Burt Reynolds was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood between the years of 1978 and 1982. This impressive five-year streak was no doubt caused by the overwhelming success of Smokey and the Bandit, released theatrically in 1977.
The film came in second in box office revenue for 1977 behind Star Wars and was one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite films. Hal Needham worked with Burt on several prior movies as a stunt coordinator, but Smokey was his first effort as a writer and director.
The potent combination of Needham as director and Reynolds as the leading man would go on to massive money-making success in the following years, with efforts like Hooper (1978), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981), Stroker Ace (1983), and Cannonball Run II (1984).
The film also made a star of the Bandit’s black 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, skyrocketing sales of the model for several years after.
What Makes Smokey And The Bandit A Sports Betting Movie?
The plot of this sports betting movie involves a wager that father and son duo Little Enos and Big Enos make with the Bandit. The bet challenges Smokey to drive from Atlanta, Georgia, to Texarkana, Texas, and return with a semi-load of Coors beer in 28 hours or less. If he can accomplish the feat, he’ll receive $80,000.
To help with this task, the Bandit gets his buddy, Snowman, to drive the semi that will haul the Coors back to GA. To clear the path for Snowman, Bandit will block out in front using his Trans Am in order to draw the cops away.
Today, that trip is 19 hours round trip by way of Interstate 20. However, in 1977, largely thanks to the gas shortage crisis, the national speed limit was set to 55 miles per hour by President Jimmy Carter.
If they maintain a speed of 55 MPH for the entire 670-mile trip, it would take roughly 24.5 hours to make the journey. That would give Bandit and Snowman less than 3.5 hours to load the truck with the beer.
The prop bet sets the two off on an adventure where they encounter a runaway bride, played by Sally Field. Her former fiance is the son of the local county mountie in that area of Texas, expertly played by Jackie Gleason.
Gleason, known as Smokey, wants to catch Field (Frog) and return her to the wedding altar, and also capture the glory of being the first to bust the Bandit.
The pursuit takes up the bulk of the remaining running time and results in epic comedic hijinks, finishing with a climactic double-down of the initial wager that promises further capers.
If this great sports betting film has somehow eluded you, we advise that you digest this crucial piece of Southern culture from a bygone era as soon as possible. Also, do not miss the documentary “The Bandit,” detailing Burt and Hal Needham’s professional and personal relationship before, during, and after making Bandit.