Of the two biggest franchise-launchers of 1977, one involved a pair of rebellious outlaws with a shaggy sidekick, a runaway heroine, a Mutt-and-Jeff pair of tall-short comic relief characters, epic-length chases, spectacular stunts, and endless vehicular mayhem. The other was “Star Wars.”
Yep, we’re talkin’ “Smokey and the Bandit,” which opened 35 years ago this week (on May 27, 1977) and wound up grossing more money than any movie that year except for George Lucas’ interstellar road adventure. It also launched a truckload of sequels on film and TV, gave Burt Reynolds his most iconic role, helped make movie stars out of country guitarist Jerry Reed and TV sitcom starlet Sally Field, provided a career comeback for Jackie Gleason, and sent Pontiac Trans Am sales soaring.
Still, as popular as Reynolds and his muscle car were, there’s plenty about “Smokey and the Bandit” that you may not know. Read on to learn Bandit’s real name, the film’s unlikely Oscar history, and the story of the real-life Buford T. Justice….