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'Smokey and the Bandit': Film released 41 years ago this week will always be tied to Texarkana

by Gazette Staff | May 29, 2018 at 2:52 a.m. | Updated May 29, 2018 at 2:48 a.m.

When people from outside our area think of Texarkana, a couple of things most often come to mind.

One, of course, is the Phantom Killer, largely because of Charles B. Pierce's 1976 film "The Town That Dreaded Sundown."

The other comes from a film, too. A story of a bet, a truckload of beer, fast cars and a determined country sheriff. The movie was called "Smokey and the Bandit."

Sunday marked 41 years since the film was released in 1977. That is a year over four decades since folks all across the country started thinking Texarkana was more than just a psycho killer's playground. We were also a town with a beer warehouse and a sheriff who didn't take kindly to rascals raiding it.

Bert Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed-who also sang the film's hit theme song, "East Bound and Down"-and a very memorable Jackie Gleason starred.

"Smokey and the Bandit" was a smash hit. The only bigger box-office draw that year was a little film called wait for it "Star Wars." "Smokey" cost just $4.3 million to make and took in around  $126 million in the U.S. and about $300 million globally.

So of course there was a sequel. And another. The legacy of "Smokey and the Bandit" lives on. Every once in a while we still get visitors who come to the Gazette offices asking about locations where the film was shot. And we have to tell them none of it was filmed here. The town of Jonesboro-Georgia, not Arkansas-stood in for Texarkana. The rest of the movie was shot around Atlanta, Ga., with a few scenes lensed in California.

One thing that kept a connection between the Twin Cities and the movie is the annual Bandit Run, a sort of super road trip for Trans Am enthusiasts. The first race took off from here in 2007, the film's 30th anniversary, and the event returned to Texarkana for the 40th anniversary last year.

"Smokey and the Bandit" has become a classic to millions of fans. And even though not a scene was filmed here, Texarkana will always be a part of its legacy.


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