Had Star Wars not landed on planet Earth in 1977 and redefined the movies, the highest-grossing film in the United States that year would’ve been one that included an Arkansas setting. Yep, Smokey and the Bandit.
Burt Reynolds, the Florida native who was quite partial to the Natural State, was the world’s top box office star at the time, and he played the Bandit, as no one else could’ve. No scenes from the film were shot here, but the plot (for you young’uns) entails a bootleg run of Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta. (Back then, as hard as it must be for some to fathom today, Coors “banquet beer” wasn’t available east of Oklahoma. Which, of course, made it seem much more exotic than it actually was.)
A good chunk of the action is set in Arkansas, though (and filmed in Georgia), and one Arkansas State Police car gets the honor of playing keystone cop to the Bandit and his iconic, black Trans Am.
Smokey and the Bandit, turns out, originally was intended as a low-budget “B” movie until Reynolds got a hold of the script, and plans changed. Sally Field and the incomparable Jackie Gleason — the Smokey of the title, and if you’re not sure just what it refers to, well, just Google it — were added to the cast, and suddenly producers had a star-studded, screwball comedy on their hands.
The movie was a hit and became a true cultural phenomenon. Its theme song, “Eastbound and Down” — pre-Kenny Powers, for you young’uns — from Reynolds’ sidekick and co-star Jerry Reed became a hit as well.
So, why Smokey and the Bandit? Well, this month’s issue of AMP talks trucking. We visit with the Arkansas Trucking Association, Maverick Transportation, ArcBest, C.C. Jones Trucking and more about the challenges facing the industry right now and how the pandemic may have helped rehabilitate the image of the truck driver.
Also inside, we take to the air one last time to visit Central Flying Service for Digs of the Deal. And Executive Extracurriculars hits the links, where golf is, well, let’s just say it’s eastbound and down. Great stuff, as always, from Katie Z and the Heb. And veteran scribe Ken Heard reels off a projectionist’s tale in The Last Word.
Word-of-the-month honors for May go, unwittingly, to columnist and author Jonah Goldberg: recalcitrant. Google reminded me of its precise meaning (I was basically there), which is defined in adjective form as “having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline,” and in noun-form, as “a person with an obstinately uncooperative attitude.”
So, have we entered into the age of recalcitrance? Recalcitrant, turns out, is from the Latin calcitrare, meaning “to kick,” as in, kicking back. Yep, I think maybe we have.
And speaking of movies, despite the absolute price gouging, the experience of movie theater popcorn and previews just can’t be replicated at home. Just something about it. But I’m afraid we’ve seen the last generation that relies on movie theaters as a primary source for film viewing. Changing times and all…
As always, thank you for reading. Let me know how we’re doing, good or bad, at [email protected].