The Great Smokey Roadblock (1978)

PG | 90 mins | Drama | 6 September 1978

Director:

John Leone

Writer:

John Leone

Producer:

Allan F. Bodoh

Cinematographer:

Edward R. Brown

Editor:

Corky Ehlers

Production Designer:

Robert Lothrop

Production Company:

Western Film Partners, Ltd.
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HISTORY

       The film underwent several title changes before it was officially released. While DV referred to the working title as The Last of the Cowboys in a 27 Aug 1976 news brief and later referred to the picture as Gentleman John in a 24 Sep 1976 report, Var noted on 12 Oct 1976 that the project had been renamed The Last of the Cowboys. One month later, HR news items on 10 Nov 1977 and 23 Nov 1977 referred to the movie as Elegant John and His Ladies, and later, a full-page advertisement in the 3 Feb 1978 Var called the film Elegant John and the Ladies. On 11 Feb 1978, HR announced that distributor Dimension Pictures changed the title to The Great Smokey Roadblock.
       On 27 Aug and 24 Sep 1976, DV stated that Ingo Preminger was the film’s executive producer. Subsequent mentions, including those in news briefs in DV on 12 Oct 1976 and 6 Jan 1978 and in HR on 23 Nov 1977, referred to Preminger as a producer.
       While a 31 Oct 1978 DV article noted the movie was made in early 1977, DV reported on 27 Aug 1976 and 24 Sep 1976 that the film began shooting on location in mid – late Sep 1976 in Oroville, CA.
       According to an article in the 31 Oct 1978 DV, following a screening of The Last of the Cowboys at the Cannes Film Festival ... More Less

       The film underwent several title changes before it was officially released. While DV referred to the working title as The Last of the Cowboys in a 27 Aug 1976 news brief and later referred to the picture as Gentleman John in a 24 Sep 1976 report, Var noted on 12 Oct 1976 that the project had been renamed The Last of the Cowboys. One month later, HR news items on 10 Nov 1977 and 23 Nov 1977 referred to the movie as Elegant John and His Ladies, and later, a full-page advertisement in the 3 Feb 1978 Var called the film Elegant John and the Ladies. On 11 Feb 1978, HR announced that distributor Dimension Pictures changed the title to The Great Smokey Roadblock.
       On 27 Aug and 24 Sep 1976, DV stated that Ingo Preminger was the film’s executive producer. Subsequent mentions, including those in news briefs in DV on 12 Oct 1976 and 6 Jan 1978 and in HR on 23 Nov 1977, referred to Preminger as a producer.
       While a 31 Oct 1978 DV article noted the movie was made in early 1977, DV reported on 27 Aug 1976 and 24 Sep 1976 that the film began shooting on location in mid – late Sep 1976 in Oroville, CA.
       According to an article in the 31 Oct 1978 DV, following a screening of The Last of the Cowboys at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1977, none of the major studios made an offer to acquire the film from production company Mar Vista Productions; they considered its storyline of a truck driver dying of cancer so depressing that it would be difficult to market. Independent production and distribution company Dimension Pictures agreed to distribute the film after Mar Vista ceded its creative rights. Against star Henry Fonda’s wishes, Dimension re-edited the picture to tell a lighthearted story of a sick truck driver who makes a cross-country trip with prostitutes and then retitled it The Great Smokey Roadblock to capitalize on the popularity of Smokey and the Bandit (1977, see entry). After the picture grossed $2 million during a limited run, Dimension deemed the film successful enough to release nationally.
       Dimension scheduled exhibitor screenings for 3 Feb 1978; previewed the film in Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth, TX; premiered it in Cincinnati, OH, on 12 Apr 1978 and opened it in Atlanta, GA, on 21 Apr 1978 and in New Orleans, LA, on 28 Apr 1978. Other cities in the movie’s limited release included Indianapolis, IN; Jacksonville, FL; Denver, CO; and Salt Lake City, UT; according to reports in DV on 6 Jan 1978 and 31 Oct 1978, Var on 8 Feb 1978 and HR on 30 Mar 1978 and 11 Apr 1978.
       The film’s national release date of 8 Feb 1978, reported by the 23 Nov 1977 HR and the 6 Jan 1978 DV, was later moved; first to 26 Mar 1978, as noted in HR on 26 Jan 1978, and in Var on 8 Feb 1978, then to Apr 1978, as announced in HR on 10 Feb 1978 and 11 Feb 1978. According to a 1 June 1978 HR news brief and production notes from AMPAS library files, The Great Smokey Roadblock opened in Los Angeles, CA, on 6 Sep 1978. The release date of 6 Sep 1978 used in this record is taken from the film's Los Angeles opening, since the specific national release date has not been confirmed.
       Reviews of The Great Smokey Roadblock, especially the work of its cast, were generally positive, with an occasional critique of writer-director John Leone’s plot.
       According to a 1 Dec 1981 DV article, The Great Smokey Roadblock was one of five movies named in a foreclosure notice that producer Allan F. Bodoh served on executive producer Michael Leone. Bodoh claimed Leone owed approximately $15 million in mortgage payments on the films. The outcome of the foreclosure action is unknown.
      The following text appears onscreen after the end credits: “The Producers wish to express their appreciation for: Hy-Gain Electronics, Inc.; Miller Brewing Company; Joe Evich; Charles Bidwell; Gerry Mangurian; and to: Ernie Paul; Oroville Chamber of Commerce and the People of Oroville, California for making this production possible.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Mar 1978.
---
Box Office
19 Jun 1978.
---
Box Office
26 Jun 1978.
---
Cosmopolitan
Dec 1977.
---
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1976.
---
Daily Variety
24 Sep 1976.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1977.
---
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1977.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1978.
---
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1978.
---
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1978.
---
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 1978.
---
LAHExam
1 Nov 1976.
---
LAHExam
10 Sep 1978.
---
Le Grande Journal Illustre
19 Dec 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Dec 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Sep 1978
p. 23.
TV Guide
8 Dec 1979.
---
Variety
29 Sep 1976.
---
Variety
12 Oct 1976.
---
Variety
20 Oct 1976.
---
Variety
21 Sep 1977
p. 18.
Variety
4 Dec 1977.
---
Variety
11 Jan 1978.
---
Variety
1 Feb 1978
p. 31.
Variety
8 Feb 1978.
---
Variety
1 Mar 1978.
---
Variety
12 Apr 1978.
---
Variety
17 May 1978
p. 142.
Variety
11 Sep 1985.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Mar Vista Productions Presentation
An Ingo Preminger Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d unit cam op
2d unit asst cam
2d unit 2d asst cam
Addl photog
Addl photog
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
Grip asst
Gaffer
Best boy
Generator op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop
Set const
COSTUMES
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles by
Spec eff
Spec eff best boy
MAKEUP
Make-up/hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Post prod exec
Post prod coord
Casting
Eleanor provided by
Helicopter services courtesy
Helicopter services courtesy
Scr supv
Prod coord
Transportation capt
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc casting
Public relations
Unit pub
Loc accountant
Driver, For Eleanor
Helicopter pilot
STAND INS
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Elegant John and His Ladies
Elegant John and the Ladies
The Last of the Cowboys
Gentleman John
Release Date:
6 September 1978
Premiere Information:
Cincinnati premiere: 12 April 1978
Los Angeles opening: 6 September 1978
Production Date:
began September 1976 in Oroville, CA
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
90
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Terminally ill truck driver John Howard sneaks out of a Los Angeles, California hospital and steals the eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer, a Kenworth truck he calls “Eleanor,” that was repossessed when he became sick. Known as “Elegant” John due to a career of delivering cargo over long distances safely and on time, he wants to make one more cross-country haul. At a roadside diner, John runs into a rival truck driver, Charlie La Pere, who taunts him for being too old and too sick to continue driving. Furthermore, knowing that John stole his truck and is no longer licensed to transport loads, Charlie predicts that the police are going to catch up with John. John then declines Charlie’s offer to give up his quest and sell his truck. As John drives out of California, he picks up a hitchhiker named Beebo Crozier, then finds some freight to haul. As John finishes loading his truck, however, the supplier discovers that the truck is stolen and demands John return the cargo. Dejected, John acquiesces, then gets back on the road with Beebo. Meanwhile, in Wyoming, the police raid and shut down Penelope Pearson’s brothel. Penelope and the five prostitutes who work for her are packing their things when John stops by. During their joyful reunion, Penelope admits hearing that John was sick, but he assures her he is healthy. After John and Penelope make love, they discuss their respective plights and decide that he will help her and her girls relocate to South Carolina by transporting them in his truck. The next night, when John wakes up in pain, Penelope comforts ... +


Terminally ill truck driver John Howard sneaks out of a Los Angeles, California hospital and steals the eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer, a Kenworth truck he calls “Eleanor,” that was repossessed when he became sick. Known as “Elegant” John due to a career of delivering cargo over long distances safely and on time, he wants to make one more cross-country haul. At a roadside diner, John runs into a rival truck driver, Charlie La Pere, who taunts him for being too old and too sick to continue driving. Furthermore, knowing that John stole his truck and is no longer licensed to transport loads, Charlie predicts that the police are going to catch up with John. John then declines Charlie’s offer to give up his quest and sell his truck. As John drives out of California, he picks up a hitchhiker named Beebo Crozier, then finds some freight to haul. As John finishes loading his truck, however, the supplier discovers that the truck is stolen and demands John return the cargo. Dejected, John acquiesces, then gets back on the road with Beebo. Meanwhile, in Wyoming, the police raid and shut down Penelope Pearson’s brothel. Penelope and the five prostitutes who work for her are packing their things when John stops by. During their joyful reunion, Penelope admits hearing that John was sick, but he assures her he is healthy. After John and Penelope make love, they discuss their respective plights and decide that he will help her and her girls relocate to South Carolina by transporting them in his truck. The next night, when John wakes up in pain, Penelope comforts him, realizing he is much sicker than he admitted. On the road the next day, the group hears radio reports that the police want to apprehend John for grand theft auto and arrest the women for prostitution and interstate flight. In Missouri, Sheriff Harley Davidson catches the truck in a speed trap and jails the occupants. However, the group escapes when the women lure Harley and his deputy into their cell, strip them, take their keys and lock up the policemen. Later, the travelers stop at a diner where they happen to run into Charlie. When Charlie insists John’s situation is hopeless and repeats the offer to buy John’s truck, John grabs him and pushes him down. Charlie angrily leaves. The next night, the group stops at a bar and sees a television news report outlining their story. Former disc jockey Bobby Apples approaches John and expresses support for his mission. Bobby says that John is getting bad press, but Bobby will help him improve his image. Later, John confides in Penelope his idea to take the new Route 9 through Georgia, since he expects all the other roads to be blocked by authorities hoping to catch him. If John can cross the Palachee Bridge, there should be no other obstacles on the way to the Carolinas. When Charlie reports to law enforcement his belief that John will take Route 9, the police set up a roadblock at the bridge. While stopping to take a rest, Bobby informs John that the trucker has inspired a great deal of local support; with the help of those people, John can run the blockade on Route 9. John doesn’t want to endanger anyone but Penelope persuades him to complete this final cross-country trip and they get back on the road. As news of John’s intent to drive through the blockade goes out over police and Citizens Band (CB) radios, several cars and trucks drive behind John to show solidarity. Waiting with police at Palachee bridge, Charlie gloats about John’s troubles until John drives his truck through the roadblock, forcing Charlie and several policemen to jump off the bridge to save themselves. After a brief stop to celebrate their victory, John and his friends resume their drive east. When the truck comes to an unexpected stop, Beebo gets out of the trailer and goes to the cab where he finds Penelope cradling an unconscious John. As Penelope urges John to hang on, Beebo takes over driving the last twenty miles to the Carolina coast. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.