‘Smokey and The Bandit’: Jackie Gleason Was the Mastermind Behind This Iconic Scene With Burt Reynolds

by Katie Maloney
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Forty-four years ago, Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason teamed up for this iconic scene in “Smokey and the Bandit.”

Can you believe it’s been over four decades since Burt Reynolds starred as the bootleg beer smuggling Bandit in “Smokey and the Bandit”? Well, it’s true. And even four decades later, the adventure comedy still holds up today. The success of the film is largely due to the cast. Several stars landed roles in the film including Sally Field who played Carrie and Jackie Gleason who played Sheriff Buford T. Justice of Portague County.

And each of the stars brought more to the film than just acting skills. In fact, according to IMDB Jackie Gleason helped write one of the movie’s iconic scenes.

During the scene, Bandit (Reynolds) sits at a diner counter and waits for his lunch. While he’s waiting, Sheriff Justice (Gleason) stumbles into the diner in a rush. He yells to his partner, the waitress and anyone else who will listen that he’s in a hurry. Sheriff Justice says he “chasing a god**** maniac.” In true Burt Reynolds fashion, Bandit stays cool as a cucumber. He even helps wipe sauce off of the Sheriff’s shirt. Bandit calmly asks the Sheriff who he’s chasing, in order to test him for information. The Sheriff clearly has no idea that Bandit is the man he’s looking for. So, Bandit offers to pay for the Sheriff’s lunch and then points him to the bathroom. As soon as the Sheriff walks away, Bandit bolts out the door.

Gleason said this cafe scene was not in the original story. It was Gleason’s idea. So, Gleason brought a whole other set of writing skills to the movie.

Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason in “Smokey and the Bandit”

Burt Reynolds’s Father Helped Inspire Sheriff Buford T. Justice’s Name

It’s always fun to hear how certain characters get their names. Some names are obviously made up and not inspired by real-life people. However, other names seem totally made up but are actually taken from real people. Such was the case for “Smokey and the Bandit’s” Sheriff Buford T. Justice. A sheriff with the last name of Justice certainly sounds like a hokey gimmick made up by movie scriptwriters. But that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Sherrif Justice was actually inspired by Burt Reynolds’s dad!

According to IMDB, Buford T. Justice was the name of a real Florida Highway Patrolman known to Burt Reynolds’s father who was once Chief of Police of Jupiter, Florida.

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