Viking Night: Smokey and the Bandit
By Bruce Hall
February 6, 2014
In a world that ran on oily charm and the ability to wear incredibly tight pants, Burt Reynolds would be a living God.
Well, that world was the 1970s. And Reynolds was a man who could do whatever he wanted, wherever he wanted, to whomever he wanted, all while sporting an absolutely primal Class XII porn star moustache. There was nothing he couldn’t have, so imagine everyone’s surprise when Burt took a liking to the script for a low budget, screwball road comedy called Smokey and the Bandit. This was a strange and wondrous time in our nation’s history, when people talked on their CB radios about how much they loved shaggy hair, ugly polyester clothes, boxy, gas guzzling cars and human sacrifices. Or…whatever else people did for fun in the 1970s. It was the Age of Burt, and there is no better example of the man's total entertainment dominance than Smokey and the Bandit.
“Smokey” is what truckers call highway patrolmen. I don’t know why, probably for the same reason people named “Buddy” are always so unlikeable. “Bandit” is the nickname of Bo Darville (Mr. Reynolds), a legendary truck driver/smuggler/womanizer/moustache enthusiast from Georgia. One day, Bandit is approached by a pair of high rolling Texas millionaires with a potentially lucrative dare. For the princely sum of $80,000, Bandit will drive his truck to a predetermined location, procure 400 cases of (at the time) hard to find Coors beer and smuggle it back in time for a party…or something. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that I can’t believe anyone would go through that much trouble to get Coors. I live about 20 miles from where they make it, and don’t know anybody who drinks it.
But enough about what kind of cheap nasty beer I don’t drink.
Bandit accepts the assignment, and recruits his best friend Snowman (Jerry Reed) to drive the truck. Meanwhile, Bandit will distract the police by driving ahead in a more Burt-Appropriate vehicle. This would be the same blazing fast 1977 Pontiac Trans Am with T tops and ultra bitchin’ rims that was on every block in America the very next year. The plan works brilliantly, as they pick up the beer ahead of schedule and head back with plenty of time to spare. Any time the police show interest in the truck, Bandit plies them away, and looks like a total badass doing it. Then, he almost runs over Sally Field in a wedding dress. More specifically, a runaway bride named Carrie (played by Sally Field) who is totally legal, but still small enough to change clothes in the front seat of a Trans Am. This is also a very Burt-Appropriate thing, as evidenced by the easy onscreen banter between both actors.
You simply cannot rehearse that.