What killed Burt Reynolds‘ career as a top-dog Hollywood movie star? His decision to star in a string of lowbrow shitkicker films, most of which were directed by his buddy Hal Needham, who started out in the mid ’50s as a stuntman. Under Needham’s Lubistch-like guidance Reynolds starred in Smokey and the Bandit (’77), Hooper (’78), Smokey and the Bandit 2, The Cannonball Run (’81), Stroker Ace (’83) and The Cannonball Run II (’84). It’s generally understood that Reynolds stabbed his career in the heart when he turned down the astronaut role in James L. BrooksTerms of Endearment in order to make Stroker Ace, allegedly out of loyalty to Needham. Today it was announced that Needham, 82, has passed. Condolences to family and friends, but he was one of the worst directors to ever make a dent in this town. No, wait…I didn’t mean that. Well, actually I did. The Cannonball Run II was one of the most throughly cynical and poisonous films I’ve ever sat through (that Frank Sinatra cameo!), and I actually paid to see the damn thing in a Times Square theatre. If you’ve ever cared about the wondrous transportation of cinema, the films of Hal Needham will always be a must-to-avoid. But I’m sure he was a nice guy and a good friend, etc. He knew how to kick back and have a good old time. Yeehaw! If given a choice between leading a Needham-type life and the kind of life lived by Eric von Stroheim or Franz Kafka or John Huston, I’m guessing that most Americans would choose the Needham path.