Over and out from the original Bandit

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 7, 2018

News that Hollywood actor Burt Reynolds has died will stir memories of his iconic seventies comedy action film, Smokey and the Bandit, a favourite with many truckers.

Reynolds died 6 September at the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida. He had been recovering in hospital from a short illness and is believed to have suffered a heart attack.

Reynolds was born 11 February 1936. He first rose to prominence starring in television series such as Gunsmoke (1962–1965), Hawk (1966), and Dan August (1970–1971).

His breakout film role was as Lewis Medlock in Deliverance. He went on to play the leading role in a number of box office hits, including Smokey and the Bandit, which was the directorial debut of stuntman Hal Needham. It inspired several other trucking films, including two sequels, Smokey and the Bandit II and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.

Smokey and the Bandit was the story of wealthy Texan Big Enos Burdette and his son Little Enos, who were looking for a truck driver willing to bootleg Coors beer to Georgia for them. At the time, Coors was regarded as one of the finest beers in the United States, but it could not be legally sold east of the Mississippi River. Truck drivers who had taken the bet previously had been caught and arrested by ‘Smokey‘ (CB slang for highway patrol officers, referring to the Smokey Bear–type hats worn in some states).

The Burdettes find legendary trucker Bo ‘Bandit‘ Darville (Reynolds) competing in a truck rodeo at Lakewood Fairgrounds in Atlanta and offer him $80,000 to haul 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, Texas back to Atlanta in 28 hours. Bandit accepts the bet and recruits his partner Cledus ‘Snowman‘ Snow to drive the truck, while Bandit drives the ‘blocker‘, a black Pontiac Trans Am bought on an advance from the Burdettes, to divert attention away from the truck and its illegal cargo.

Needless to say, the run does not go smoothly and the bulk of the film is one lengthy high-speed chase, as Bandit’s antics attract more and more attention from local and state police across Dixie while Snowman barrels on toward Atlanta with the contraband beer. Bandit and Snowman are helped along the way via CB radio by many colourful characters, including the drivers of a convoy of trucks.