Buford T. Justice
Sheriff Buford T. Justice is the fictional character played by Jackie Gleason in the movies Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983). As a determined, foul-mouthed Texas county sheriff, from Montague County, he chases the Bandit, played by Burt Reynolds in the first two movies, across the southern United States on several occasions with no success, sometimes being right next to Bandit without noticing it. According to Smokey and the Bandit II, he has two brothers, Gaylord Justice and Reginald Van Justice, both also played by Jackie Gleason.
In Smokey and the Bandit Part 3, Buford T. Justice claims to have chased the Bandit for over 3,000 miles and across 20 states, although the first two movies only show him chasing Bandit through 6-7 states. Buford also has a dim (yet devoted) son who he only calls "Junior", played by Mike Henry. Buford T. Justice has a leitmotif of imposing, menacing trumpets (somewhat reminiscent of the Dragnet theme), reflecting his authoritative bluster.
Buford is an archetypal (approaching cliche) southern sheriff: confrontational, profane, short-tempered, stubborn and determined. While he can be charming and professional, his pursuit of the Bandit is a deeply personal affair (compounded by the fact The Bandit absconded with Junior's fiancee, embarrassing the Justice family as a whole) and he shuns help from other law enforcement departments (often alienating them) so that he can personally apprehend the Bandit; except for the occasion he called for the help of his brothers in the 2nd film, which they brought an armada of Canadian Mounties, led by Reggie, and Texas Highway Patrolmen, led by Gaylord, all of which were demolished when the Snowman brought a convoy of trucks to rescue the Bandit. Buford also seems to take any skirting to the law very personally.
Justice seems chivalrous towards women and the elderly, yet has no problem casually roughing up suspects (especially "young punks") to make a point. Indeed, he kicks a would-be tire thief in the backside as "an attention-getter"—when Justice does have someone in custody, he smugly draws the affair out, obviously relishing the fact he is making things as unpleasant as possible for the suspect.
Buford tends to take his hunt for the Bandit to the extremes and quite often this leads to the wrecking on all three of his Squad Cars throughout the original franchise.
"Buford T. Justice" was the name of a real Florida Highway Patrolman known to Burt Reynolds' father, who himself was once Chief of Police of Jupiter, Florida. His father was also the inspiration for the word "sumbitch" used in the movie, a phrase he reportedly uttered quite often, according to Reynolds. Jackie Gleason was given quite free rein over ad-libbing dialogue and making suggestions. In particular, the scene where Sheriff Justice unknowingly encounters the Bandit in the "choke and puke," was not in the original story, it was Gleason's idea.
- Hollis, Tim (2008). Ain't that a knee-slapper: rural comedy in the twentieth century. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 237. ISBN 978-1-934110-73-7.
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