Jackie Gleason was the king

Published 8:09 am Wednesday, February 18, 2004

By Staff
God, I'm sitting here writing this weeks' column and my eyes are about to tear up.
Subtle beginning, huh? I promise y'all that I'm not the least bit sad about anything. In fact, it's just the opposite -- the reason I'm almost crying is that I've been laughing so hard that I just about can't contain myself. I've laughed 'til my ribs hurt, and then laughed some more. Given that, it might be a good idea for me to go ahead and tell y'all exactly why I've been laughing so hard, and I can do it in two words:
Jackie Gleason.
That's right, Jackie Gleason. I've been a life-long fan of the Great One. I loved the Honeymooners, and I loved his weekly Saturday night variety show that ran back when I was growing up. But folks, the one role that does it for me, the one role that makes me laugh so hard that I can't hardly stand it, the one role that's the essence of Jackie Gleason for me is his portrayal of Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the original "Smokey and the Bandit" movie.
Most of you out there have seen this movie, as it's been shown on television countless times. Frankly, though, that's part of the problem in appreciating Gleason's genius in the role. What I mean by that is, the censors have so destroyed the original movie that it's not even funny. Most of Gleason's classic remarks have been edited out, and that's a true shame. Gleason made the movie what it is, and it's about time someone recognized what sheer comic genius he put into the role. Well, that's exactly what I'm gonna do here. We're gonna relive what a great part he played.
So now, with no further ado, here are some classic moments from "Smokey and the Bandit" with Sheriff Buford T. Justice:
(Sheriff Justice is chasing Burt Reynolds, the Bandit, in the early part of the movie. Justice's son, Junior, has just been stood up at the altar by Carrie (Sally Fields), and Reynolds is helping her make her escape in his black Trans-Am. The chase is on hot and heavy, when the good Sheriff says…)
(When a long funeral procession interrupts his chase of the Bandit…..)
Junior: "He had a lot of friends didn't he?"
Gleason: "If they hadda cremated him, I coulda been kickin' that Mr. Bandit around the moon by now!"
(To Junior, after he'd done something particularly stupid…)
Gleason: "There's no way, no way that you could come from me. The first thing I'm gonna do when I get home is punch yo mama in the mouth."
(For me, the single funniest scene in the movie is the one where Reynolds is sitting in a truck stop eating a hamburger. Gleason rushes in for a quick lunch, unaware that Reynolds is actually the Bandit. The two start talking, and the Bandit asks Sheriff Justice if someone is chasing him…)
Bandit: "Really? Is he a bank robber?"
Gleason: "Bank robbin'? Bank robbin' is baby stuff alongside of what this dude is doin'. Almost killed twenty fellow law officers. Drivin' through people's back yards. Knockin' down mailboxes. He's got a woman in the car, and I don't think he's got her permission -- that's a felony. And he took her across the state line, and that's kidnappin'. How's that for high jinx?"
I could go on and on, but just trust me here. Go out right now and buy yourselves a copy of the original "Smokey and the Bandit." Watch it at home when no one's around who's gonna dog you out about the language. When the coast is clear, pop open a cold one and watch one of the greatest comedians of all time in his most hilarious role. And, if you're not sure about what you want to snack on while you're watching the movie, perhaps this will help….

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