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
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • May 27, 1977 (1977-05-27)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.3 million[2]
Box office $300 million[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. The film was the directorial debut for stuntman Hal Needham. 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.


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 sold legally 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 racer running in the Southern Classic 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. But by the same token (and via CB radio), Bandit and Snowman are helped along the way by many colorful characters, including a hearse driver, 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; state and local police have stepped up their pursuit with more cruisers, larger roadblocks, and even a police helicopter to track Bandit's movements. With four miles still to go, and discouraged by the unexpected mounting attention, Bandit is about to throw in the towel, but Snowman refuses to listen and takes the lead, smashing through the roadblock at the entrance to the fairgrounds. They arrive back at Lakewood Speedway (while the Southern Classic race is running) with only 10 minutes to spare, but instead of taking the payoff, Frog and Bandit accept Little Enos' double-or-nothing offer: running up to Boston and bringing back clam chowder in another 18 hours. They quickly duck out in one of Big Enos' Cadillac convertibles, passing Sheriff Justice's badly damaged police car by the side of the road. Initially, Bandit 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.



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 and that the film was aimed at a more mainstream release, as Reed would now portray Bandit's friend Snowman (Reed would eventually play the Bandit in Smokey and the Bandit Part III).

At that time, Reynolds was the #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] Just 2 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. Needham and assistant director David Hamburger spent 30 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 Police Chief of Riviera Beach, Florida. His father was also the inspiration for the word "sumbitch" used in the film, an apparent mispronunciation of the phrase "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) wasn't in the original story but rather as Gleason's idea.

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

The movie was primarily filmed 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, Georgia State Route 400, I-85 (Pleasant Hill exit), 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 featuring 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 period of time and was repainted for the film. It was destroyed in Smokey and the Bandit II and a flashback scene used in the third.[4]

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 (4.8 km) 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.[5] 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.

Needham saw an advertisement for the soon to be released 1977 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 four 1977 Trans Ams and 2 Pontiac LeMans 4-door sedans would be provided for the movie. The Trans Ams were actually 1976 model cars with '77 front ends. The decals were also changed to 1977 style units, as evidenced by the engine size callouts on the hood scoop being in liters rather than cubic inches as had been the case in 1976. The hood scoop on these cars says "6.6 LITRE", which in 1977 would have denoted an Oldsmobile 403 equipped car or a non W-72, 180 hp version of the 400 Pontiac engine. All four of the cars were badly damaged during production,[6] 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. 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 LeMans were both barely running and the other cars had become parts donors to keep them running. The Burdettes' car is a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible painted in a "Candy Red" color scheme, and is seen briefly at the beginning of the movie and as Bandit, Snowman, Fred, 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 trims, 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 because there is no fuel tank on the underside of the trailer to fuel the refrigeration unit and the unit is never heard running.[7]

In 1977, Coors was unavailable for sale east of Oklahoma. A 1974 Time magazine article 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 future Vice President Gerald Ford hid it in his luggage after a trip to Colorado in order to take it back to Washington. President Dwight D. 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.[8] 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.[9]

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

While made to take advantage of the ongoing 1970's CB radio fad, the film itself added to the craze.[10]

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.


Smokey And The Bandit: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album to the film Smokey and the Bandit by Various artists
Released 1977 (1977)
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.[11]

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


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,[12] making it the 2nd 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."[13]

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.[14]

American Film Institute Lists

Trans Am[edit]

After the debut of the movie the Trans Am became wildly popular with sales almost doubling in two years of the film's release, to the delight of General Motors.[15] Reynolds was given the 1977 vehicle used during promotion of the film as a gift, though the car itself never actually appeared in the film. In 2014, due to financial difficulties Reynolds put up for auction his vast collection of artwork and memorabilia, including the Trans Am. High estimates for the car was $80K, but that was dwarfed by the actual sales price of $450K. Also up for auction was a go-kart replica of the car, which sold for nearly $14K.[16]

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.[17]


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (A)". British Board of Film Classification. 1977-06-13. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g How "Smokey and the Bandit" Was Born. CNN Money. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  3. ^ "BREWING: The Beer That Won the West". Time. February 11, 1974. 
  4. ^ "Greyhound - Lakewood Park (Atlanta, Georgia, USA)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  5. ^ Niver Western Wear Corporate Records
  6. ^ "How "Smokey and the Bandit" was born". Fortune. 
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^ Author Unknown. "BREWING: The Beer That Won the West" Time. 11 February 1974.,9171,908509,00.html
  9. ^ Koerth-Baker, Maggie. "How the Bandit, Coors and a bunch of Makers changed the course of booze history". Boing Boing. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Various – Smokey And The Bandit (Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Smokey and the Bandit, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  13. ^ Maltin, Leonard, ed. (2003). Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide: 2004 Edition. Penguin. 
  14. ^ Smokey and the Bandit, Movie Reviews. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Nunez, Alex (15 December 2014). "Burt Reynolds' Bandit Trans Am sells for $450,000". Road & Track. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Video on YouTube[dead link]

External links[edit]