BOSTON, May 27, 2017 — Forty years to this exact day, “The Legend” was born. Their mission was clear. Drive from Texarkana, Texas to Atlanta Georgia and pick up 400 cases of Coors beer. Then they had to drive it back to Texarkana.
The whole job had to be done in 18 hours.
Jackie Gleason’s role as Sheriff Buford T. Justice of Montague County is classic. The lawman was determined to crack down on bootleggers, but a man in a black Trans Am and his friend in an 18-wheeler would not be denied.
“Smokey and the Bandit” (released May 27, 1977), now forty years old, was more than just one of the greatest movies of all time. It was a way of life. Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed, as the Bo “Bandit” Darville and Cledus “Snowman ” Snow respectively, understood why God put us all on this earth. The bigger the challenge, the greater the heroism.
When President John F. Kennedy said America would put a man on the moon, he knew it was bigger than just traipsing around in space. The American spirit meant we had the ability to go anywhere and do anything.
Bandit and Snowman were closer to anti-heroes, but their rationale was quintessentially heroically American.”
Snowman: “Why are we doing this?”
Bandit: “Well why not?”
Snowman: “They said it couldn’t be done.”
Bandit: “That’s the reason, son.”
Snowman: “That’s good with Fred. We’re clear.”
Fred, the Snowman’s beloved Bassett hound, was the all-American dog.
Bo Darville became a hero to men across America because he was an alpha male. He behaved without constraints, the way all men wish they could live for even a few brief moments. The Bandit got the pretty girl Carrie, played by the often described adorable Sally Fields. Fields had a five-year relationship with her co-star Reynolds, who still calls her the love of his live.
The chemistry between Reynolds and Fields has much to do with the success of Smokey and The Bandit, which rivaled Star Wars at the box office. This scene is one of those classic cinema moments and has Carrie running away from her marriage to the son of Sheriff Justice.
Today, the world is overrun by metrosexual beta males who eat tree bark and drive Priuses. They would not understand The Bandit, much less the actor who played him.
Back in the day men wore beat-up jeans and drove pickup trucks, and they were not ridiculed by elitists. The guys in jeans and pick-up trucks were the cool guys. They still are. Those who hated the Bandit were just jealous.
“Some say they despise you, and maybe they do. Deep down inside them, I bet they wish they were you.” – Jerry Reed singing “The Bandit.”
On our best days, many of us remain ordinary. We long to do something extraordinary that people will brag about long after we are gone. When the Bandit asked why some Texas County Mounty was so obsessed with pursuing him, Snowman had the answer.
“You know what he wants. How’d you like to be the guy who handcuffs a legend?”
The movie turned Burt Reynolds into a movie star for the ages. Jerry Reed was more than an actor, having carved out a successful career as a country music star. Reed provided some of the best songs for Smokey and the Bandit and its 1980 sequel. “Eastbound and Down” became the unofficial song for truckers everywhere.
Whatever you were hauling, Reed was on the radio to keep you company.
“Foot like lead, nerves like steel, going to go to glory riding 18 wheels.”
That was “The Legend.” Heroes come and go, but legends are timeless. Legends are forever.
Times change and tastes change, and by 1983, Smokey and the Bandit III had become a shell of what the first two movies were. Reed took over for Reynolds as the main bootlegger, and Lee Greenwood took over for Reed in singing the soundtrack. Yet even as the trilogy faded to the finish line, there was still some glory in the beauty of that magical black car.
“Magnum, P.I.” and “Knight Rider” had their cars, but the Bandit had the original. If you needed to find the anti-hero and his car, you knew where they would both be.
“Flying down the highway headed West, in a streak of black lightning called the Bandit Express.”
This was real America when guys acting like guys was a good thing. Some kids would take joy in another silly movie that year involving space stuff and light sabers. Four decades later the wars in the stars cannot compare to the stars in our eyes when we see a cool guy in an even cooler car.
Jerry Reed is now among the stars in the sky, and Burt Reynolds is an aging anti-hero. People do not last forever.
Thankfully, legends do. One day before the Indianapolis 500 hears the call of, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” the Bandit will have already driven across several states.
When you want the job done right, find the most alpha male American, give him the keys, and get out of the way. He will get the job done.
“No matter what it takes.”
Forever in our hearts, the Bandit and the Snowman, “Their story is a legend that will live on in time.”
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