History, Legacy & Showmanship
Saturday, 27 May 2017 14:47

Still East Bound and Down: Remembering “Smokey and the Bandit” on its 40th Anniversary

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“What we have here is a total lack of respect for the law!”

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective article commemorating the 40th anniversary of the release of Smokey and the Bandit, the popular action comedy starring Burt Reynolds as Bo (aka Bandit), Sally Field as Carrie (aka Frog), Jerry Reed as Cledus (aka Snowman), and Jackie Gleason as the unforgettable Sheriff Buford T. Justice of Portague County. [Read on here...]

Smokey and the Bandit, the directorial debut of former stuntman Hal Needham, opened 40 years ago this month, and for the occasion The Bits features a compilation of statistics, trivia and box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context; passages from vintage film reviews; a reference/historical listing of the film’s first-run theatrical engagements; and, finally, an interview segment with 1970s film authority Lee Pfeiffer.

Smokey and the Bandit



  • 1 = Box-office rank among films in the Bandit series
  • 1 = Box-office rank among films directed by Hal Needham
  • 1 = Box-office rank among films starring Burt Reynolds (adjusted for inflation)
  • 1 = Number of Academy Award nominations
  • 1 = Number of opening-week engagements
  • 1 = Number of weeks North America’s top-grossing movie (week #2)
  • 1 = Rank among top-earning movies during first weekend of “wide” release
  • 2 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1977 (calendar year)
  • 2 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1977 (summer season)
  • 3 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1977 (legacy)
  • 3 = Rank among Universal’s all-time top-earning movies at close of original run
  • 6 = Number of sequels, remakes and spin-offs
  • 8 = Rank on all-time list of top box-office earners at close of original release
  • 12 = Rank among top-earning movies of the 1970s
  • 27 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement
  • 36 = Number of months between theatrical release and home-video release
  • 71 = Rank on current list of all-time top-grossing films (adjusted for inflation)
  • 386 = Number of opening-week engagements (Week #2; first week “wide”)
  • $29.95 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (videodiscs)
  • $79.95 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (Beta & VHS)
  • $1.7 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (3-day; May 27-29)
  • $2.3 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (4-day holiday; May 27-30)
  • $4.3 million = Production cost
  • $9.4 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
  • $17.4 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $61.1 million = Box-office rental (domestic)
  • $126.7 million = Box-office gross (domestic)
  • $198.5 million = Box-office gross (domestic; entire Bandit series)
  • $246.4 million = Box-office rental (domestic, adjusted for inflation)
  • $511.4 million = Box-office gross (domestic, adjusted for inflation)
  • $721.6 million = Box-office gross (domestic; entire Bandit series; adjusted for inflation)


Smokey and the Bandit



Smokey and the Bandit is a good summer saturation comedy entry starring Burt Reynolds as a bootlegger-for-kicks who, with Jerry Reed and Sally Field, outwit zealous sheriff Jackie Gleason…. [S]tunt coordinator Hal Needham’s directorial debut is promising. The Universal release should perform well in fast playoff, and be a serviceable dual bill partner thereafter.” — A.D. Murphy, Variety

Smokey and the Bandit tries hard to be a Good Ole Movie and sometimes succeeds. Burt Reynolds, with high-pitched laugh and constant good spirits, plays the trucking hero; and if his style is too practiced to be called casual, it at least fits the mood of the picture. [I]t’s basically a B movie, but with fancy wrappings. It’s also a reverse snob. It takes genuine pride in its lack of pretentions and wallows in its mediocrity.” — Philip Wuntch, The Dallas Morning News

Smokey and the Bandit is for everybody who is crazy about Burt Reynolds, crazy about cars, crazy about car chases, crazy about CB radio.” — Gene Shalit, The Today Show

“[Smokey and the Bandit] is the kind [of movie] you enjoy when you don’t mind staying awake but are too tired to think. It is not unmitigated good fun even at its own level of internally combusted slapstick. Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed are pleasant to be around, and Sally Field turns the extraordinary feat of being wistfully sweet, sympathetic and funny in a part you’d have said was left on the doorstep in a blizzard. Jackie Gleason, stuck as the story’s buffoon-villain, a sorghumland sheriff with the wit and charm of a stalled steamroller, gets lines that fall on the far side of whatever divides witty irascibility from loud nastiness.” — Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times

“Jaunty fun.” — Richard Schickel, Time

Smokey and the Bandit is an hour and a half and maybe two dozen wrecked police cars long. Most of its dialogue consists of braying into CB microphones about ‘go-go juice’ and courses of action being ‘negatory.’ For those with no passion for mumbling cryptic southernisms at strangers, the film is sheer purgatory.” — Desmond Ryan, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Reynolds is tough because he can drive fast. Reynolds is sweet because he smiles. For my money, Reynolds and his cracker act are as phony as a three-dollar bill. The man reeks of Las Vegas, from his dapper moustache to his turquoise jewelry, and all his CB lingo (‘Hey there, good buddy’) can’t disguise the fact that he looks like he belongs behind a roulette wheel.” — David Rosenbaum, The Boston Herald American

Smokey and the Bandit is the latest Good Ol’ Movie from Burt Reynolds, who does this sort of thing better than anyone else (even if he doesn’t always convince us that it should be done at all). It’s basically a chase movie, and chases have been the staple of the movies, almost since they were invented. Chases used to be mostly on foot or horseback; now they’re in cars. The American movie going public seems to be ready for at least one big one a year.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Gleason’s performance as Sheriff Justice is one of the corniest jobs of overacting I’ve sat through in years.” — Clyde Gilmour, Toronto Star

“Sally Field is kooky and appealing as the runaway bride. And there’s such a noticeable chemistry between her and Reynolds you wonder what went on between the two when the cameras weren’t rolling.” — Charles Brock, The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union

Smokey and the Bandit combines the public’s infatuation for car chases with the current Citizen Band radio fad. Practically the entire film, in fact, is one long car chase. It’s raucous, raunchy and infantile. But the fact that the movie is also contemporary, slapstick and jiving with current CB jargon will make it attractive to those in the mood for a fast-paced comedy adventure. For me, it was a crashing bore.” — Donna Chernin, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

“With Mr. Reynolds playing it cool and Mr. Gleason doing his burns and investing the film with a certain raunchy humor, the rest is up to the vehicles. And they don’t do anything that hasn’t been seen before.” — Lawrence Van Gelder, The New York Times

“Pure idiocy.” — Gannett News Service

“It has considerably less charm than W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, another Reynolds ‘Southern’ that made it big only in the South, and its comedy formula and techniques are so crude and slapdash that it’s less like a typical ‘Southern’ than a particularly obnoxious Disney chase comedy — this time with abusive anti-cop and toilet jokes…. Take out the outhouse humor and the CB radio gadgetry, replace Gleason with Don Knotts, Reynolds with Dean Jones and Field with Suzanne Pleshette, and you’ve got Herbie Rides Again.” — John Hartl, The Seattle Times

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