Rest in peace Burt Reynolds, the Hollywood star who has just died, aged 82. I have happy memories of his films; not “Deliverance” of course, terrifying on so many levels, but most of the others, including lesser-known comedies like “Nickeledeon” and “Paternity”. The latter was a much-watched treat in the 1980s, one of the first films I recorded on video. I put it on timer in those first weeks of owning a VCR, on the off-chance that it might be worth watching. It was. A family friend was expecting her first child that summer and she and my mother watched it many times, pleasant afternoon viewing back when there were so few TV channels. I was never around for any of these afternoon sessions, and once I’d seen the movie I might well have taped over it (we were supposed to, you know, after 30 days). They asked me to keep it for a while. I did, for over 20 years, but a quick look at the 100 or so videos that we still have tells me that it’s probably gone the way of thousands of others, recycled or sent to landfill. There’s every chance that the tape would have been stretched or worn out from so many viewings but if we still had it I’d give it a go. According to Amazon it’s unavailable in any format, to buy or rent, so there’s no immediate way to replace the old copy and check if it’s as good as I remember.
As its title suggests, “Paternity” is about parenthood. Burt Reynolds plays Buddy, a sports manager who decides, in his mid-40s, that he wants to have a son. He doesn’t want to get married, he just wants a son, and starts looking for a surrogate mother. After several mishaps he settles on Maggie, played by Beverly D’Angelo, a great under-rated actress. Once she is pregnant he becomes over-protective, monitoring her health, her exercise regime, her food intake. His concern over the last of these has provided us with a family catchphrase for over 30 years now. It comes towards the end of an exchange, with Buddy/Burt fussing about the way she has spent her day and Maggie/Beverley becoming increasingly exasperated.
“Did you have anything from the bread group today?”
We use the expression “something from the bread group” when planning our own food intake. It covers everything from croissants and bagels to, well, bread.
Watching and reading through the tributes to Burt Reyonds that have appeared today I realize that I have yet to see some of his best-known films, notably “Smokey and the Bandit”, “The Mean Machine” (also known as “The Longest Yard”) and “Boogie Nights”. I heard this morning that the first of these was Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite film. His daughter said that he loved the car-chases. Unlike “Paternity”, “Smokey and the Bandit” is available to view on a number of streaming services so it could form part of our weekend’s viewing. In the meantime, and in honour of my favourite bit of dialogue from a Burt Reynolds movie, I made sure that we ate something from the bread group at lunchtime today: bread.