director Hal Needham
Growing up in the South (Gainesville, FL), I hated all things I considered Southern, from Confederate flags to Country music to chewing tobacco and even blue jeans. So, I had some disdain for Smokey and the Bandit in its heyday. Of course, I was young and naive and grouping things together that were not all of the same.
But even pretty far back in the day, I saw Smokey and the Bandit on TV and had to admit that it was pretty darn fun.
Smokey and the Bandit was a huge hit, grossing millions, second only to Star Wars in 1977. Interestingly, like Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit is a B-picture type of movie, pushed up into the A list blockbuster with star Burt Reynolds, but fitting into that paradigm in which genre fare elevated in status and popularity.
It’s also quite iconic in its way.
Hal Needham caught his lightning in a bottle with Reynolds and a very fun Sally Field, as well as a prime performance by Jackie Gleason. Apparently, the script was terrible and almost the entire movie was ad libbed, giving us sublime lines like:
“There is no way, no way, that you come from my loins. When I get home I’m gonna punch your mother in the mouth.”
The joyous fun is staked on a beer run from Texas to Georgia, coveting Coors for its apparent (at the time) lack of preservatives, though couldn’t be legally brought East of Texas.
For all its embrace of “Southernness”, it feels a bit like a Hollywood appropriation of the Southern (though it was apparently extremely popular in the South.) All redneck things considered, there is a lot of trucker diversity on display in the secret society of the CB radio.
Jerry Reed is also a lot of fun as Snowman, wingman to the Bandit, who contributed as well the number that would be his biggest hit, another stroke of magical luck in the movie, the so apropos “Eastbound and Down.”
Lastly, the Paul Williams “Mini me”, Little Enos to Pat McCormick’s Big Enos could have had a whole movie to themselves.