By Randy Grider
For the past couple of months, one of my movie channels has been playing Smokey and the Bandit at least once a week.
I don’t consider Smokey and the Bandit a great movie, but it’s definitely a fun flick. I also like to watch it for trivia. Like many truckers, I’m a hopeless trivia buff, especially when it comes to movies and TV series.
For example, there is a cameo of our sister publication, Overdrive, in the opening scenes. A banner for the race at a truck rodeo carries the Overdrive name.
Also, the name of the sheriff played by Jackie Gleason, Buford T. Justice, was the name of a real Florida highway patrolman known to Burt Reynolds’ father, who was once chief of police of Jupiter, Fla.
And only Star Wars grossed more in 1977.
While this kind of useless information won’t change your life, it’s great for CB banter, truckstop conversations and backyard barbeques.
Here are a few other tidbits I’ve came across concerning trucker movies and TV series.
Smokey and the Bandit II, 1980 starring Burt Reynolds and directed by Hal Needham:
- After receiving several bad reviews, most of which were directed at director Hal Needham, he took out a full page ad in Variety depicting himself sitting on a wheelbarrow full of cash.
- Needham was a former stunt double for Reynolds and other stars, and the billboard model for Viceroy cigarettes.
- Jackie Gleason’s scenes were filmed first because he was sick.
Duel, 1971, starring Dennis Weaver and directed by Steven Spielberg:
- During the chase, a parked sedan resembling a squad car is shown, briefly raising Dennis Weaver’s hopes, but it turns out to be a service car for a pest exterminator named Grebleips, which is Spielberg spelled backwards.
- The original truck used in the movie was a 1955 Peterbilt 351 that was destroyed in the final scene. A 1960 model was the backup truck. When the 74-minute TV movie was released in theaters outside the United States, extra scenes were shot to expand it to 91 minutes; a 1964 Peterbilt model was used.
Convoy, 1978, starring Kris Kristofferson and directed by Sam Peckinpah:
- The movie was spawned from the hit song of the same name by C.W. McCall, aka Bill Fries, an advertising executive.
- The name of the company on the truck door of (Burt Young) Pig Pen’s rig is “Paulie Hauling.” Paulie is the name of Young’s character in Rocky (1976).
Black Dog, 1998, starring Patrick Swayze:
- Two award-winning music artists co-starred in the film, 1970s rocker Meat Loaf and country singer Randy Travis.
- “Black dog” is supposedly a hallucination truckers sometimes see when driving too long without sleep.
BJ and the Bear, TV series from 1979-81 starring Greg Evigan:
- Greg Evigan did most of his own stunts for the show as well as the truck driving after a three-week driving course.
- BJ’s truck was a 1978 K100 Aerodyne during the first season. A newer truck (same model) was used for the next two seasons.
- BJ’s sidekick was a chimp called Bear, named for legendary University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Movin’ On, TV series from 1974-76 starring Claude Akins:
- Theme song was a hit of the same name for country star Merle Haggard.
- Claude Akins and co-star Frank Converse played two OTR truckers named Sonny and Will. Sonny was an independent trucker and Will a law school graduate.
- Claude Akins later played Sheriff Lobo in BJ and the Bear as well as a spin-off called Sheriff Lobo.
- NFL great Rosie Grier was a regular guest star.
I think most people find trivia fun because it makes us feel knowledgeable about things we like. And sometimes it helps lure you back to times and places where things might seem a little simpler.