retroauto Show at Pebble Beach.  Afterward we were invited to Rich Attwell’s house for diner, to celebrate his 40th consecutive year of exhibiting his spectacular pre-war cars at Pebble Beach.  Good fun with friends, clients and consignors was had by all.

Thursday we opened our gallery for the show.  The Retroauto Show was wonderful, we were reunited with old friends, new friends were made and many beautiful memorabilia and art pieces were seen and changed hands.  Our little gallery had a very successful day, selling various vintage posters and two exquisite sculptures by Larry Braun.  Our pieces were so in demand, a line formed at our booth to purchase an item or two we had on display.  

A closeup of our Gallery Table including one of the Larry  Braun sculptures that we sold during the week.
A closeup of our Gallery Table including one of the Larry
Braun sculptures that we sold during the week.
That evening we went to meet a few french collectors and friends at the Mission Ranch,
Clint Eastwood’s Restaurant.  We had a great dinner in a beautiful setting and were honored by Mr. Eastwood’s presence.  He seems to be in great form.  In the mid ’70’s when I worked at Chinetti Motors, I sold him one of the first Ferrari 365 Boxer that we imported and federalized.

Friday we were back to work in our gallery, we continued selling some nice pieces of automobilia.  In the afternoon I was part of a panel for a forum on collecting automotive memorabilia.  I gave a short talk on the subject and answered questions about vintage posters, automotive mascots, paintings and sculptures.  Some of the speakers were experts on vintage factory literature, books, new and old, enamel signs and petroliana.  It was definitely a fun discussion about a subject I am most certainly passionate about and that I greatly enjoy.  That night with a few friends we went to have a fondue in a Swiss restaurant with Murray and Susan Smith and some of their friends.  

2018 Ferrari 488 Pista Spider. Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
2018 Ferrari 488 Pista Spider. Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Photo Courtesy of YouTube

Saturday was our last day in the gallery, we continued to sell more interesting automobilia.  Pebble Beach is definitely a great place for finding, selling or trading collectibles, as the crowd is filled with educated collectors that greatly enjoyed what we had to offer.  Later in the day, we had to dismantle our little gallery and then we went to see how the Goodings and Co auction was progressing.  They had some of the best cars ever built on the block, and some of them went for unbelievable prices.  After the auction, we returned to the house we rent every year with Francois and Pamela Sicard from Connecticut, and sat down for a relaxing dinner.  Francois, who curates David Letterman’s car collection, had brought a 275 NART Spyder at the auction from Italian car collector Lawrence Auriana's collection.  The Car was to be displayed at an exhibit on the Ferrari Stand for the introduction of their new Spyder.  He also brought the first Osca race car built in 1948 to exhibit at the Concours the next day.  

A 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta, owned by David and Ginny Sydorick, took Best of Show at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
A 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta, owned by David and Ginny Sydorick, took
Best of Show at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Photo Courtesy of Bloomberg

Sunday, is Concours Day.  After making a stop at the artist’s tent on the field, we took a stroll on the green to peruse all the spectacular machines on display.  From Francois’ Osca, as well as other examples of the make, to Classic Tuckers, Scarabs, Vintage Ferraris, Maseratis and Delahayes and all the other magnificent pre-war cars, including the Alfa Romeo 2900 that won best in show, a truly colossal collection of beautiful automobiles was arrayed for our viewing pleasure.  After touring the Concours, we were invited to a collector’s suite at the lodge to watch the parade of class winning cars going up across the podium and the awards presentation.  I have to say it was a great day, especially if you are passionate about cars.  

The l'art et l'automobile van, returning to Texas
The l'art et l'automobile van, returning to Texas
Monday it was time to return to the Ranch in Texas, trading our automobilia collection for our animal collection.  I have found every year that the festivities at Pebble Beach and the Concours are most fulfilling, and I have and hope to continue to enjoy them form many years to come.  

Vive le Concours!


For more great automotive memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our Website. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, share a photo on Instagram and read our Blogs.