Smokey and the Bandit

Smokey and the Bandit is a 1977 American 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 (originally known as Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again in the U.K., New Zealand and Australia), and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3. There were also a series of 1994 television movies (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 movies introduced two generations of the Pontiac Trans Am (while the TV-movie version drives the Dodge Stealth). The film was the second highest grossing film of 1977, beaten only by Star Wars.



As the movie begins, rich Texas wheeler and 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. Unfortunately, due to federal liquor laws and state liquor tax regulations of the time, selling and/or shipping Coors east of the Mississippi River was considered bootlegging, and the truck drivers who had taken the bet previously had been discovered and arrested by "Smokey(s)" (truck driver and CB slang for highway patrolmen). At a local truck rodeo, the Texans locate legendary truck driver Bo "Bandit" Darville (Burt Reynolds) and offer him US$80,000 (US$283,000 in 2009 dollars), the price of a new truck, to haul 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, Texas (the easternmost part of the country where Coors was legal) to the "Southern Classic" truck rodeo in Georgia— in 28 hours, driving a total of 1800 miles. Bandit accepts the bet and recruits fellow trucker Cledus "Snowman" Snow (Jerry Reed) to drive the truck (Snow 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 himself as a "blocker" car to deflect attention away from the truck and its cargo.

The duo reach Texas ahead of schedule, load their truck with Coors, and immediately head back towards Georgia. Shortly thereafter, Bandit picks up professional dancer and apparent runaway bride Carrie (Sally Field), whom he nicknames "Frog" because she was "always hopping around", and that "he would like to jump her". However, by picking up Carrie, Bo becomes the target of 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.

The remainder of the film is essentially one big high-speed chase, as Bandit and Frog attract continuous attention from local and state police 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, causing the vehicle's roof to come off and Junior to hold his father's hat on his head the whole way. Bandit and Snowman are greatly assisted by a number of colorful characters met 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.

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, underscored by "Marching Through Georgia" as their vehicles roar into the grounds. Instead of taking their payoff, they accept the Texans' new offer to drive to Boston and bring back clam chowder in 18 hours, double or nothing. As they are leaving for Boston in one of Big Enos' Cadillacs (leaving him an even dozen), they see Justice's badly damaged car 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 shouts "I'm not giving up!" and resumes his pursuit as pieces drag from his battered patrol car, while his son runs behind him, begging his father not to leave him behind, saying, "Who's going to hold your hat?".


Actor Character Handle
Burt Reynolds Bo Darville "Bandit"
Sally Field Carrie "Frog"
Jerry Reed Cledus Snow "Snowman"
Jackie Gleason Sheriff Buford T. Justice "Smokey Bear"

Additional Cast


Director Hal Needham originally planned the film as a low budget B movie, with Jerry Reed as the Bandit. It wasn't until Needham's old friend Burt Reynolds read the script and said he'd do it that the movie 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).

"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.

Reportedly, director Hal 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 get studio attention after his friend, Burt Reynolds, agreed to star in the film.

The movie was filmed primarily in Georgia in the cities of McDonough, Jonesboro, and Lithonia. The scenes in Texarkana were filmed in Jonesboro and the surrounding area, and many of the chase scenes were filmed in the surrounding areas on Hwy 54 between Fayetteville and Jonesboro for a majority of the driving scenes, Mundy's Mill Road, Main Street in Jonesboro, Hwy 400, I-85, and in McDonough. The scene where they drive through the Shell gas station, was however, filmed in Ojai, CA 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 first Smokey and the Bandit film. It was destroyed in the second film and a flash back scene used in the third.[1]

The film made use of three modified black 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am "Special Editions" that were each built according to the required stuntwork. All were damaged during the rigors of filming the stunts. The particular car used to jump over the bridge towards the middle of the movie was reportedly totaled doing the stunt. The bridge itself, though no longer used for traffic, was still intact prior to filming. The middle section was demolished by the film-makers for the stunt.

The movie also used two Pontiac LeMans cars, again donated by Pontiac. All five cars were more or less destroyed by the end of shooting, with only one model of each car barely running by then, mostly due to cannibalizing the other three cars. The 1977 Trans Am "Special Edition" model used in the movie traces back to a GM Design show car created for Bill Mitchell (VP of Design) for the 1974 GM Division Show Circuit. Bill liked the Lotus F1 race car "John Player Special" livery and used that Black and Gold paint scheme to create the car.

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 mural trailer used was manufactured by Hobbs Trailers in Texas with a Thermo King Refrigeration unit.[2]

Though the 1975 film Moonrunners is considered the precursor to the 1979-1985 TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard", the popularity of Smokey and the Bandit and similar films of the day led to the creation of the "Dukes" series. 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).


The theme music, "East Bound and Down", was sung by Jerry Reed 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'.


Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a good rating (3 stars out of a possible 4) and characterized the film this way in his Movie Guide annual: "About as subtle as The Three Stooges, but a classic compared to the sequels and countless rip-offs which followed." The film was nominated for Best Film Editing (Walter Hannemann and Angelo Ross) in the Academy Awards.

Television censorship and alternate versions

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 1970's 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 Jackie 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 TV show was a parody/homage of The Honeymooners.

In the United Kingdom, 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 of the movie 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 (although it is quite probable that this was done for comedic effect as much as actual censorship).

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.)

See also