Then & Now: Smokey And The Bandit

Geoff Harris

“Hold on to your ass, Fred!”

Smokey and The Bandit (1977) is a very simple tale about a bet, a pursuit, and the mayhem it causes. Burt Reynolds’s breakout film follows him and his truck driving partner, Jerry Reed, as they run a shipment of Coors beer illegally across state lines as part of a contest between a morally-ambiguous father and son duo. Reynolds is “The Bandit”, whose job is to run blockade for Reed’s “Snowman” in a ’77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Bandit meets up with Sally Field, who gains the nickname “Frog’  because she has a difficult time staying still for long periods of time. (Among other reasons.) They are soon pursued by Sheriff Bufford T. Justice played by an aged Jackie Gleason, who steals every scene he’s in. The man makes the Terminator look like a two-hump chump.  It ain’t rocket science, people.


Most of my recollection is of fast cars and dialog I really only half-heard. I remember being told not to repeat certain words I may hear. Sheriff Justice is a Shakespearean poet with certain more colorful words in the American vocabulary. I wanted a Hot Wheels version of that car so badly. I would stumble across the movie several dozen times over the decades. It became an old friend. Each viewing opened a new aspect I may have missed or didn’t catch the first time. Some movies really earn the title “iconic.”


I was sitting around one afternoon and thought about how I hadn’t seen Smokey And The Bandit for a while. Sure as spring rain, it was on some channel or another. I sat and rewatched it. It’s interesting to think about how movies influence society. I remember the CB Radio craze and its reemergence in the Nineties.  There really wouldn’t be a Fast and Furious without this movie. (Yes, argue with me.) It’s a slice of life romp. No big explosions needed. A well-balanced albeit somewhat unlikely story. Reynolds pretty much is playing himself. Gleason to this day makes me laugh my ass off with his scene chewing rants. Depending on the company you keep, if you start singing the opening lines to “Eastbound and Down” the room will cease all activity as everyone starts singing with you. We learned the lingo of the long-distance trucker; “Smokey” as in Smokey the Bear is the Police. Bubble gum machine is a Police car. 10-100 & 10-200. (If you don’t know those you’re father needs a kick in the ass or has never taken you on a car trip.) I could probably go on but that’s what the Internet is for, which didn’t exist in 1977 so people actually talked to each other to share information. CB and HAM Radio were kings. We rode bicycles until the glorious day we turned 18 and could get a license to drive. Some of you were possibly conceived in the backseat of a car. Maybe even the same car you suffered in on those never-ending road trips to Grandmother’s house. (Enjoy the therapy over that. Was the spot still warm from your parents coupling?)

Note: If you were to even try anything close to what they do in this movie I’m fairly sure the Department of Transportation and Homeland Security will brand you as a Domestic Terrorist and throw you in a nice quiet cell. Of course, at these gas prices, it would be an honest miracle you made it between gas stations much less outrun four states worth of cops. But hey, I bet you could if you really really try.

Gimme $500 on The Bandit…

One thought on “Then & Now: Smokey And The Bandit

  1. I STILL love the movie too! I liked Burt Reynolds a LOT as an actor, both for his philosophy (make movies that are fun, and ignore the critics) and for his professionalism. Did you know he ran an acting school?


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