Example: [Collected via e-mail, June 2009]
Smokey and the Bandit 3 was originally titled Smokey IS the Bandit, with Jackie Gleason playing both Smokey and the Bandit. After test screenings, audience reported being confused, and the movie was partially reshot to be the version we're familiar with now.
Origins: To many filmgoers it sometimes appears as though virtually any moderately successful movie produced these days inevitably spawns a series of sequels, follow-on films that all too often simply recycle the original's premise and setting without adding much of anything new. Yet such sequels still seem do quite well at the box office regardless of their artistic merits, if for no other reason than many devoted fans will eagerly follow any new installment featuring their favorite characters and actors.
Some sequels don't even have continuity of characters and actors going for them, however. By the time the third installment of the popular Smokey and the Bandit films (imaginatively titled Smokey and the Bandit
Hollywood legend holds, however, that in the original conception Part 3 was to be titled Smokey Is the Bandit, with Reynolds' absence covered by Jackie Gleason's playing both Sheriff
Is there something to this tale, or is it simply another bit of entertaining but apocryphal film lore? In his 2004 book Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema, author Scott von Doviak cites a lack of evidence in disdaining the notion that any such film as Smokey Is the Bandit was planned, much less actually shot:
Tentatively titled "Smokey Is the Bandit," the third in the series stars Jackie Gleason in the dual roles of the Bandit and Sheriff
Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jerry Reed, who appeared in "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Smokey and the
According to officials with the production company, scheduling conflicts and salary demands cut down the cast, as compared to the previous two movies in the series.
Instead, Jackie Gleason was signed to play both the Smokey and the Bandit roles, hence the title Smokey Is the Bandit. But apparently preview test audiences couldn't follow what was going on. Though that would hardly seem to matter in this kind of picture, the filmmakers have gone back to shoot more scenes, this time with Jerry Reed, who was in the earlier two films, playing Bandit.
Another theory holds that the original conception of the film was not for Gleason to play two different characters, but for the roles of Sheriff
Having viewed the film again with a critical eye, we have to admit there may be something to this second theory. The movie starts out with the Enoses betting Sheriff Justice $250,000 (against his sheriff's badge) that he can't drive from Miami, Florida, to Austin, Texas, by the following afternoon, carrying a large replica fish (actually a shark) atop his car the whole way as a promotion for the Enis [sic] chain of
The result is a jumbled mess, and Reed's function in the film is a puzzle. The premise appears to be that by recruiting the Snowman to imitate the Bandit, the Enoses can lure Sheriff Justice into chasing him (rather than driving to Austin in time to win the bet). However, Reed's Bandit does nothing more than repeatedly steal the fish off the sheriff's car, while Sheriff Justice (accompanied by his dimwit son) chases the Bandit to Austin in the course of retrieving it (all while the Enoses continue making sporadic efforts to foil the sheriff). The Bandit doesn't lure Sheriff Justice away from his destination, and Sheriff Justice appears interested in chasing the Bandit only just long enough to retrieve his fish rather than finally capturing him.
If we had to guess, we'd surmise that the original version simply had Sheriff Justice attempting to win the Enoses' bet, while Big and Little Enos played the antagonists, employing a variety of dirty tricks to humiliate and delay the sheriff and keep him from winning the $250,000. But test audiences didn't much care for a Smokey and the Bandit film that lacked both the Bandit character and the iconic
All of this is mere speculation, however. Hollywood flacks have been known to fabricate all kinds of odd stories in order promote upcoming films, and given the aforementioned lack of hard evidence, we have to assign this item an "Undetermined" status for now.
Last updated: 7 July 2009
Arnold, Gary. "Unarmed 'Bandit'; Reynolds' Handicapped Sequel to 'Smokey.'" The Washington Post. 15 August 1980 (p. C1). Deans, Laurie. "Gleason Gets Some Help from Reed; Smokey No Longer Chasing Himself." The [Toronto] Globe and Mail. 6 May 1983. Von Doviak, Scott. Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2004. ISBN 0-7864-1997-0 (p. 35). Ward, Tyler. "Third in 'Smokey' Films to Be Filmed in Marion." Ocala Star-Banner. 26 October 1982 (p. B7). Ocala Star-Banner. "Shootin' 'Smokey.'" 9 August 1983 (p. A1).