For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “MOVIES” and go with Cannonball Run. This movie was released in 1981, and was full of so many great stars and action!! Cannonball Run had such a great action plot, where so many people that you knew from other shows, movies, etc. were racing for the finish line. It was one that loved by many, and finally showed that the girls can keep up and sometimes take the lead…sorry boys!!
If, for some reason, you are of an age that makes it difficult to remember the Cannonball Run movie, here’s the preview to the movie that we all saw before it came out on film:
Did you ever watch the Cannonball Run movie when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV or Netflix later in life? Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!
More Info on the Movie:
The Cannonball Run is a 1981 comedy film starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, and an all-star supporting cast. It was directed by Hal Needham, produced by Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest films, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. One of 1981’s most successful films at the box office, it was followed by Cannonball Run II (1984), and Speed Zone (1989). This and the 1984 sequel were the final film appearances of actor Dean Martin.
Race teams have gathered in Connecticut to start a cross-country car race. One at a time, teams drive up to the starters’ stand, punch a time card to indicate their time of departure, then take off.
Among the teams:
- JJ McClure (Reynolds) and Victor Prinzim (DeLuise), drive a souped-up, but otherwise authentic, Dodge Tradesman ambulance. (Hal Needham and Brock Yates used the same vehicle in the actual 1979 race.)
- Former open-wheel icon (and Scotch-swilling) Jamie Blake (Dean Martin) and his (gambling-obsessed) teammate Morris Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis, Jr.), dressed as Catholic priests, drive a red Ferrari 308 GTS. (They are based on an entry in the real 1972 race, in which three men disguised as priests (“The Flying Fathers”) drove a Mercedes 280 SEL sedan, which they claimed to be “the Monsignor’s car” belonging to an ecumenical council of prelates in California.)
- Jill Rivers (Tara Buckman) and Marcie Thatcher (Adrienne Barbeau), two attractive women who use their looks to their advantage, start the race in a black Lamborghini Countach.
- Jackie Chan and Michael Hui race in a high-tech, computer-laden Subaru GL 4WD hatchback with a rocket booster engine.
- A pair of good ol’ boys, played by Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis, drive a street-legal replica of Donnie Allison’s Hawaiian Tropic-sponsored NASCAR Winston Cup Chevrolet stock car owned by Hoss Ellington. (It starts off as ’75-76 Laguna. After they paint it, it becomes a ’76-77 Monte Carlo.)
- Roger Moore plays “heir to the Goldfarb Girdles fortune”, Seymour Goldfarb, Jr., who perpetually identifies himself as actor Roger Moore and signs into the race under that name. His character behaves similarly to James Bond and only once (by his mother) is called by his real name. He drives a silver Aston Martin DB5.
- Jamie Farr portrays an oil-rich Middle-Eastern sheikh, driving a white Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.
At the starting line, observing from the shadows, is Mr. Arthur J. Foyt (a play on the name of racer A. J. Foyt), a representative of the “Safety Enforcement Unit”, who tries to stop the race because of its environmental effects and safety issues. In the car with Foyt (George Furth) is a photographer and tree lover, Pamela Glover (Fawcett).
Beyond the starting line, JJ and Victor (driving their ambulance) come across Foyt and Glover, who have been involved in a minor fender-bender. Glover implores JJ and Victor to help, but when they tell Foyt to enter the ambulance through the back door, they kidnap Glover and take off without Foyt.
As the race progresses, Victor occasionally turns into his alter ego, superhero “Captain Chaos”. The very spooky Dr. Van Helsing (Jack Elam) and his huge hypodermic needle are also in the ambulance to “help” keep Glover quiet during the race.
Various teams are shown either evading law enforcement, most of which deal with talking their way out of a possible ticket, or concocting crazy schemes to outmaneuver their opponents.
Jill and Marcie use sex appeal as their weapon, unzipping their race suits to display copious amounts of cleavage during traffic stops. (However, this fails to work on a busty female traffic officer played in a cameo appearance by actress Valerie Perrine.)
In New Jersey, the ambulance is pulled over by state troopers; Dr. Van Helsing drugs Glover, and JJ and Victor are able to convince the troopers that they’re rushing “the Senator’s wife” to UCLA for medical treatment (offering the theory that her condition prevents them from flying, or from even driving through Denver). The Subaru team is able to turn off their car’s headlights and use infrared sensors for racing at night. Seymour Goldfarb is frequently shown evading police by using various James Bond-type gadgets, such as oil slicks, smoke screens, switchable number plates installed in his Aston Martin DB5. Mr. Compton (Bert Convy) and “Super Chief” Finch (Warren Berlinger) disguise themselves as a newlywed couple on a motorcycle, but Finch’s extra weight forces the two to ride cross-country in a continuous wheelie. The primary rivalry is between the ambulance and the Ferrari. In Ohio, Fenderbaum and Blake are able to convince Victor to pull over the ambulance in order to bless the patient on board. While Blake carries out the blessing, Fenderbaum flattens one of the ambulance’s rear tires. JJ gets his revenge in Missouri by convincing a nearby police officer that the two men dressed as priests are actually sex perverts who are responsible for the flashing victim in the ambulance.
The leading teams find themselves stopped on a desert highway, waiting for construction workers to clear the road. A biker gang (led by Peter Fonda) shows up and begins harassing Compton and Finch. It quickly gets out of hand and a free-for-all fistfight ensues. “Captain Chaos” emerges again to fight the bikers. Naturally, the Subaru team also joins in (Jackie Chan puts his martial arts skills to work) and fists and kicks fly. The construction crew announces that the road is open, so teams sprint back to their cars for the race to the finish.
The ambulance falls behind the pack until Victor once again becomes Captain Chaos. The vehicles all arrive at the final destination at the same time, so it’s a foot race to the finish line. JJ hands his team’s time card to Victor, then ambushes the remaining racers, leaving only Victor and one of the Lamborghini women, Marcie.
Just when it appears Victor will reach the time clock first, a spectator shouts that her “baby” has fallen into the water. Victor, still in his Captain Chaos persona, rushes to save the baby (later revealed to be her dog), allowing Marcie to clock in first and win the race.
JJ is furious and never wants to see Captain Chaos again, but Victor replies that he doesn’t care, because he really wants to be Captain USA. Foyt reappears and blames everyone for ruining the American highway. Seymour offers a cigar and tells Foyt to use the lighter in his car, which activates an ejection seat when pushed. Nothing happens at first, but when Seymour presses the button, he (Seymour) goes flying into the water.
Some of the Characters:
Burt Reynolds (as J.J. McClure) is an enduring, strong-featured, and genial star of US cinema, Burt Reynolds started off in TV westerns in the 1960’s and then carved his name into 1970/1980’s popular culture as a male sex symbol and on-screen as both a rugged action figure and then as a wisecracking, Southern-type “good olé’ boy.” Burton Leon Reynolds was born in Lansing, Michigan. He is the son of Fern H. (Miller) and Burton Milo Reynolds, who was in the army and later served as chief of police. His family moved to Florida, where he excelled as an athlete and played with Florida State University. He became an All Star Southern Conference halfback (and was earmarked by the Baltimore Colts) before a knee injury and a car accident ended his football career. Midway through college he dropped out and headed to New York with aspirations of becoming an actor. There he worked in restaurants and clubs while pulling the odd TV spot or theater role. At this time, ex-stuntman and longtime Reynolds buddy Hal Needham came to him with a “road film” script. It turned out to be the incredibly popular Smokey and the Bandit (1977) with Sally Field and Jerry Reed, which took in over $100 million at the box office. That film’s success was followed by Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983). Reynolds also appeared alongside Kris Kristofferson in the hit football film Semi-Tough (1977), with friend Dom DeLuise in the black comedy The End (1978) (which Reynolds directed), in the stunt-laden buddy film Hooper (1978) and then in the self-indulgent, star-packed road race flick The Cannonball Run (1981). Definitely one of Hollywood’s most resilient stars, Reynolds has continually surprised all with his ability to weather both personal and career hurdles and his 40-plus years in front of the cameras is testament to his staying ability, his acting talent and his appeal to film audiences.
Roger Moore (as Seymour) will perhaps always be remembered as the man who replaced Sean Connery in the James Bond series, arguably something he never lived down. Roger George Moore was born on October 14, 1927 in Stockwell, London, England, the son of Lillian (Pope) and George Alfred Moore, a policeman. He first wanted to be an artist, but got into films full time after becoming an extra in the late 1940s. Moore also served in the British military during the Second World War. He came to America in 1953. Suave, extremely handsome, and an excellent actor, he got a contract with MGM . His initial foray met with mixed success, with movies like Diane (1956) and Interrupted Melody (1955), as well as The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954). He was offered and accepted the role of James Bond, and once audiences got used to the change of style from Connery’s portrayal, they also accepted him. Live and Let Die (1973), his first Bond movie, grossed more outside of America than Diamonds Are Forever (1971); Connery’s last outing as James Bond. He went on to star in another six Bond films, before bowing out after A View to a Kill (1985) in 1985. He was 57 at the time the film was made and was looking a little too old for Bond – it was possibly one film too many. In between times, there had been more success with appearances in films such as That Lucky Touch (1975), Shout at the Devil (1976), The Wild Geese (1978), Escape to Athena (1979) and Ffolkes (1979). Despite his fame from the Bond films and many others, the United States never completely took to him until he starred in The Cannonball Run (1981) alongside Burt Reynolds, a big hit there. After relinquishing his role as Bond, his work load tended to diminish a little, though he did star in the American box office flop Fire, Ice & Dynamite (1990), as well as the comedy Bullseye! (1990), with Michael Caine.
Farrah Fawcett (as Pamela) was born on February 2, 1947, and passed away on June 25, 2009. She was an American actress and artist. A four-time Emmy Award nominee and six-time Golden Globe Award nominee, Fawcett rose to international fame when she posed for her iconic red swimsuit poster – which became the best selling pin-up poster in history – and starred as private investigator Jill Munroe in the first season of the television series Charlie’s Angels (1976–77). In 1996, she was ranked No. 26 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV stars of All-Time”. Fawcett began her career in 1968 in commercials and guest roles on television. During the 1970s, she appeared in numerous television series, including recurring roles on Harry O (1974–76), and The Six Million Dollar Man (1974–78) with then husband, film and television star Lee Majors. Her breakthrough role came in 1976, when she was cast as Jill Munroe in the ABC series Charlie’s Angels, alongside Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. The show propelled all three to stardom, but especially Fawcett (then billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors). After appearing in only the first season, Fawcett decided to leave the show which led to legal disputes. Eventually she signed a contract requiring her to make six guest appearances in the show’s third and fourth seasons (1978–80). For her role in Charlie’s Angels she received her first Golden Globe nomination. In 1983, Fawcett received positive reviews for her performance in the Off-Broadway play Extremities. She was subsequently cast in the 1986 film version and received a Golden Globe nomination. She received two Emmy Award nominations for her roles in TV movies, as a battered wife in the 1984 film The Burning Bed and as real-life murderer Diane Downs in the 1989 film Small Sacrifices. Her 1980s work in TV movies also earned her four additional Golden Globe nominations. Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006; the 2009 NBC documentary Farrah’s Story chronicled her battle with the disease. She posthumously earned her fourth Emmy nomination for her work as a producer on the documentary.
Dom DeLuise (as Victor Prinzim) was born August 1, 1933, and passed away on May 4, 2009. He was an American actor, comedian, film director, television producer, chef, and author. He was the husband of actress Carol Arthur from 1965 until his death and the father of actor, director, pianist, and writer Peter DeLuise, actor David DeLuise, and actor Michael DeLuise. He starred in a number of movies directed by Mel Brooks, in a series of films with career-long best friend Burt Reynolds, and as a voice actor in various animated films by Don Bluth. In the 1970’s and 1980’s he often co-starred with Burt Reynolds. Together they appeared in the films The Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run II, Smokey and the Bandit II, The End, All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. DeLuise was the host of the television show Candid Camera from 1991-92. DeLuise died at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. He was hospitalized at the time, suffering from kidney failure and respiratory problems due to complications from diabetes and high blood pressure. He suffered from cancer for more than a year prior to his death.
Did You Know?
Jackie Chan makes one of his first US film appearances. Inspired by Hal Needham’s notion of including bloopers during the closing credits, Chan begins a tradition of doing the same in most of his movies from this point onward.
Victor (Dom DeLuise) tells J.J. (Burt Reynolds) that it is a good thing they have a doctor on board in case someone gets “swamp fever”. This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) where Dom played a doctor Burt picks up. He was treating a patient for swamp fever.
At the end of the movie, during the big race to the finish, a black Trans Am appears. The driver of the car is seen in the foot race scene and Captain Chaos’s dressing down scene. The driver is wearing the Bandit’s jacket worn by Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).
The producers asked the governor of Georgia if the crew could shut down the center of a small town so that a plane could land in the middle of it. The police blocked off the section that the plane was to land in and a barrier can be seen in the background.
To get material for this movie, Brock Yates ran the final Cannonball in 1978. The move cost him his editorial position at Car and Driver magazine which has since been reinstated.
The license plate number of the 1964 silver birch Aston Martin DB5 driven by Roger Moore in the film was 6633PP. The car was made famous by the Sean Connery James Bond movies Goldfinger (1964) and then Thunderball (1965) with later models appearing in subsequent Bond pictures. However, Roger Moore who played James Bond seven times never drove an Aston Martin in a Bond film and this is his only on-screen appearance with the most famous of all James Bond cars.
The Hawaiian Tropic NASCAR racer is apparently inspired by the very real “Fire-Am” entered in the real race by F Gregory and P Brennan. The Fire-Am had previously been run at the Daytona 24 hour race and the owner had just stripped the numbers off the doors and loaned it to the cannonballers in full race drag. As Gregory put it: “one look at the Fire-Am and any cop would know we were up to no good”.
The ambulance used in the movie is the actual ambulance that Hal Needham and Brock Yates souped up and raced in the real Cannonball Run. It had been modified with a HEMI engine that made it go up to 145 mph and was equipped with four gas filler holes so that the required 90 gallons could be pumped quickly. Needham and Yates didn’t actually win the race (the transmission blew in Palm Springs) so Needham kept it in storage for several years until the time came to make this film. After the movie, he gave it to a church charity which raised a good deal of money auctioning it off.
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