My Heart Belongs to Jackie: Smokey and the Bandit II

Published on November 29th, 2010 in: Action Movies, Comedy, Issues, Movie Reviews, Movies, Retrovirus, Three Of A Perfect Pair |

By Eric Weber

As a connoisseur of horror and cult films, one might think that I would have absolutely zero interest in the action/comedy series Smokey and the Bandit. For one, the movies are all about trucks and cars, which does not appeal to me at all; and secondly, the smart-alecky, “good ol’ boy” humor can quickly become annoying.

Luckily, the movies are graced with a great cast of actors that make all of these macho hijinks watchable. I am definitely a fan of Burt Reynolds; I think he has a really good sense of humor about his image and is a legitimately funny guy. Sally Field is, of course, cute and perky. Yet the adorable Jerry Reed seems to be the unsung hero of the series with his infectious smile and charming personality. These performers enhance the second movie in the series, Smokey and the Bandit II, by taking what could have easily become a plodding and simple car chase movie and making it one of my favorites

Then we have Jackie Gleason.

sheriff justice

I would have never previously considered myself a fan of Jackie Gleason. I was never interested in The Honeymooners or in his classic television persona. However, there is something about him as the character of Sheriff Buford T. Justice that leaves me speechless. (Except for this article.)

Over the years I have become increasingly more fascinated by a subgenre of character actors that friends and I lovingly call “Salty Dogs.” These are older male actors who tend to be the gruff, grouchy, and curmudgeonly types displaying a particularly unusual or stylized acting method. They do not possess the typical Hollywood leading man “look” and usually appear more like plumbers or ex-football coaches. From Wallace Beery and Jackie Coogan to Don Knotts and Don Rickles, these are the male equivalents to the unusual female actresses (like Shirley Stoler or Mary Woronov) that I love so much.

Jackie Gleason as Buford T. Justice is perhaps the King of the Salty Dogs. With his heart attack-inducing delivery of creative cursing and redneck observations, Buford constantly seems on the verge of collapsing in a whirlwind of frustration and annoyance. There is something so funny to me about seeing someone get so worked up and blustery that they can barely function. Perhaps it stems from the thrill of seeing authority figures duped and defeated. Whatever the case, it’s not just me who finds him irresistible; the producers seemed to feel his character was so vital to the first movie, that it was expanded considerably for the two sequels.

The original Smokey and the Bandit was released in 1977 and was an enormous financial hit, nailing second place for box office receipts for the year (number one was, of course, Star Wars). So, like anything that shows some success or return on investment, they decided to make another one.

Three years later, Smokey and the Bandit II was released with all of the stars returning in a new cross-country adventure. This time, instead of hauling beer from Texas to Georgia, Bo “The Bandit” (Burt Reynolds) and Cledus (Jerry Reed) are hired to move a secret crate from Miami to Texas. The package ends up being a fully-grown (and pregnant!) elephant. This leads to a new member joining the team, Dom DeLuise in a weird turn as an Italian gynecologist who’s been enlisted to assist with the care and transport of Charlotte, the elephant.

smokey deluise

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