Smokey and the Bandit – Behind the Scenes Fun Facts!
Smokey and the Bandit was an action comedy film with just a touch of romance. It was released in 1977 and starred Burt Reynolds as the Bandit (Bo Darville), Jerry Reed as the Snowman (Cletus Snow), Sally Field as Frog (Carrie), Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice, (Smokey), Mike Henry as Junior Justice, Pat McCormick as Big Enos Burdette, Paul Williams as Little Enos Burdette and Macon McCalman as Mr. B. A stellar cast, for sure!
The 1970s was a noteworthy era in pop culture. Several box office movie hits, of all genres, came out including The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and American Graffiti as well as many others. Among those movies was Smokey and the Bandit. Aside from being culturally relevant at the time, it was the 2nd highest money maker of 1977; second only to Star Wars, that is.
If you have ever seen the movie, I’m sure you probably remember that Sheriff Justice was on a relentless pursuit to apprehend, Bandit, a bootlegger who was on a mission to illegally transport alcohol over state lines. The Sheriff (repeatedly) referred to the Bandit as, “sumbitch”. The reason being that the Bandit embarrassed him professionally by continually outsmarting him. The story itself was comical but, like with all movie productions, there was more than met the eye.
Below are some fun facts you may not have known or may have even forgotten:
• Although the Bandit drove a fast and furious Trans Am in the movie, his character was a truck driver by trade -- in the '70s, truckers were popular on-screen protagonists, fighting the man fight in such films as Convoy, White Line Fever, and Every Which Way But Loose.
• The inspiration for the movie plot/script was based on a real-life experience of the writer after a hotel housekeeper stole the Coors beer out of his refrigerator, which was not legally sold in that state at the time.
• Jerry Reed, who portrayed the Snowman, was originally thought of to play the part of Bandit but was otherwise engaged in another film.
• The original plan was to have Sheriff Buford in pursuit of the Bandit on his own. Junior was added to the cast at the request/suggestion of Jackie Gleason.
• Mike Henry, who played, Junior, was a former Pittsburg Steelers linebacker. Thanks to his sturdy, manly appearance, he was cast in a few films other than Smokey and the Bandit.
• Sally Field had built her career as a comedic actress on TV in the series Gidget and The Flying Nun. In the '70s, feeling the sting of typecasting, Field set out to reinvent herself as a serious actress, and her training paid off with the TV movie Sybil, for which she won the Emmy for Best Actress for her portrayal of a woman with multiple-personality disorder. Though the role of Frog (Carrie) may have seemed a retreat into bubbly-girl comedy, for Field it was a needed break. Turns out the knew what she was doing -- two years after Smokey, Field won the Best Actress Oscar for Norma Rae.
• Entertainment great Jackie Gleason’s roles were ad-libbed and/or written by him. He rarely spoke the words of the written script.
• Brooklyn-born Gleason had portrayed the quintessential working-class New Yorker, bus driver Ralph Kramden, on the trailblazing sitcom The Honeymooners. It was by no means a sure thing that he'd be able to backwoods drawl and mannerisms of sheriff Buford T. Justice.
• Gleason also enjoyed his Bourbon on set … he called his drink of choice, “hamburgers”. He had a personal assistant who was at his beck and call to supply him with his hamburgers, as needed. Don’t judge him, though, it may have added to the overall success of the film.
• Alfred Hitchcock, director of such epic thrillers as Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo, was a huge fan of the Smokey and the Bandit, even though it was unsophisticated in comparison to his oeuvre.
• The Snowman’s big rig trailer was shown in a more recent episode of the now popular The Walking Dead series.
Typically, we want to see the “good guy” win but in this case, we all rooted for the rebel, Bandit, who won out in the end.
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