White Lightning (1973 film)

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White Lightning
White Lightning 1973.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Produced by Arthur Gardner
Jules V. Levy
Written by William W. Norton
Starring Burt Reynolds
Ned Beatty
Bo Hopkins
Music by Charles Bernstein
Cinematography Edward Rosson
Edited by George Nicholson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • August 8, 1973 (1973-08-08)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $6.5 million (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

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,[2] Jennifer Billingsley, Ned Beatty, Bo Hopkins, R.G. Armstrong, Diane Ladd and Laura Dern in her film debut in an uncredited role.

A sequel, Gator, was released in 1976.


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.



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."[3]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 46
  2. ^ Variety. film review; June 6, 1973.
  3. ^ Workaholic Burt Reynolds sets up his next task: Light comedy Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 28 Nov 1976: e2.

External links[edit]