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Bo Darville is known as The Bandit, a truck driving legend from Atlanta, Georgia. A business man, Big Enos Burdette, and his midget son, Little Enos Burdette hire him and his partner, Cledus Snow (known as the Snowman) to do some bootlegging. Bootlegging is when one takes illegal Coors Beer east of Texas. The Burdettes want Bandit and Snowman to get 400 cases of beer and bring it back within 28 hours, something that's never been done before, for $80,000. To do the job, Cledus drives their truck, while the Bandit drives a new Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
Along the way, they pick up Carrie (her last name is never mentioned in any of the films), a runaway bride, who was going to be made to marry Junior Justice, son of the stubborn Sheriff Buford T. Justice of Texas. Bandit informs Carrie of their situation, giving her the handle Frog, and Justice pursues them, out to get the Bandit and make Carrie marry Junior.
Eventually, Bandit has a whole lot of cops on his tail, and he needs to get away. He comes up to a broken bridge, and turns around. He then realizes he can't get past all these cops, and he jumps the river. They then return to the road.
Bandit then goes to the bus station. He drops off Carrie. He then realizes she doesn't want to leave him, and he doesn't want her to leave, so she joins them for more adventure on the road.
With only a few hours left, Bandit is running from cops in cars and helicopters. Cledus helps him lose the cops, and they make it back to Atlanta just in time. Little Enos then lets them take his red Cadillac to Boston to get some clam chowder. Then, Buford shows up, finds the Bandit, and follows him away, forgetting Junior, who chases the car.
- Burt Reynolds as Bo Darville/The Bandit
- Sally Field as Carrie/Frog
- Jerry Reed as Cledus Snow/The Snowman
- Mike Henry as Junior Justice
- Paul Williams as Little Enos Burdette
- Pat McCormick as Big Enos Burdette
- Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice
Hal Needham originally planned the film to be a low-budget B movie, with Jerry Reed as the Bandit. When Burt Reynolds read the script and said he's do the role, Jerry Reed was casted as the Snowman, with Reynolds as the Bandit.
The name Buford T. Justice was the name of a real Florida Highway Policeman, known to Burt Reynolds' father, who was also the inspiration of the word "sum'bitch", a contraction for the phrase "son of a bitch."
Jackie Gleason was given quite free rein over ab-libbing dialogue and giving suggestions. For example, there was one scene in a barbecue joint where Bandit was getting lunch for everyone. Justice, who had not yet seen the Bandit's face, walked in, the fact that Bandit was inside unknown to him. This was not in the original story, it was Gleason's idea.
Director Hal Needham, was more known in Hollywood as a stuntman, and had trouble getting studios to take him seriously. It wasn't until Burt Reynolds joined that people did take it serious.
Five black Trans Ams were used for the film. Also, they used three Kenworth W900A semi-trucks for the character of Cledus Snow.
The theme to "Smokey and the Bandit", "Eastbound and Down", was preformed by Jerry Reed (a country singer/actor who played Cledus Snow.) It was written by Reed and Dick Feller, and they both did most of the music in the film.
Film critic Leanord Martin gave the film a good 3 out of 4 rating. It was the 2nd best film of the year, only beaten by "Star Wars."