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15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Smokey And The Bandit

15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Smokey And The Bandit

15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Smokey And The Bandit
Danielle de Wolfe
13 January 2014

Fitting, is it not, that in the month of Movember, a month dedicated to the fineries of the 'stache and the good things it can do, that we doff out collective cap to a movie that showcased arguably the greatest soup strainer in silverscreen history. We refer, of course, to Burt Reynold's Bro-merang.

Here are 20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know about Smokey & The Bandit. Breaker-breaker...

(Images: Rex & YouTube) 


Every Wednesday Alfred Hitchcock would screen films on the lot in his office. The last one he screened before he died was one of his all time favourite films. You guessed it... Smokey and the Bandit.

What. A. Dude. 


The movie was a smash hit at the box office. Bankrolled with $4.3 million it grossed $126,737,428 in North America, making it the 3rd highest grossing movie of 1977 after Star Wars Episode IV and Close Encounters, according to IMDb.


When the movie first aired on US TV in the early 80s, censors overdubbed dialogue deemed offensive, with the most noted change being the replacement of Buford's often-spoken phrase "sumbitch" with the nonsense phrase "scum bum". This phrase achieved a level of popularity with children, and the 2007 Hot Wheels release of the 1970s Firebird Trans Am has "scum bum" emblazoned on its tail. Check it out


The original actors mostly redubbed their own lines for the TV version except for Jackie Gleason. Actor Henry Corden, one time voice of Fred Flintstone, was used to replace a considerable amount of Sheriff Justice's dialogue. It's fitting, as Fred Flintstone was homage of Gleason's The Honeymooners' character Ralph Kramden. In fact, The Flintstones in its entirety was an homage of The Honeymooners.


"Buford T. Justice" was the name of a real Florida Highway Patrolman known to Burt Reynolds' dad, who himself was once a Chief of Police. In fact Burt's old man was the inspiration for the word "sumbitch", a phrase Burt told Gleason he uttered often.


The movie made the Pontiac Trans Am a superstar. Sales jumped from 68,745 in 1977 to 93,341 in 1978. A year later they were shifting 117,108 cars. KITT from  Knight Rider, was a modified third generation Trans Am. 


According to director Hal Needham, Pontiac gave them three Trans Ams and two Bonnevilles (the Sheriff's patrol car) with which to shoot the film. Needham says that one of the Trans Ams was completely destroyed during the famous bridge jump scene.


The Trans Am for the bridge jump was equipped with a booster rocket, the same type which was used by Evel Knievel during his failed Snake River Canyon jump. Director Hal Needham, who was a paratrooper during the Korean War and a trained as a stuntman under John Wayne's double Chuck Roberson, stood in for Burt reynolds as the driver. Needham's stunts can be seen in How the West Was WonThe Bridge at Remagen and Little Big Man


Needham (pictured) was integral in designing and introducing air bags and other innovative equipment to the film stunt industry. He actually, at one time, lived in Burt Reynolds' guesthouse for the better part of 12 years. That's quite a long time, that. 


After the debut of the movie Burt Reynolds was promised a Trans Am for the rest of his life by the General Motors President. However, the Trans Am never arrived, and when Reynolds called GM, he was told that was the previous GM President that had made that promise had passed away, and the current GM President would not uphold the agreement. Reynolds eventually had to buy one. 


Needham came up with the idea for the film after he learned that transporting Coors beer east of the Mississippi was a bootlegging crime. A 1974 article in Time (three years before the movie) explained why Coors was so sought after and that people pay such a high price for it - it had a lack of stabilisers and preservatives. The article explains that Vice President Gerald Ford hid Coors in his luggage after a trip to Colorado, to take it back to Washington. President Eisenhower had a steady supply airlifted to Washington by the Air Force. The lack of additives and preservatives meant that Coors had the potential for spoiling in a week if it was not kept cold throughout its transportation and storage at its destination. This explains the 28 hour deadline the Bandit was on.


The diner scene with was not in the original story, it was Jackie Gleason's idea. Worth watching that scene if you have two minutes, right here. We reckon a Diablo sandwich and a Dr Pepper is the best order in history of mankind. Apparently a "Diablo sandwich" is like a "Sloppy Joe" but spicier. The Sloppy Joe spices are replaced with taco spices and the recipe might include hot sauce, canned corn and diced tomato. In some places jalapeño peppers are added. It's usually served on a hamburger bun. You're welcome.


The nickname Smokey is Citizens Band radio slang for State Patrol troopers because of their hats. Most states outfit them with what are properly called "campaign hats" with a "Montana crease". The hat with that type crease is of late 19th century vintage. It came to be called a "Smokey Bear hat" after the US Forest Service began publishing posters of their mascot wearing one in 1944.


(Image: Wikicommons, public domain)


This movie is one of a handful of pictures that Burt Reynolds made with his 1970s girlfriend Sally Field. In every movie they made together, Field played Reynolds' girlfriend. The movies are: Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Hooper (1978), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and The End (1978, pictured). Reynolds and Sally Field began dating during the filming of Smokey and the Bandit.


Given Needham's background as, predominantly, a stunt man he had great difficulty in getting any studios or producers to take his project seriously. He managed to obtain studio attention after his friend, Reynolds - who was at the time the number 1 box office star in the world - agreed to be in it. Burt took home $1 million for his role leaving Needham only $3.3 million to make the film.