In the 1977 action-comedy “Smokey and the Bandit,” Burt Reynolds plays a bootlegger named Bo. Everyone calls him “Bandit” because the name “Bo” was apparently too informal for his friends.
The script was so trite that the actors made up much of the dialogue as the cameras rolled. The alleged plot centers on a rich Georgia businessman’s offer of $80,000 to Bandit to drive to Texas and back to fetch him a semi full of Coors beer. In both the movie and real life, you may recall, Coors was illegal east of Texas at the time.
Of course, the illegality of Coors was an accidental marketing coup for the company. The beer’s mystique of illegality partially offset its taste of water. Gerald Ford used to smuggle a few cans back to DC from his vacation house in Vail. Before that, President Eisenhower regularly had the Air Force airlift cases to the White House.
So, you see, the movie is a true story.
Except the cross-country car chase. Bandit gets a truckdriver to drive the semi, played by two Kenworths, while Bandit drives a car, played by a black ’76 Trans Am – four, actually – fitted with 455 engines.
I know what you’re thinking but, no, the Trans Am was not transexual. But it was indeed black. With a lower case “b.”
The filming was hell on wheels. But until the stunt men beat them to death, those black Trannys could really go. In one scene – filmed long before computer generated images – they jumped a river with the aid of an Evel Knievel booster rocket attached to the rear. The things they put in the rear of that Tranny.
Bandit’s scheme was for his Trans Am to act as a “blocking car” for the semi full of Coors. He would commit multiple illegal mayhems along the way to distract the cops from the semi full of Coors illegally crossing state lines – the true crime.
Bandit succeeds wildly and wildly succeeds, with the help of an unplanned accomplice. Shortly after Bandit loads the semi with Coors and starts back to Georgia in the Trans Am with the semi in convoy, he picks up a damsel named Carrie played by Sally Field.
Carrie is distressed about her impending marriage to a creep, so she has run away from her wedding. Minutes into her dash, Bandit encounters her on the highway. Bandit rescues this runaway bride, and she hops into the Trans Am. In the passenger seat while they’re tooling along at about 90 mph, she acrobatically swaps her wedding dress for jeans.
It’s not clear why this bride in a wedding dress had a pair of jeans handy. But you would, too, if they fit you as well as they fit the 30-year-old Sally Field in 1977.
Carrie is a New Age type and Bandit is, well, not. They have nothing in common except, halfway into the movie, bodily fluids. Rumor is that it wasn’t all acting.
It turns out that Carrie’s groom, whom she’d abandoned at the altar, is the son of a fat, stupid, southern hick sheriff named Buford T. Justice, overplayed by Jackie Gleason. Furious that his son and Carrie won’t be honeymooners, he sets out to retrieve her.
Sheriff Buford T. Justice – everyone else calls him “Smokey” but he invariably calls himself by his full name and title – spots her in the cisgender black Tranny and gives chase. All the way back to Georgia.
Sheriff Buford T. Justice announces to anyone who will listen that, among sundry other crimes, Bandit has feloniously violated the Mann Act. For readers who are not lawyers or perverts (ah, but I repeat myself) that’s the 1910 federal law that criminalizes the transportation across state lines of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.”
That is fairly, um, broad, especially since the law offers no definition of “woman.”
I’ve always thought this law, named after the sanctimonious and probably felonious Illinois congressman who sponsored it, James Robert Mann, was inaptly named. He should have gotten another congressman to co-sponsor it, such as Iowa Congressman Frank Wood, in order to call it the “WoMann Act.”
Or Massachusetts congressman William Lovering in order to call it “LoverMann Act” or Mississippi congressman Thomas Sisson in order to call it “SissyMann Act” or Indiana congressman William Cox in order to call it, well, you get the idea.
Also, I’ve always wondered about the precise meaning of the word “Act” in this context, which is also undefined.
In any event, this law against interstate debauchery always had the intended effect of terrifying my young psyche. I made a point of never dating across state lines, though as it turned out my precaution was unnecessary.
I won’t spoil your viewing pleasure by telling you how the movie ends. But there were a few sequels, so you can guess that the stars made out OK.
The latest sequel was released just this spring. Fat, stupid, southern hick Sheriff Buford T. Justice is played by a fat, stupid, northern hick District Attorney named Alvin Leonard Bragg.
He’s after Bandit again, played by a certain former reality TV star. Bandit has graduated from running liquor to running for president and from driving a Trans Am to driving a golf cart.
The charge in this sequel is not a Mann Act violation, but something more like the Mann-ure Act. In fact, it’s hard to figure out what the charge is. There’s the hush money that Bandit paid to a porn star to keep quiet about their affair but nobody says hush money is illegal – it’s not. Maybe it’s illegal here because Bandit used his own private money for his own private affair rather than using campaign donations.
All I can deduce legally – and bear in mind that I’m a lawyer – is that when you’re running for president and you buy women and other personal things, you’re required to use either campaign donations or maybe a charitable foundation.
The part of Carrie originally played by Sally Field, who is now 76, is played by a young woman named Melania. Carrie still looks pretty good in jeans. Carrie and Bandit still have nothing in common – this time not even bodily fluids. The relationship between them is strictly acting.
Alvin Leonard Bragg, DA brags in front of the cameras over and over that he’s gonna get that Bandit, by gosh, and he’s chasing him hard but hardly catching him. As in the original movie, you sense that he’s making everything up as the cameras roll. He’s every bit the pompous, ridiculous, overplayed ham of Sheriff Buford T. Justice. He truly outdoes Jackie Gleason.
At his next press conference, I’m half expecting him to bellow “Awt Cawney!”
Bandit these days has a mixed reputation as something of a storied, charming rascal, sometimes without the charm, though I personally think the stories of pee-pee tapes and Russian collusion came straight out of Hillary’s sick and sordid imagination or perhaps is just a classic case of her projection.
Alvin Leonard Bragg, DA’s relentless, comedic chase is rallying the audience ‘round Bandit. His Mann-ifest violations in earlier movies were inartful, even for a bootlegger, but at least the chase back then was mostly honest and entertaining, if stupid. This time, Bandit is being chased just because Alvin Leonard Bragg, DA craves the limelight and the worship of zany Democrats.
Alvin Leonard Bragg, DA won’t catch his target – Bandit is far too fast for him – but BraggaDonkeyO will generate a box office hit for them both. The next sequel is already set for 2024. The word on the street is that in the next sequel it will be Bandit who is the chaser.
Watch for my book in the coming weeks, titled “High Attitude – How Woke Liberals Ruined Aspen.”