White Lightning (1973)

PG | 100-101 mins | Drama | August 1973

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HISTORY

The working titles for this film were McKluskey and McKlusky . Actress Diane Ladd’s surname is misspelled "Lad" in both the opening and closing credits. According to a 1 Mar 1972 HR article, Steven Spielberg was set to make his feature film directorial debut with White Lightning ; however, on 28 Apr 1972, DV stated that Joseph Sargent was to direct the film. White Lightning , which was shot in Little Rock, AK, as noted in the onscreen credits. White Lightning marked the feature film debut of Laura Dern, who portrayed "Maggie's daughter" in the film. Dern is the daughter of Diane Ladd and actor Bruce Dern.
       White Lightning was the first of many film collaborations between Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. Needham was a stunt coordinator and second unit director who went on to direct many of Reynold's successful action films, including Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Hooper (1978) and The Cannonball Run (1981). ... More Less

The working titles for this film were McKluskey and McKlusky . Actress Diane Ladd’s surname is misspelled "Lad" in both the opening and closing credits. According to a 1 Mar 1972 HR article, Steven Spielberg was set to make his feature film directorial debut with White Lightning ; however, on 28 Apr 1972, DV stated that Joseph Sargent was to direct the film. White Lightning , which was shot in Little Rock, AK, as noted in the onscreen credits. White Lightning marked the feature film debut of Laura Dern, who portrayed "Maggie's daughter" in the film. Dern is the daughter of Diane Ladd and actor Bruce Dern.
       White Lightning was the first of many film collaborations between Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. Needham was a stunt coordinator and second unit director who went on to direct many of Reynold's successful action films, including Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Hooper (1978) and The Cannonball Run (1981).

More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Jul 1972.
---
Box Office
11 Jul 1973.
---
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1971.
---
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1972.
---
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1973.
---
Films and Filming
Jan 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 1972
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 1972
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1973.
---
New York Times
9 Aug 1973
p. 30.
Time
24 Sep 1973.
---
Variety
6 Jun 1973
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
Cam op
Cam op, Chicago
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
Gaffer
Rigging gaffer
Key grip
Best boy
Stillman
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop man
COSTUMES
SOUND
Re-rec
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Boom man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and optical eff
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Transportation coord
Casting
Unit pub
Scr supv
Loc auditor
Prod secy
Dir secy
Travel coord
UA disbursing agent
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Cinemobile driver
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
McKlusky
McKluskey
Release Date:
August 1973
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 8 August 1973
Los Angeles opening: 15 August 1973
Production Date:
mid July--late August 1972 in Little Rock, AK
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corp.
Copyright Date:
28 March 1973
Copyright Number:
LP42627
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
100-101
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Gator McKlusky is serving his last year in an Arkansas prison for "bootlegging” homemade liquor when his cousin Louella informs him that his younger brother Donnie, an idealistic college student and civil rights activist, has been murdered by being drowned in a lake. Learning that crooked, bigoted sheriff Connors is responsible, a desperate Gator escapes from prison, only to be caught by warden Sims. Determined to bring Connors to justice, Gator agrees to cooperate with U.S. Treasury agents in exchange for an immediate release. After agreeing to collect evidence against Connors, whose dictator-like control over the dry Bogan County includes taking bribes from moonshiners, Gator is given a “souped-up” car to go undercover running liquor. When he tells his parents about his plan to catch Connors, Pa, his father, once a bootlegger himself, is furious that Gator has become a government “stool pigeon,” while his mother despairs that her remaining son will more than likely be killed. The next day, Gator offers Dude Watson, a speedway racer and liquor runner, immunity from prosecution if he aids Gator in collecting evidence against the sheriff, but Dude refuses, knowing Connors would kill him if he were caught. Gator tries again to pressure Dude at his mechanic’s shop. When Dude tries to drive Gator off his property with his shotgun, Gator easily overpowers him and finally convinces Dude to introduce him to liquor runner Roy Boone. Because of Gator’s easygoing attitude and impressive car, Roy hires him as a blocker, a driver who can intervene during police chases. On their first run, police spot Roy, but Gator diverts them into following him through a lumberyard and onto dirt roads. Finally Gator jumps ... +


Gator McKlusky is serving his last year in an Arkansas prison for "bootlegging” homemade liquor when his cousin Louella informs him that his younger brother Donnie, an idealistic college student and civil rights activist, has been murdered by being drowned in a lake. Learning that crooked, bigoted sheriff Connors is responsible, a desperate Gator escapes from prison, only to be caught by warden Sims. Determined to bring Connors to justice, Gator agrees to cooperate with U.S. Treasury agents in exchange for an immediate release. After agreeing to collect evidence against Connors, whose dictator-like control over the dry Bogan County includes taking bribes from moonshiners, Gator is given a “souped-up” car to go undercover running liquor. When he tells his parents about his plan to catch Connors, Pa, his father, once a bootlegger himself, is furious that Gator has become a government “stool pigeon,” while his mother despairs that her remaining son will more than likely be killed. The next day, Gator offers Dude Watson, a speedway racer and liquor runner, immunity from prosecution if he aids Gator in collecting evidence against the sheriff, but Dude refuses, knowing Connors would kill him if he were caught. Gator tries again to pressure Dude at his mechanic’s shop. When Dude tries to drive Gator off his property with his shotgun, Gator easily overpowers him and finally convinces Dude to introduce him to liquor runner Roy Boone. Because of Gator’s easygoing attitude and impressive car, Roy hires him as a blocker, a driver who can intervene during police chases. On their first run, police spot Roy, but Gator diverts them into following him through a lumberyard and onto dirt roads. Finally Gator jumps his car onto a sand barge crossing the river, foiling the dumbfounded police. Hoping to get access to Connors’ office to collect evidence, Gator takes out Martha, the sheriff’s middle-aged secretary, but after his goodnight kisses turn abruptly passionate, Martha rebuffs him, surmising that Gator wants some kind of favor. Days later, Roy takes Gator to the main distillery, a backwoods operation that produces 3,000 gallons of homemade whiskey each month. As jugs of whiskey are loaded in Roy’s car, distillery owner Big Bear threatens Gator, whom he suspects of being an informant, with a knife, but Gator charms his way out of the predicament. After making several runs, Roy, his girl friend Lou and Gator go to a diner, where Gator talks to college students, hoping to learn more about Donnie, but Roy dismisses the “draft dodging, pot smoking” kids and Lou admonishes Gator, believing he is just trying to sleep with the teenage girls. The next morning at Roy’s lake house, the flirtatious Lou brings breakfast to the dock where Gator is skinny-dipping. While Roy sleeps, Lou seductively spoon-feeds Gator, who tells her about his prison time after which Lou joins him in the lake for sex. Meanwhile, Connors, having learned from state authorities that Dude is a stool pigeon, laments that the federal government is being taken over by Communists, who, he believes, are turning his own people against him. Meanwhile, when treasury agents arrive at Dude’s shop to get information, Gator, realizing that Connors might learn of their visit, orders them to leave. During a return trip to the distillery, Gator sneaks into the house and takes notes from Big Bear’s books, feigning that he is flirting with Big Bear’s girl friend to divert attention. While making a delivery to a black nightclub, the bartender’s fond memories of Pa McKlusky’s moonshine business shames Gator into throwing his evidence log in a trash can fire. Meanwhile, Connors and his men threaten to rape Dude’s girl friend Maggie unless she tells them where they can find Dude. Maggie sends them to Dude’s parents’ farm, where Connors slams Dude’s father’s hand in the door until the old man tells them Dude is a friend’s house. As soon as Gator, Lou and Roy arrive at there to meet Dude, Big Bear, who has the police on his payroll, and two policemen attack, shooting Dude and handcuffing Gator and Lou, while Roy flees unharmed. Awaiting Connors’ arrival, Big Bear takes Lou and Gator into the house, where Gator gulps moonshine, feigning drunkenness. His tantalizing claims that Lou has tattoos on her belly prompt the three men to see for themselves. While Lou fights them off, Gator grabs Big Bear’s shotgun and hits Big Bear with it, then shoots one of the policemen and knocks the other out with a bottle. As Lou and Gator flee, Big Bear shoots Gator, forcing Lou to drag the barely conscious man into the car. Gator wakes up in a home for unwed mothers surrounded by a dozen pregnant women and nun Linda Fay, who hacksaws off his handcuffs. While hiding there, Gator learns from Donnie’s teenage friend Jenny that Donnie had decided that the students should protest in Bogan County, the most corrupt county in Arkansas. When Donnie demanded a search warrant before allowing police to disrupt a sit-in and then called the sheriff a fascist pig who robbed the public, Connors took him away. Within hours, Donnie was dead. Gator, unable to understand his brother’s commitment to justice, laments that Donnie, who was the only one in the family who had ever gone to college, lost his life for no real reason. Just then Connors arrives, prompting Gator, who is forced to drive one-handed because of his wounds, to back his car through the yard and flee. Connors and deputy Junior pursue him on a dirt road into a cornfield and then into a quarry, where they lose Connors. Soon after, two police cars are in pursuit, but Gator outmaneuvers the drivers, causing them to crash. Connors, who has extricated himself from the quarry, chases Gator, who leads the sheriff over an embankment into a pond, drowning him. Days later, while attending the town parade in Connors’ honor with Lou, Gator is satisfied that justice has been served without causing more harm to the good people of Bogan County, including the moonshiners. +

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

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