White Lightning (1973 film)
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
|Directed by||Joseph Sargent|
|Produced by||Arthur Gardner
Jules V. Levy
|Written by||William W. Norton|
|Music by||Charles Bernstein|
|Edited by||George Nicholson|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$6.5 million (US/ Canada rentals)|
White Lightning is a 1973 American action film directed by Joseph Sargent, written by William W. Norton, and stars Burt Reynolds as the main character Robert "Gator" McKlusky, Jennifer Billingsley, Ned Beatty, Bo Hopkins, R.G. Armstrong, Diane Ladd and Laura Dern in her film debut in an uncredited role.
Bobby "Gator" McKlusky (Burt Reynolds) is serving time in an Arkansas prison for running moonshine when he learns his younger brother Donny was murdered and that Sheriff J.C. Connors (Ned Beatty) was the one behind it. Gator knows the sheriff is taking money from local moonshiners, so he agrees to go undercover for the Feds and try to expose the sheriff. He gets a job running moonshine with Roy Boone (Bo Hopkins) and starts having an affair with his girlfriend Lou (Jennifer Billingsley). Eventually, when the sheriff discovers Gator is working for the Feds and sends his enforcer Big Bear (Armstrong), Gator decides to go after the sheriff in an epic car chase finale.
- Burt Reynolds as Gator McKlusky
- Jennifer Billingsley as Lou
- Ned Beatty as Sheriff J.C. Connors
- Bo Hopkins as Roy Boone
- Matt Clark as Dude Watson
- Louise Latham as Martha Culpepper
- Diane Ladd as Maggie
- R. G. Armstrong as Big Bear
- Conlan Carter as Deputy
- Dabbs Greer as Pa McKlusky
- Lincoln Demyan as Warden
- John Steadman as Skeeter
- Iris Korn as Ma McKlusky
- Stephanie Burchfield as Jenny
- Barbara Muller as Louella
- Laura Dern as Sharon Anne, Maggie's daughter (uncredited)
Reynolds called the film "the beginning of a whole series of films made in the South, about the South and for the South. No one cares if the picture was ever distributed north of the Mason-Dixon line because you could make back the cost of the negative just in Memphis alone. Anything outside of that was just gravy. It was a well done film. Joe Sergeant is an excellent director. He's very, very good with actors. And it had some marvellous people in it whom nobody had seen before. Ned Beatty for example. I had to fight like hell to get Ned in the film."
The film's music was written by A Nightmare on Elm Street's Charles Bernstein. Some of this score was also used by Quentin Tarantino in his 2003 film Kill Bill: Volume 1 and his 2009 film Inglourious Basterds. Bernstein's score was released by Intrada Records in May 2010.
On the TV series Archer, the movie and its sequel are favorites of the title character, Sterling Archer, though he believes Gator to be the stronger installment. He gets the movies easily crossed, though, as he believes several key scenes from White Lightning to be in the sequel.
- "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 46
- Variety. film review; June 6, 1973.
- Workaholic Burt Reynolds sets up his next task: Light comedy Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 28 Nov 1976: e2.