40th Anniversary of Smokey and the Bandit

This year, Silverscreen and Gasoline join up with the crew at Hell on Wheels to celebrate 40 years later, Smokey and the Bandit with some great drive-in good times.

Smokey and the Bandit is a 1977 American action comedy film starring Burt ReynoldsSally FieldJackie GleasonJerry ReedPat McCormickPaul Williams and Mike Henry. The film was the directorial debut of stuntman Hal Needham. It inspired several other trucking films, including two sequelsSmokey and the Bandit II and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.

Wealthy Texan Big Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick) and his son Little Enos (Paul Williams) seek a truck driver willing to bootleg Coors beer to Georgia for their refreshment. At the time, Coors was regarded as one of the finest beers in the United States,[3] but it could not be legally sold east of the Mississippi River. Truck drivers who had taken the bet previously had been caught and arrested by “Smokey” (CB slang for highway patrol officers, referring to the Smokey Bear–type hats worn in some states).

The Burdettes find legendary trucker Bo “Bandit” Darville (Burt Reynolds) competing in a truck rodeo at Lakewood Fairgrounds in Atlanta; they offer him $80,000 to haul 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, Texas back to Atlanta in 28 hours; Big Enos has sponsored a driver running in the Southern Classic stockcar race and wants to “celebrate in style when he wins.” Bandit accepts the bet and recruits his best friend and partner Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed) to drive the truck, while Bandit drives the “blocker”, a black Trans Am bought on an advance from the Burdettes, to divert attention away from the truck and its illegal cargo.

The trip to Texas is mostly uneventful except for at least one pursuing Smokey whom Bandit evades with ease. They reach Texarkana an hour ahead of schedule, load their truck with the beer and head back toward Atlanta. Immediately upon starting the second leg of the run, Bandit picks up runaway bride Carrie (Sally Field), whom he eventually nicknames “Frog” because she is “kinda cute like a frog” and “always hoppin’ around”. But in so doing, Bandit makes himself a target of Texas Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), a career lawman whose handsome but slow-witted son Junior (Mike Henry) was to have been Carrie’s bridegroom. Ignoring his own jurisdiction, Sheriff Justice, with Junior in tow, chases Bandit all the way to Georgia, even as various mishaps cause his cruiser to disintegrate around them.

The remainder of the film is one lengthy high-speed chase, as Bandit’s antics attract more and more attention from local and state police across Dixie while Snowman barrels on toward Atlanta with the contraband beer. Bandit and Snowman are helped along the way via CB radio by many colorful characters, including an undertaker with his hearse driver and their funeral procession, an elderly lady, a drive-in waitress and all her customers, a convoy of trucks, and even a madam who runs a brothel out of her RV. Neither Sheriff Justice nor any other police officers have any knowledge of Snowman’s illegal manifest.

The chase intensifies as Bandit and Snowman get closer to Atlanta; moments after crossing back into Georgia, Bandit comes to the rescue when Snowman is pulled over by a motorcycle patrolman, and state and local police step up their pursuit with more cruisers, larger roadblocks, and even a police helicopter to track Bandit’s movements. Discouraged by the unexpected mounting attention, and with just four miles left to go, Bandit is about to give up, but Snowman refuses to listen and takes the lead, smashing through the police roadblock at the entrance to the fairgrounds. They arrive back at Lakewood Speedway (while the Southern Classic race is being run) with only 10 minutes to spare, but instead of taking the payoff, Frog and Bandit accept a double-or-nothing offer from Little Enos: a challenge to run up to Boston and bring back clam chowder in 18 hours. They quickly escape in one of Big Enos’ Cadillac convertibles, passing Sheriff Justice’s badly damaged police car by the side of the road. Bandit first directs Sheriff Justice to Big and Little Enos, but then in a gesture of respect, reveals his true location and invites Justice to give chase, leaving Junior behind.

Did you know?

Smokey and the Bandit—a film thought up and directed by Burt Reynolds’s roommate/celebrated stuntman Hal Needham—combined the appeal of watching high speed chases with the appeal of watching Reynolds, Sally Field, and the comedic stylings of Jackie Gleason. It was the second highest-grossing movie of 1977, directly behind Star Wars. Here are some fast facts about the classic action comedy, which was released 40 years ago today.

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13 Fast Facts About Smokey and the Bandit

BY Roger Cormier

May 27, 2017

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Smokey and the Bandit—a film thought up and directed by Burt Reynolds’s roommate/celebrated stuntman Hal Needham—combined the appeal of watching high speed chases with the appeal of watching Reynolds, Sally Field, and the comedic stylings of Jackie Gleason. It was the second highest-grossing movie of 1977, directly behind Star Wars. Here are some fast facts about the classic action comedy, which was released 40 years ago today.

1. IT WAS BASED ON A REAL COORS BANQUET BEER PROBLEM.

While Needham was in Georgia working as Reynolds’ stunt double in Gator (1976), the driver captain on the set brought some Coors beer from California and brought a couple of cases to Needham’s hotel room. After he noticed that the maid kept stealing the beers from the fridge, he remembered a TIME magazine article from 1974 about how Coors was unavailable east of the Mississippi River, because the beer was not pasteurized and needed constant refrigeration, and couldn’t legally be sold outside of 11 western and southwestern U.S. states. Which made him realize that, “bootlegging Coors would make a good plotline for a movie.”

2. BURT REYNOLDS’S FRIENDS BEGGED HIM NOT TO DO IT.

Needham—who had been living in Reynolds’ pool house for 12 years (the two barely ran into each other due to their busy schedules)—presented his landlord and close friend with the script for Smokey and the Bandit, written on yellow legal pads. Reynolds told Needham that if he could get the money to shoot it, he’d star in it. The movie star’s friends, according to Reynolds in his autobiography, “got down on their knees with tears in their eyes and begged me not to do it.”

3. SALLY FIELD DID IT BECAUSE SHE WAS SEEN AS UGLY.

“I did Smokey and the Bandit because Sybil (1976) was coming out, and everyone said, ‘Whoa, the work is extraordinary. It’s really good work …’ or something like that, ‘… but man is Sally Field ugly! Man!’ And I thought, ‘Oh God, okay,'” Sally Field explained of why she took the role of Carrie, a.k.a. “Frog.” “And then Burt Reynolds, who was this really big box office star at the time, called me and said would I consider doing this, which I was completely flabbergasted that he would call me and do that. And there was no script. There was virtually no script. Since I wasn’t a person that had come from the New York stage, and I came from this sort of weird unorthodox background, I wasn’t one who stood on principle and said ‘Hmm, there seems to be no script here.’ So I just took a leap of faith, and thought, well, you know, ‘If I play this character that Burt is supposed to think is attractive, maybe the world will think I’m attractive, and somebody else will hire me.’ So I did it. And it was a great fun romp, journey, and certainly a good experience. And then it was all improv. It was almost entirely improvised.”

4. NEEDHAM COULDN’T GET ALL THE CARS HE WANTED (AT LEAST FOR THE FIRST MOVIE).

Needham saw a picture of a Pontiac Trans Am in a magazine and thought up a product placement idea. He asked for six Trans Ams, but Pontiac would only agree to send four. Needham also asked for four Bonnevilles for Jackie Gleason’s cars, but he only got two. By the time they shot the final scene, they had wiped out three Trans Ams and the fourth wouldn’t start after all of the stunts, so another car was used to push it into the scene. For Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), Needham asked for and received 10 Trans Ams and 55 Bonnevilles with no trouble.

5. UNIVERSAL CUT THE BUDGET JUST AS PRODUCTION WAS ABOUT TO BEGIN.

Set with his $5.3 million budget, a studio “hatchet man” was sent to Atlanta to inform Needham his budget was cut by $1 million. With Reynolds making $1 million, Needham still had $3.3 million to make his film.

6. CARRIE’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS KATE.

In the original screenplay, Bandit’s last name is LaRoue, Carrie’s name was Kate, Cledus’ was ‘Bandit II’, Big Enos and Little Enos were Kyle and Dickey, there was no Junior, Bandit’s car was not a Trans Am, and the reward for making the run was a new truck, not $80,000.

Adding the Junior Justice character (Mike Henry) was Jackie Gleason’s idea. “I can’t be in the car alone,” Gleason said. “Put someone in there with me to play off of.”

7. THE STUDIO WANTED RICHARD BOONE TO PLAY SHERIFF BUFORD T. JUSTICE.

Reynolds wanted someone “a little crazier, a little more dangerous, and a lot funnier” than Richard Boone, so he suggested Gleason.

8. BUFORD T. JUSTICE WAS BASED ON SOMEONE REYNOLDS’S FATHER KNEW.

Reynolds’ father was a Riviera Beach, Florida police chief, and he knew a Buford T. Justice type. One of the things the real Buford T. Justice said was “sumbitch.” Reynolds told Gleason about the man’s bastardization of “son of a bitch” and Gleason ran with it.

9. JACKIE GLEASON AD LIBBED.

It was Gleason’s idea to have the toilet paper coming out of his pant leg when Buford left the Bar B-QReynolds wrote that Gleason “never said a single word in the script.”

10. GLEASON ENJOYED “HAMBURGERS” ON SET.

Gleason would often ask his assistant Mal for a “hamburger,” which was code for a glass of bourbon.

11. REYNOLDS AND GLEASON WERE SUPPOSED TO SHARE MORE SCREEN TIME.

Variety reported that, “after shooting the first of what was intended to be a handful of scenes with Reynolds and Jackie Gleason on screen together, Reynolds demanded that the subsequent scenes be scrapped. Why? The question isn’t directly answered, or even indirectly addressed.”

12. “EAST BOUND AND DOWN” WAS WRITTEN OVERNIGHT.

Jerry Reed (Cledus) also provided the hit song “East Bound and Down” for the film. After promising he would come up with a song, he didn’t have one at the end of filming. After Needham asked him about it, Reed promised he would have something for him the following morning. Despite being out all night, Reed managed to sing his new song “East Bound and Down” for Needham the next day. When Needham didn’t react right away, Reed said, “If you don’t like it I can change it. “If you change one damn note, I’ll f*ckin’ kill you!” the director replied.

*credit and information for this article was provided by

-Mental Floss

-Wikipedia

-Yahoo Search

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