Smokey and the Bandit

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Smokey and the Bandit
Smokey And The Bandit Poster.jpg
Promotional poster by John Solie
Directed by Hal Needham
Produced by Mort Engelberg
Robert L. Levy
Screenplay by James Lee Barrett
Charles Shyer
Alan Mandel
Story by Hal Needham
Robert L. Levy
Starring Burt Reynolds
Sally Field
Jackie Gleason
Jerry Reed
Mike Henry
Music by Bill Justis
Jerry Reed
Cinematography Bobby Byrne
Edited by Walter Hannemann
Angelo Ross
Production
company
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates May 27, 1977
Running time 96 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.3 million[2]
Box office $300,000,000[2]

Smokey and the Bandit is a 1977 American action comedy film starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams and Mike Henry. It inspired several other trucking films, including two sequels, Smokey and the Bandit II, and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.

There was also a series of 1994 television films (Bandit Goes Country, Bandit Bandit, Beauty and the Bandit, and Bandit's Silver Angel) from original director/writer Hal Needham loosely based on the earlier version, with actor Brian Bloom now playing Bandit. The three original films introduced two generations of the Pontiac Trans Am. The film was the second highest-grossing film of 1977.

Plot[edit]

Rich Texas wheeler-dealer Big Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick) and his son, Little Enos (Paul Williams), are trying to find a truck driver willing to haul Coors beer to Georgia for their refreshment. At the time - fostered by an agreement with Anheuser Busch - Coors was unavailable east of Texas due to a lack of state alcohol distribution permits. Unauthorized transportation of Coors across state lines was considered "bootlegging". Truck drivers who had taken the bet previously had been discovered and arrested by "Smokey" (truck driver and CB slang for highway patrolmen and state troopers).

At a local truck rodeo, the Texans locate legendary truck driver Bo "Bandit" Darville (Burt Reynolds) and offer him $80,000 (over $300,000 in 2013 dollars) to haul 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, Texas to the "Southern Classic" in Georgia – in 28 hours, driving a total of 1,800 mi (2,900 km), for an average of 65 mph (95 km/h) including all stops. (This was an artistic liberty, as the trip is only 1260 miles round-trip. Also, Texarkana, Texas, is located in a dry county, preventing Coors or any other alcoholic beverage from being sold there.)

Bandit accepts the bet and recruits his best friend and fellow truck driver Cledus "Snowman" Snow (Jerry Reed) to drive the truck, promising to buy him a new truck with the proceeds. Snowman brings along his dog, a Basset Hound named "Fred", for company. After requesting an advance from the Burdettes for a "speedy car", Bandit purchases a black Pontiac Trans Am, which he will drive as a "blocker" car to deflect attention away from the truck and its illegal cargo. The duo reach Texas ahead of schedule, load their truck with Coors, and immediately head back towards Georgia.

Shortly after leaving for Georgia, Bandit picks up professional dancer and runaway bride Carrie (Sally Field), whom he nicknames "Frog" because she is "always hoppin' around" (in a panic). However, by picking up Carrie, Bandit becomes the target of Texas Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), "a respectable law officer of over thirty years seniority", whose handsome yet very simple-minded son Junior (Mike Henry) was to have been Carrie's groom before she ran away from the ceremony.

The remainder of the film is essentially one big high-speed chase, as Bandit and Frog attract continuous attention from local and state police throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia while Snowman barrels eastward with the Coors beer. Despite leaving his home jurisdiction, Sheriff Justice and his son continue to pursue Bandit, even as various mishaps cause their squad car to disintegrate around them. Bandit and Snowman are greatly assisted by a number of colorful characters they encounter along the way, many of whom are truckers they contact through their CB radios; these acquaintances allow them to escape police pursuit on numerous occasions. Neither Justice nor any of the other police officers are ever aware of Snowman's illegal cargo of Coors, as they are more interested in capturing the "legendary" Bandit.

Despite near-constant police pursuit and several roadblocks, Bandit, Snowman, Frog and Fred arrive at the Southern Classic with a full trailer of Coors and ten minutes to spare, with Cledus blazing a trail into the grounds with his truck. Instead of taking their payoff, they accept the Texans' new offer to drive to Boston and bring back clam chowder in 18 hours, for double the original bet or nothing. As they are leaving for Boston in one of Big Enos' Cadillacs, they see Justice's badly damaged cruiser on the roadside. Bandit calls Justice over the radio, and, after a brief bit of mutual respect (begrudgingly, by Justice), Justice angrily demands to know where he is. Bandit describes himself as Big Enos in order to put him on a false lead, but then decides that Justice is "too good a man" and tells him, "Look over your left shoulder." As Bandit and his friends drive off, Justice turns to pursue them in futility with his car disintegrating further (a wheel is shown falling off), leaving Junior to chase haplessly after his father on foot (with the closing line "Don't leave me Daddy, who's going to hold your hat?!") as the credits roll.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Director Hal Needham originally planned the film as a low budget B movie with a production cost of $1 million,[2] with Jerry Reed as the Bandit. It was not until Needham's friend Burt Reynolds read the script, and said he would star, that the film was aimed at a more mainstream release, with Reed now playing Bandit's friend Snowman (Reed would eventually play the Bandit in Smokey and the Bandit Part III).

At that time, Reynolds was the number 1 box office star in the world. Universal Studios bankrolled Smokey and the Bandit for $5.3 million, figuring it was a good risk.[2] Two days before initial production, Universal sent a "hatchet man" down to Atlanta to inform Needham that the budget was being trimmed by $1 million. With Reynolds' salary at $1 million, Needham was left with only $3.3 million to make the film. Assistant director David Hamburger and Needham spent 30 straight hours revising the shooting schedule.[2]

"Buford T. Justice" was the name of a real Florida Highway Patrolman known to Reynolds' father, who himself was once Chief of Police of Riviera Beach, Florida. His father was also the inspiration for the word "sumbitch" used in the film, an apparent mispronunciation of the words "son-of-a-bitch" he reportedly uttered quite often, according to Reynolds.

Jackie Gleason was given free rein to ad-lib dialogue and make suggestions. In particular, the scene where Sheriff Justice unknowingly encounters the Bandit in the "choke and puke" (a roadside diner) was not in the original story, but rather Gleason's idea.

Reportedly, director Needham had great difficulty in getting any studios or producers to take his project seriously (he was better known in the film industry as a stuntman). He managed to obtain studio attention after his friend, Reynolds, agreed to star in the film.

The movie was filmed primarily in Georgia in the cities of McDonough, Jonesboro, and Lithonia. The scenes set in Texarkana were filmed in Jonesboro and the surrounding area, and many of the chase scenes were filmed in the surrounding areas on Highway 54 between Fayetteville and Jonesboro for a majority of the driving scenes, Mundy's Mill Road, Main Street in Jonesboro, Highway 400, I-85, and in McDonough. The scene where they drive through the Shell gas station, was however, filmed in Ojai, California on the corner of Ojai and El Paseo. Much of the surrounding scene comes from that immediate vicinity. The scene at the race track was filmed at Lakewood Speedway at the old Lakewood Fairgrounds on the south side of Atlanta. The roller coaster seen in the movie was the Greyhound. It had not been used for some time and was repainted for the film. It was destroyed in Smokey and the Bandit II and a flashback scene used in the third.[3]

The area around Helen, Georgia was also used for some scenes. The location where Buford T. Justice's car has the door knocked off by a passing semi was shot on GA 75, 3 miles north of Helen. The tow truck driver was an actual local garage owner, Berlin Wike.

The film features the custom clothing and costuming of Niver Western Wear of Fort Worth, Texas.[4] NWW provided much of the western attire worn in the film, as well as the custom made (size 64) sheriff's uniforms for Jackie Gleason which he wore throughout the film.

Hal Needham saw an advertisement for the soon to be released 1978 Pontiac Trans Am and knew right away that would the be the Bandit's car, or actually a character in the movie is how Needham referred to the Trans Am. Needham contacted Pontiac and an agreement was made that 3 1978 Trans Ams and 2 Pontiac Bonnevilles would be provided for the movie. After the debut of the movie, Trans Am sales skyrocketed, and Burt Reynolds was even promised a Trans Am for the rest of his life by the General Motors President. However, the Trans Am never arrived, and when Reynolds called GM, he was told that was the previous GM President that had made that promise had passed away, and the current GM President would not uphold the agreement. Reynolds actually had to purchase a Trans Am to have one. All 3 of the cars for the movie were damaged greatly during production, one of which was basically totaled during the jump over the dismantled bridge. The Trans Am used for the dismantled bridge jump was equipped with a booster rocket, the same type which was used by Evel Knievel during his failed Snake River Canyon jump. Hal Needham served as the driver for the stunt (standing in for Reynolds) while Lada St. Edmund was in the same car (standing in for Sally Field during the jump). By the end of the movie the final surviving Trans Am and Bonneville were both barely running and the other cars had become parts donors to keep them running. <Smokey and the Bandit Special Edition DVD, Special Features "Smokey and the Bandit, the making of"> The Burdettes' car is a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible in 'Candy Red' color scheme, and is seen briefly at the beginning of the movie, and as Bandit, Snowman and Frog make their escape in the final scene.

The film also made use of three Kenworth W900A short-frame semi trucks which Jerry Reed's character "Snowman" can be seen driving, each equipped with 38" sleepers. Two units were 1974 models, as evidenced by standard silver Kenworth emblems on the truck grille, and one unit was a 1973 model, as evidenced by the gold-painted Kenworth emblem on the truck's grille signifying Kenworth's 50 years in business. The paint code for each truck was coffee brown with gold trim, and the 48-foot (15 m) mural trailer used was manufactured by Hobbs Trailers in Texas with a Thermo King Refrigeration unit which was non operational. This is obvious as there is no fuel tank on the underside of the trailer to fuel the refrigeration unit, and the unit is never heard running.[5]

In 1977, Coors was unavailable for sale east of Oklahoma. A 1974 article in Time magazine explains why Coors was so sought after that someone could be willing to pay the Bandit such a high price to transport it. Coors Banquet Beer enjoyed a brief renaissance as certain people sought it out for its lack of stabilizers and preservatives. The article explains that Vice President (at the time) Gerald Ford hid it in his luggage after a trip to Colorado in order to take it back to Washington. President Eisenhower had a steady supply airlifted to Washington by the Air Force. The article also mentions Frederick Amon, who smuggled it from Colorado to North Carolina and sold it for four times the retail price.[6] The lack of additives and preservatives meant that Coors had the potential for spoiling in a week if it was not kept cold throughout its transportation and storage at its destination. This explains the 28 hour deadline.[7]

Reynolds and Sally Field began dating during the filming of Smokey and the Bandit.

Though the 1975 film Moonrunners is the precursor to the 1979–85 TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, from the same creator and with many identical settings and concepts, the popularity of Smokey and the Bandit and similar films helped get the Dukes series on air. Three actors from the main cast of The Dukes of Hazzard appear in small uncredited roles in Smokey and the Bandit: Ben Jones, John Schneider, and Sonny Shroyer (who, incidentally, played a police officer in both). In return, Reynolds portrayed the Dukes character Boss Hogg (originally portrayed by Sorrell Booke) in the 2005 film adaptation, The Dukes of Hazzard. Reynolds is also referenced by name in several early episodes of the series.

Soundtrack[edit]

Smokey And The Bandit: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album to the film Smokey and the Bandit by Various artists
Released 1977 (1977)
Genre Country rock
Length 41:11
Label MCA Records
Producer Sonny Burke

The theme music, "East Bound and Down", was sung and co-written by Reed (credited under his birth name, Jerry Hubbard) and Dick Feller. It became Reed's signature song and is found on multiple albums, including Country Legends and his live album Jerry Reed: Live Still. In 1991 it was arranged for orchestra by Crafton Beck and recorded by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for their album Down on the Farm. Several other groups, such as US rock band Tonic, have also covered it. Reed also penned and performed the song for the opening credits, entitled "The Legend", which tells of some of The Bandit's escapades prior to the events of the film, and the ballad "The Bandit", which features in several versions in the movie and on the soundtrack. It was released in 1977 on vinyl, cassette and 8-track through MCA Records.[8]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "The Legend"   Jerry R. Hubbard 2:09
2. "Incidental CB Dialogue" (Voice ["bandit"] – Burt Reynolds, Voice ["snowman"] – Jerry Reed)   0:28
3. "West Bound And Down"   Jerry R. Hubbard, Dick Feller 2:45
4. "Foxy Lady"   Bill Justis 2:51
5. "Incidental CB Dialogue" (Voice ["bandit"] – Burt Reynolds, Voice ["smokey"] – Jackie Gleason, Voice ["snowman"] – Jerry Reed)   0:56
6. "Orange Blossom Special"   Ervin T. Rouse 2:40
7. "The Bandit"   Dick Feller 3:00
8. "March Of The Rednecks"   Bill Justis 2:22
9. "If You Leave Me Tonight I'll Cry"   Gerald Sanford, Hal Mooney 2:47
10. "East Bound and Down (Incidental CB Dialogue Included)" (Voice ["bandit"] – Burt Reynolds, Voice ["snowman"] – Jerry Reed) Jerry R. Hubbard, Dick Feller 4:42
11. "The Bandit"   Dick Feller 2:48
12. "And The Fight Played On!"   Bill Justis 2:22
13. "Ma Cousin Plays Steel"   Bill Justis 3:11
14. "Hot Pants Fuzz Parade"   Bill Justis 4:48
15. "Incidental CB Dialogue" (Voice ["bandit"] – Burt Reynolds, Voice ["snowman"] – Jerry Reed)   1:05
16. "The Bandit (Reprise)"   Dick Feller 2:17

Reception[edit]

Smokey and the Bandit was a smash hit at the box office. Bankrolled with an original budget of $5.3 million (cut to $4.3 million two days before initial production),[2] the film grossed $126,737,428 in North America,[9] making it the 4th highest grossing movie of 1977. The worldwide gross is estimated at over $300 million.[2]

Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a good rating (3 stars out of a possible 4) and characterized it as "About as subtle as The Three Stooges, but a classic compared to the sequels and countless rip-offs which followed."[10]

Gene Siskel, in his review in the Chicago Tribune, gave the film two stars and complained that the film failed to let the audience in on when the clock started on the beer run thus removing suspense regarding how long they had to go throughout the film. He also pointed out that Bandit is never made aware of Frog's leaving Junior at the altar, which is why the Bandit continually asks why a Texas sheriff is chasing him. The Bandit is told however seconds after meeting Frog that "there is a wedding in search of a bride".

The film's editors, Walter Hannemann and Angelo Ross, were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. It currently holds an 80% "Fresh" rating on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[11]

American Film Institute Lists

Television censorship and alternative versions[edit]

When Smokey and the Bandit first aired on American network television in the early 1980s, censors were faced with the challenge of toning down the raw language of the original film. For this purpose, they overdubbed dialogue deemed offensive, which was (and remains, to an extent) common practice. The most noted change made for network broadcast was the replacing of Buford's often-spoken phrase "sumbitch" (a contraction of "son of a bitch"; usually in reference to the Bandit) with the nonsense phrase "scum bum". This phrase achieved a level of popularity with children, and the 2007 Hot Wheels release of the 1970s Firebird Trans Am has "scum bum" emblazoned on its tail. The TV prints of the first two Bandit films are still shown regularly on television, although a few TV stations aired the unedited version in recent years as some of the phraseology (i.e. "(son of a) bitch", "ass", etc.) became more acceptable on TV.

The original actors mostly redubbed their own lines for the television version except for Gleason. Actor Henry Corden, who voiced Fred Flintstone after original performer Alan Reed died, was used to replace a considerable amount of Sheriff Justice's dialogue. This is fitting, as Fred Flintstone was a parody/homage of Gleason's character Ralph Kramden and The Flintstones was a parody/homage of The Honeymooners.

In the UK, the heavily dubbed version was shown for a number of years, particularly by the BBC. However, in more recent years, the original version has been shown (on ITV, a commercial channel), usually with the stronger language edited out, often quite awkwardly and noticeably.

The theatrical release itself had a few lines deleted, including a creative edit in which Sheriff Justice tells a sheriff's deputy to "fuck off." His expletive is obscured when a passing big rig sounds its horn. At the time, using the 'F' word would immediately require an R rating which the producers were looking to avoid. This clever self-censorship allowed the film to avoid this rating and reach a much larger audience.

In 2006, a DVD re-release was issued of Smokey and the Bandit featuring a digitally-remastered audio track with 5.1 Dolby-compatible surround sound. It should be noted however that many of the film's original sounds were replaced. For instance, the diesel engine start and run up sequence in the opening sequence of the film was completely dubbed over with a totally new sound. A few other examples of "sound effect replacement" occur when Bandit takes off after managing to get a reluctant Cledus involved in the bet, and after he comes to a screeching halt on a roadway moments before picking up Carrie. Some of the original sound effects (such as Cledus' dog Fred's barking) and music (such as the final chase to the Southern Classic) were removed and not replaced. (Note: earlier DVD releases of the film have the original soundtrack intact.)

Major portions of the audio 'background' have been modified with different engine sounds or tire squeals from the original film. The updated version of the film features sounds inaccurate for what would be produced by the Trans Am or the numerous other Pontiac vehicles in the film. The original film had correct sounds that were usually recorded live as the action took place.

Some TV versions also feature a longer version of the scene where Cledus wades into the pond after Fred.[12]

Spinoff[edit]

A television series was aired in 1994. The car featured is a Dodge Stealth.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (A)". British Board of Film Classification. 1977-06-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g How "Smokey and the Bandit" Was Born. CNN Money. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  3. ^ "Greyhound - Lakewood Park (Atlanta, Georgia, USA)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Niver Western Wear Corporate Records
  5. ^ http://www.hankstruckpictures.com/forum01/index.php?topic=1459.0[dead link]
  6. ^ Author Unknown. "BREWING: The Beer That Won the West" Time. 11 February 1974. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,908509,00.html
  7. ^ Koerth-Baker, Maggie. "How the Bandit, Coors and a bunch of Makers changed the course of booze history". Boing Boing. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Various – Smokey And The Bandit (Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Smokey and the Bandit, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ Maltin, Leonard, ed. (2003). Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide: 2004 Edition. Penguin. 
  11. ^ Smokey and the Bandit, Movie Reviews. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  12. ^ Video on YouTube[dead link]

External links[edit]