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Whatever Happened To The Cast Of Smokey And The Bandit?

"Smokey and the Bandit" came out in the summer of 1977, and became the second highest-grossing film of the year, right behind "Star Wars." The freewheeling comedy was released at a time when truckers, CBs, and Trans Ams were at their peak, and country/western music was crossing over to the top charts. But whether you were a cowboy at heart or not, the film was a big crowd-pleasing hit for people from all walks of life.

"Smokey and the Bandit" took Burt Reynolds' movie career up to superstar level, and with his effortless charisma and charm on full display, he also cemented his reputation as one of the major big-screen sex symbols of the decade. The film also had a great ensemble cast with Sally Field as his love interest (onscreen and off), comedy legend Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice, and Jerry Reed as Cledus, the Bandit's good truckin' buddy. 

Today "Bandit" is a beloved '70s comedy classic where the cast was clearly having a blast, and even Reynolds himself was surprised it held up so well. "We had so much fun," he recalled. "Usually that doesn't translate to the screen when you are having that much fun. We thought that if we could pull it off, then the audience might have as much fun as we did."

If you still have fond memories of the Bandit, here's what happened to the cast of one of the biggest comedy hits of the '70s.

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds, a native of Lansing, Michigan, was first a big TV star on shows like "Riverboat, and "Gunsmoke," before he hit his stride on the big screen in the '70s. One of his most acclaimed performances was in the controversial hit "Deliverance," and he also proved he had a gift for comedy with "The Longest Yard" in 1974.

But it was "Smokey and the Bandit" that cemented Reynolds' status as an A-list actor, and a sex symbol for women all over the world. His career would continue to ride high until the early '80s with hits like "Hooper," the romantic comedy "Starting Over," and "The Cannonball Run" series.

After the success of "The Cannonball Run" films, Reynolds' career suffered setbacks, but he had a TV comeback with "Evening Shade," and he had a big screen revival in his acclaimed role as porn director Jack Horner in the Paul Thomas Anderson classic "Boogie Nights." Reynolds' performance gained him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, but he ultimately lost to Robin Williams' turn in "Good Will Hunting."

Reynolds was going to play the role of George Spahn in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," but sadly died before he could film the role, and was replaced by Bruce Dern. Reynolds died of cardiac arrest on September 6, 2018, at the age of 82.

Sally Field

When Sally Field was cast in "Smokey and the Bandit, her career was enjoying a dramatic upward trajectory. Long behind her were the sitcom days of "Gidget" and "The Flying Nun," and she had just starred in "Sybil," an acclaimed TV movie based on a true story about a woman with multiple personality disorder.

Fields and Reynolds met on the "Bandit" shoot, and they soon began an intense but troubled relationship that lasted until 1982. Field told Good Morning America, "We had known each other about three days, four days at that point. It was instantaneous, and four days felt like four years." (Reynolds later regretted breaking up with Field and said, "She was the love of my life and I screwed the relationship up.")

Field and Reynolds starred in three more movies together, "The End," which Reynolds also directed, "Hooper," and "Smokey and the Bandit II." Field then went on to acclaimed performances in the dramas "Norma Rae," which won her first Academy Award, "Absence of Malice," "Places in the Heart," which won Field a second Oscar, "Steel Magnolias," "Forrest Gump," "Mrs. Doubtfire," and "Lincoln." In recent years, Field even joined the Marvel Universe, playing Aunt May in "The Amazing Spider-Man" movies.

In 2018, Field wrote a candid memoir, "In Pieces," where she relived her career, her famous loves, and how she overcame childhood abuse at the hands of her stepfather. She has also been outspoken about her battle with the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, which she was diagnosed with just as she turned 60.

Jackie Gleason

Often nicknamed "The Great One," Jackie Gleason is of course best known as Ralph Kramden from the all-time comedy classic "The Honeymooners." Starring as the redneck southern sheriff Buford T. Justice gave Gleason a second life on the big-screen and gave his fans another classic character to love.

As Reynolds recalled, "The fact that Gleason's career was coming to an end as Mr. Television on one side and starting again in movies." Reynolds also loved working with Gleason, recalling, "Every day was wonderful. I do not remember a single time [he] did not make me laugh."

Gleason went on to repeat his role as Justice in "Smokey and the Bandit II," and the disastrous third installment, where Reynolds did not return and Gleason had to carry most of the film himself. (It was almost going to be titled "Smokey Is the Bandit.")

Gleason also starred in the Richard Pryor comedy "The Toy," and the TV movie "Izzy and Moe," where he reunited with his "Honeymooners" partner Art Carney. His last film appearance was in the poignant comedy drama "Nothing in Common," where he and Tom Hanks play father and son. Gleason died of liver cancer on June 24, 1987, at the age of 71.

Jerry Reed

Like the Bandit himself, singer/songwriter/guitarist Jerry Reed hails from Atlanta, Georgia. Reed had a successful career as a country songwriter and performer before he became an actor, but he had a great gift for comedy that translated well to the big screen. Many of his hit songs showcase this sense of humor, including "Amos Moses" and "When You're Hot, You're Hot."

Prior to playing Cledus Snow (aka Snowman) in "Smokey and the Bandit," Reed was a guest celebrity voice on "Scooby Doo," and co-starred with Reynolds in "W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings" and "Gator." After the success of "Bandit," Reed came back for the sequels, and also starred in such films as "High Ballin," "Hot Stuff," the war drama "Bat*21," and the Adam Sandler comedy "The Waterboy."

Reed also provided the film's infectious soundtrack, including the movie's theme song, "Eastbound and Down," which went to No. 2 on the country charts, stayed on for 16 weeks, and became an anthem for truckers everywhere.

Reed died on August 31, 2008, after a battle with emphysema at the age of 71.

Paul Williams

Many know Paul Williams as the composer of hits like "We've Only Just Begun," "The Rainbow Connection," and "Evergreen," but the singer/songwriter has also enjoyed a considerable career in movies and television, playing a variety of dramatic and comedic roles. In fact, Williams has over 90 acting credits, beginning with the 1965 comedy "The Loved One."

Williams played Little Enos Burdette in all three "Smokey and the Bandit" films, and he also had featured roles in the Marlon Brando drama "The Chase," "Battle For the Planet of the Apes" (under heavy ape makeup), and "Phantom of the Paradise," to name a few. He also starred in a number of TV series, including "The Odd Couple," "The Muppet Show," "Silver Spoons," and more.

In recent years, Williams has enjoyed a great second coming. His music has found a new generation of fans, and the documentary "Paul Williams Still Alive" gave his work and career some much overdue respect. Williams is also a recovering addict and has been sober for decades. He disclosed to Daily News, "When my addiction to alcohol and cocaine outran my need to be in front of an audience, I hid out. And drank. You know you're an alcoholic when you misplace a decade."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Pat McCormick

Best known as a writer for "The Tonight Show," Pat McCormick's most memorable big-screen role was playing Big Enos Burdette in "Smokey and the Bandit." Paired with the diminutive Paul Williams as Little Enos, the two actors had a major contrast in height considering McCormick was 6 feet, 7 inches, and Williams is 5 feet, 2 inches.

McCormick was a veteran of television and worked as a writer in the medium for many years, contributing gags for many top shows. In addition to writing for "The Tonight Show," McCormick also wrote for "Get Smart," "The Jimmy Dean Show," "Here's Lucy," and "Happy Days," among others. (McCormick also became infamous for running across the "Tonight Show" set naked in 1974.)

McCormick, like Gleason, Reed, and Williams, starred in all three "Bandit" movies and he also made appearances in the Robert Altman film "A Wedding," "The Gong Show Movie," Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part I," and more.

McCormick suffered a stroke in 1998, and went to live in the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, a senior citizen community for Hollywood's elderly. McCormick died on July 29, 2005, at the age of 78.

Mike Henry

Today, Mike Henry might be best known now for his role as Junior, the dimwitted son of Buford T. Justice, but before his " Smokey and the Bandit" fame he was a legitimate football star. Henry was first drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and played for the team from 1958 to 1961.

Henry then transferred to the Rams, and once he was in L.A., he pursued an acting career. He was discovered at a Rams game and was invited to audition for the role of Tarzan. Henry then played the famous jungle vine swinger in three movies, "Tarzan and the Valley of Gold," "Tarzan and the Great River," and "Tarzan and the Jungle Boy."

In addition to playing Junior in all three "Bandit" films, Henry had previously worked with Reynolds in "The Longest Yard," and appeared in the John Wayne war film "The Green Berets," the western "Rio Lobo," and the dystopian thriller "Soylent Green." He would also make TV appearances on "Fantasy Island," "General Hospital, "Lou Grant," and "The Six Million Dollar Man," among others.

Henry died on January 8, 2021, at the age of 84.

Dom DeLuise

In many of his films, Reynolds liked working with his friends, and comedy legend Dom DeLuise was one of his favorite collaborators.

DeLuise first made a name for himself with roles in Mel Brooks comedies, co-starring with Brooks and Marty Feldman in "Silent Movie," and turning in high energy performances in "The Twelve Chairs," "History of the World, Part 1," and "Blazing Saddles," where he directed the memorable musical number "The French Mistake." 

Reynolds and DeLuise first worked together on the dark comedy, "The End," which Reynolds directed; a film about a terminally ill man who's thinking about checking out early. Then DeLuise came aboard "Smokey and the Bandit II," "Cannonball Run II," and the big screen adaption of the hit musical "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Reynolds cherished his relationship with DeLuise, and told an interviewer that he was "the best and can't be replaced."

When DeLuise died on May 4, 2009, at the age of 75, Reynolds told Entertainment Tonight (via CNN), "Dom always made everyone feel better when he was around. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much."

Terry Bradshaw

While sports fans know Terry Bradshaw best as the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and for being a four-time Superbowl winner, he also has enjoyed a lengthy post-football career as a sportscaster, endorser, and actor (per Fox Sports).

Bradshaw had a memorable cameo in the Reynolds stuntman comedy "Hooper," where he and Reynolds get into a knock-down, drag-out bar brawl, and he played himself in "Smokey and the Bandit II," and "The Cannonball Run." He also made several guest appearances on the Reynolds sitcom "Evening Shade."

Bradshaw enjoyed working with Reynolds, and told Jimmy Kimmel, he was "the sweetest guy in the world." He also told Access, "he was a super kind man. No matter how big a star he was, he made you feel like a big star. That's one of the reasons he and I got along so well. ...We flew back one time on a plane together, and we didn't want to separate we were having so much fun on the flight home. A good man."

Bradshaw was made a commentator for "Fox NFL Sunday," back in 1994, a show that has been credited by Fox Sports as the most-watched pre-game show in the country.

Chuck Yeager

Yes, not only did Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier, but he also had a cameo in "Smokey and the Bandit II" billed as a "party guest" under his real name, Charles Yeager.

"Bandit" director Hal Needham was a big fan of Yeager's, and Needham himself tried to break a land speed record with the Budweiser rocket car, which he financed himself. While some didn't believe that the car broke the sound barrier when it tore down Rogers Dry Lake near Edwards Air Force Base in 1979, Yeager said in photos of the event there was clear evidence that the car had hit supersonic speed.

In 1983, Yeager was depicted onscreen in the acclaimed film "The Right Stuff," where he was played by Sam Shepard. (Yeager had a cameo in that film as well.) Yaeger also appeared in an episode of "Goodyear Playhouse," and in the TV movie "Flying Without Fear." Yet Yeager apparently didn't try to launch a serious acting career, mainly content with fun cameos that added footnotes to his life.

Yeager died on December 7, 2020, at the age of 97, as reported by Deadline.

George Reynolds

No relation to Burt, George Reynolds played the no-nonsense Sheriff Branford in the first "Smokey and the Bandit," and he hilariously crossed paths with Sheriff Justice in the film. Throughout his career, Reynolds typically played tough guy roles, but also portrayed policemen in several movies and television shows.

A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Reynolds began his career in the late 60s, co-starring in the David Hemmings movie "The Best House in London," and he starred in the Donald Sutherland film "Alex in Wonderland" as well. George had also appeared with Burt Reynolds previously in the police comedy "Fuzz."

Other notable big screen credits include the blaxploitation action film "Cleopatra Jones" and the urban comedy "Uptown Saturday Night." On the small screen, Reynolds starred on "Baretta," "The Rockford Files," "Sanford and Son," "Good Times," "Quincy M.E.," and "Fantasy Island." His most recent credits include the films "Dahmer vs. Gacy," and "Heels."

David Huddleston

Best known today as the Big Lebowski himself, David Huddleston had a lengthy career spanning a variety of comedic and dramatic roles, often playing portly fuddy-duddies. As we've seen with many character actors though, his time spent in supporting roles was rewarded with one cult classic film that suddenly made him recognizable. 

A native of Vinton, Virginia, Huddleston studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, (as per TCM) and launched his acting career soon after graduating, first on stage, then in films. 

In "Smokey and the Bandit II," Huddleston played a character named John Conn. Mel Brooks previously cast Huddleston in the comedy classic "Blazing Saddles," and the two worked together again in the musical version of "The Producers" in 2005. Before gaining fame to a new generation of fans in "The Big Lebowski," he even played the title role in "Santa Claus: The Movie." 

Huddleston died on August 2, 2016, at the age of 85.