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'10-4, good buddy.' 'Smokey and the Bandit' is turning 40

| Friday, May 19, 2017, 9:06 a.m.

Long before Vin Diesel every got behind the wheel in "Fast & Furious," there was Burt Reynolds and "Smokey and the Bandit." The comedy, car chase movie is marking its 40th anniversary this year.

To celebrate, you can go see the 1977 film on the big screen at 2 and 7 p.m. May 21 and 24 at Cinemark theaters in Monroeville Mall and Pittsburgh Mills mall in Fawn, and in the North Hills at McCandless Crossing and in Robinson at Settlers Ridge Center.

A 40th anniversary Blu-ray edition of the movie is due out July 11. Extras will include "The Bandit" documentary, the Smokey and the Bandit CB Tutorial "Snowman, What's Your 20?" and a look at the making of the movie.

For those of you to young to remember this campy, cult film, here's a little primer:

PLOT

Truck driver Bo "Bandit" Darville (Burt Reynolds) agrees to pick up beer in Texas and drive it to Georgia within 28 hours for Big Enos (Pat McCormick), who wants to drink Coors at a truck show. Bo picks up hitchhiker Carrie (Sally Field), attracting the attention of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), who is angry Carrie won't marry his son, A high-speed chase ensues.

STARS

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field starred in "Smokey and the Bandit."

Photo from Universal Pictures

 

Burt Reynolds was 40 and in the prime of his career when he played the Bandit. His hitchhiker companion, Sally Field, was 30 and was best known at the time for her roles in the TV shows "Gidget" and "The Flying Nun." She would go on to win two best actress Oscars for "Norma Rae" (1980) and "Places in the Heart" (1985) . She also was nominated for best supporting actress for 2012's "Lincoln." She's also won three Emmys — best lead actress in a special for "Sybil" (1977), best guest actress in a drama for "ER" (2001) and best lead actress for "Brothers & Sisters" (2007)

This movie is one of a handful of pictures that Reynolds made with his 1970s girlfriend Field. In every movie they made together, Field played Reynolds' girlfriend. The other movies are "Hooper" (1978), "Smokey and the Bandit II" (1980) and "The End" (1978).

TRIVIA

• "Smokey and the Bandit" was the second highest grossing movie released in 1977, next to the original "Star Wars" movie. "Smokey" was made for an estimated $4.3 million and grossed more than $126 million in the U.S. alone.

• This movie made the Pontiac Trans Am a superstar. Trans Am sales jumped from 68,745 in 1977 to 93,341 in 1978. And just one year later that number swelled to 117,108 units sold.

• The movie was based on a real Coors Banquet Beer problem. Coors was unavailable east of the Mississippi River, because the beer was not pasteurized and needed constant refrigeration, and couldn't legally be sold outside of 11 Western and Southwestern states.

• A majority of the lines and quotes spoken by Jackie Gleason (above with Mike Henry) as Sheriff Justice were improvised. His most famous line: "What we have here is a total lack of respect for the law!"

• Hal Needham, who once claimed to be the world's highest-paid stuntman and was an expert in car chases, made his directing debut with "Smokey and the Bandit."

• Jilted bridegroom Junior Justice was played by Mike Henry, who had an earlier career as a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams and played Tarzan in three movies.

Paul Williams (above with Pat McCormick), who played Little Enos, is a Grammy- and Oscar-winning songwriting superstar of the '70s whose hits include "Evergreen," "We've Only Just Begun," "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song," "Rainbow Connection" and the TV theme to "The Love Boat."

• "Smokey" was one of the inspirations for the popular TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard." In fact, three of its stars had bit parts in "Smokey": John Schneider (Bo Duke) as a cowboy extra, Ben Jones (Cooter) as a trucker, and Sonny Shroyer (Deputy Enos) as a motorcycle cop.

• Smokey and the Bandit received an Oscar nomination for editing (it lost to "Star Wars") and went on to spawn two sequels and four television movies

• Reynolds claimed the name of Jackie Gleason's character, Buford T. Justice, came from a real Florida highway patrolman known to his father, who was once chief of police of Jupiter, Fla.

Jerry Reed (above with Burt Reynolds), who starred as Bandit's friend Cledus, wrote the movie's hit theme song "East Bound and Down" overnight. The song went on to become one of Reed's biggest hits.

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