The Cannonball Run (1981)

PG | 95 mins | Comedy | 1981

Director:

Hal Needham

Writer:

Brock Yates

Producer:

Albert S. Ruddy

Cinematographer:

Michael Butler

Production Designer:

Carol Wenger

Production Company:

Cannonball Productions
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HISTORY

Working titles for the film were The Cannonball Trophy and Cannonball. The film is often referred to as Cannonball Run, although the correct title is The Cannonball Run.
       In the opening credits, actor Norman Grabowski is listed as Norm Grabowski. His full name is used in the end credits.
       End credits include the following written statement: “The Producers wish to thank Governor George Busby of the sovereign state of Georgia and Ed Spivia, Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry & Trade.” End credits also include the following written acknowledgement: “ Behind The Green Door ©1973 Jartech Inc., with permission of Mitchell Brothers Film Group.”
       Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that the film was based on the “Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash,” a “no-holds-barred transcontinental race.” The race, created by writer Brock Yates, was held five times between 1971 and 1979, and was named to honor driver Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who set a 1933 cross-country record of fifty-three hours and thirty minutes. In an interview in the Nov 2002 Car and Driver, Yates noted that he used incidents from the races as material for the film, including the use of an ambulance and a fake patient. The film’s director, Hal Needham, accompanied Yates in the ambulance during the final Cannonball race in Apr 1979. Yates’s wife, Pamela, was the “patient” and a radiologist named Lyle Royer played the role of the “doctor.” The ambulance driven by Burt Reynolds’ team in the film is the ambulance Needham and Yates drove in the actual race.
       In the ... More Less

Working titles for the film were The Cannonball Trophy and Cannonball. The film is often referred to as Cannonball Run, although the correct title is The Cannonball Run.
       In the opening credits, actor Norman Grabowski is listed as Norm Grabowski. His full name is used in the end credits.
       End credits include the following written statement: “The Producers wish to thank Governor George Busby of the sovereign state of Georgia and Ed Spivia, Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry & Trade.” End credits also include the following written acknowledgement: “ Behind The Green Door ©1973 Jartech Inc., with permission of Mitchell Brothers Film Group.”
       Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that the film was based on the “Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash,” a “no-holds-barred transcontinental race.” The race, created by writer Brock Yates, was held five times between 1971 and 1979, and was named to honor driver Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who set a 1933 cross-country record of fifty-three hours and thirty minutes. In an interview in the Nov 2002 Car and Driver, Yates noted that he used incidents from the races as material for the film, including the use of an ambulance and a fake patient. The film’s director, Hal Needham, accompanied Yates in the ambulance during the final Cannonball race in Apr 1979. Yates’s wife, Pamela, was the “patient” and a radiologist named Lyle Royer played the role of the “doctor.” The ambulance driven by Burt Reynolds’ team in the film is the ambulance Needham and Yates drove in the actual race.
       In the Car and Driver interview, Yates stated that he had written the script for Steve McQueen, and an item in the 17 Jan 1980 DV noted that McQueen was being considered for the starring role. The 17 Apr 1980 DV, however, reported that Burt Reynolds had been signed to star, and, according to the 30 May 1980 DV, Reynolds would receive $5 million for his role. The 13 May 1980 DV reported that Paramount Pictures was planning to file a law suit against The Cannonball Run, Golden Harvest Productions and Twentieth Century-Fox for persuading Reynolds to film The Cannonball Run instead of the Paramount picture Paternity (1981, see entry) which he was contracted to film next. Reynolds would still star in Paternity, but it filmed after The Cannonball Run. The 14 May 1980 DV noted that the filmmakers extended an “olive branch” to Paramount by shutting down the The Cannonball Run production for the weekend so Reynolds could film additional footage on Paramount’s Rough Cut (1980, see entry). The 2 Jun 1980 DV reported that Paramount filed their suit against Twentieth Century-Fox and Golden Harvest Productions.
       The 6 May 1980 HR listed the film’s budget at $13 million. Items in the 14 May 1980 DV and the 30 May 1980 DV reported the film would finish filming on location in Atlanta, GA, on 25 May 1980 and then would shut down for three weeks to allow director Hal Needham time to finish editing Smokey and the Bandit II (1980, see entry), also starring Reynolds. Principal photography for The Cannonball Run resumed on 16 Jun 1980 in Los Angeles, CA. An item in the Nov 1980 South Bay added that the final scenes for the film were shot at the seaside Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, CA.
       The 16 Jun 1980 Box reported that a $50,000 AC Shelby Cobra sports car and an $85,000 Ferrari Boxer automobile were damaged when a camera crane fell on them during production.
       The 21 May 1980 Evening Outlook reported that Twentieth Century-Fox would distribute the film domestically, but the international distribution had not been set up. During production, the filmmakers rushed footage to international film distributors at the Cannes Film Festival in an effort to generate international sales.
       According to the 17 Jul 1980 HR, Twentieth Century-Fox planned to release the film on 23 Jun 1981. Items in the 27 May 1981 HR and the 28 May 1981 HR noted the film’s premiere on 18 Jun 1981 was a fundraiser, sponsored by First Pacific Bank, to benefit the John Wayne Cancer Clinic at UCLA Medical Center. The 11 Jun 1981 HR reported the film would open in 1, 682 theaters on 19 Jun 1981, and would be the largest opening-to-date for a first-run release.
       The 24 Jun 1981 LAT reported that the film’s opening weekend gross of $11,765,654 was the third largest weekend opening to date. The 29 Jun 1981 DV noted the film’s seven day gross was $18,857,225 and the 30 Jun 1981 DV reported a ten day gross of $27,098,640. An article in the 10 Jul 1981 LAT stated the film had grossed $37,535,551 in two and a half weeks. The 1 Jul 1981 DV noted the film grossed $2,255,000 in its first seven days in Canada, setting a boxoffice record.
       An item in the 4 Feb 1985 DV reported that Roger Moore filed a lawsuit against Eurasia Investments Limited and Golden Harvest International Ltd. Moore’s contract for The Cannonball Run entitled him to five percent of the film’s net profits, and the suit, citing accounting discrepancies, claimed that Moore was owed $134,209.60 in profit participation.
       On 25 Jun 1980, uncredited stuntwoman Heidi Von Beltz was injured in a stunt car crash during production of The Cannonball Run. Von Beltz, a passenger in the car, was left a quadriplegic. As tracked in articles in the 20 Jan 1983 Var, the 13 Aug 1984 DV, and the 26 Jun 1985 Var, Von Beltz filed a $35 million lawsuit, claiming the car had mechanical problems and no seat belts. Twenty-four of the original suit’s defendants, including producer Albert S. Ruddy, executive producer Raymond Chow, and Reynolds, were dropped from the suit after Von Beltz received a Workers’ Compensation claim. The 14 Jun 1986 LAHExam noted that Von Beltz’s $1.5 million workers’ compensation claim was the largest-to-date in the U.S. Needham filed a cross-complaint, claiming that the former defendants should also be required to pay a share of any settlement, and claiming that the production company’s refusal to indemnify him in the lawsuit violated his contract which protected him from third party personal injury claims. The 26 Jun 1985 Var article reported that Von Beltz’s attorneys rejected an offer to settle the case. Although Needham’s representatives denied that a “firm offer” was made at the settlement conference, Von Beltz’s attorney, David Sabin, claimed that Needham offered to pay Von Beltz $15,000 per month, tax free, for the rest of her life. According to an article in the 11 Apr 1986 DV, the defense team made a motion to move the start of the trial to 19 May 1986 because Needham was directing Body Slam (1986, see entry). Judge Jack Goertzen denied the motion because the statute of limitations was about to expire, and Judge Howard Thelin was assigned the case.
       Articles in the 28 Apr 1986 DV, the 29 Apr 1986 DV, the 30 Apr 1986 DV, and the 2 May 1986 DV covered the two main issues of the now $42.5 million law suit against Needham and his loan-out company, Stuntman Inc. The first issue concerned Needham’s negligence, with Von Beltz’s team claiming that, as the director, Needham was responsible for accidents that happened during filming, and that he knew the car was defective. Needham’s team countered that Von Beltz’s accident was caused by driver error and he was not liable for someone else’s mistake. Needham also asserted that it is not the director’s job to inspect stunt cars, and that he had trusted members of the crew to handle the car’s repairs. The second crucial issue of the case was whether Needham and Von Beltz were co-employees on the film. California’s labor codes prohibited co-employees from suing one another for injuries that occur on the job; those claims were settled through Workers’ Compensation. Von Beltz’s team asserted that Needham was hired through his loan-out company, and therefore was not a co-employee. An article in the 9 May 1986 DV reported that a mistrial was declared when the jury could not reach a verdict, and the 22 May 1986 DV noted that jury selection had begun in the retrial. Articles in the 14 Jun 1986 LAT, the 18 Jun 1986 DV and the 30 Jul 1986 DV tracked the outcome of the trial in which the jury awarded Von Beltz $4.5 million. The jury’s initial award was $6.5 million, but the jurors decided that Von Beltz was thirty-five percent negligent for participating in the stunt without seat belts, and reduced the compensation accordingly. Von Beltz’s settlement was voided, however, because she had already received $5.8 million in settlements and Workers’ Compensation, and, under California law, those amounts were subtracted from the settlement. Von Beltz’s request for a new trial was denied, and Superior Court Judge Philip Jones upheld the ruling to void Von Beltz’s award, and also upheld the jury’s decision that she was thirty-five percent responsible for the accident. An article in the 15 Mar 1989 Var reported that the California Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s ruling that Needham and Stuntmen Inc. were liable for Von Beltz’s injuries, and that Needham and Von Beltz were not co-employees because he had been hired through his loan-out company.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Jun 1980.
---
Car & Driver
Nov 2002.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1980.
---
Daily Variety
17 Apr 1980.
---
Daily Variety
13 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
14 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
30 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1980.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1981.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1981.
---
Daily Variety
1 Jul 1981.
---
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1984.
---
Daily Variety
4 Feb 1985.
---
Daily Variety
11 Apr 1986.
---
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1986.
---
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1986.
---
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1986.
---
Daily Variety
2 May 1986.
---
Daily Variety
9 May 1986.
---
Daily Variety
22 May 1986.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1986.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jul 1986.
---
Evening Outlook
21 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1981.
---
LAHExam
14 Jun 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Jun 1981
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jun 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Jul 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1986
p. 1, 3.
New York Times
20 Jun 1981
p. 11.
South Bay
Nov 1980.
---
Variety
24 Jun 1981
p. 23.
Variety
20 Jan 1983.
---
Variety
26 Jun 1985.
---
Variety
15 Mar 1989
p. 27.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring in alphabetical order:
[and]
Co-starring in alphabetical order:
and Seymour's girls:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Golden Harvest Presents
An Albert S. Ruddy Production
A Hal Needham Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men`s cost
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus arr and cond
Mus mixer
Asst mus mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd re-rec
Sd re-rec
Sd re-rec
Loop dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd eff ed
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Scr supv
Asst to prod
Asst to Hal Needham
Prod asst
Prod asst
Unit pub
Talent coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Loc services
Loc auditor
Loc auditor
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
SONGS
"Cannonball" written by R. Stevens, performed by Ray Stevens
"Love is on the Air" written by L. Henley, J. Hurt and J. Slate, performed by Lou Rawls
"The Cannonball Run" written by C. Mangione, performed by Chuck Mangione
+
SONGS
"Cannonball" written by R. Stevens, performed by Ray Stevens
"Love is on the Air" written by L. Henley, J. Hurt and J. Slate, performed by Lou Rawls
"The Cannonball Run" written by C. Mangione, performed by Chuck Mangione
"Beauty's Theme" written by J. Durrill, A. Capps, C. Crofford and S. Garrett, performed by Al Capps
"Just for the Hell of It" written by R. Stevens, performed by Ray Stevens
"If and When" written by B. Peters, performed by Lou Rawls
"You've Gotta Have a Dream" written by P. Molinary, A. Capps and S. Garrett, performed by The California Children's Chorus.
+
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Cannonball Trophy
Cannonball
Release Date:
1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 Junee 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Eurasia Investments, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
1 July 1981
Copyright Number:
PA106611
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses
Panaflex® Camera and Lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Hong Kong, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

J. J. McClure, owner of a land-sea-air delivery business, and his partner, Vic, discuss their plan to participate in the “Cannonball Run,” but J. J. is annoyed when Vic refers to a mysterious “him.” At a gambling establishment, a race car driver named Fenderbaum asks oddsmaker “The Greek” about the Cannonball Run, and The Greek explains that it is a 3,000 mile race across the U.S. with an average speed of eighty-five miles per hour. Fenderbaum and his driving partner, Jamie Blake, a former Formula One driver, place a bet that they will win the Cannonball. Meanwhile, J. J. and Vic speed through a police roadblock and crash. When Vic emerges from the car, he is wearing a red superhero mask and cape, and introduces himself as “Captain Chaos.” Later, J. J. and Vic fly a private plane and discuss how to camouflage their Cannonball vehicle. Realizing that they are out of beer, J. J. lands the plane on a busy street and waits while Vic buys more alcohol. Elsewhere, millionaire Seymour Goldfarb, Jr. is chastised by his mother for calling himself “Roger Moore” and thinking he is the star of James Bond films. Meanwhile, J. J. and Vic crash their speed boat and are taken away in an ambulance, which they realize is the perfect vehicle for the Cannonball race. On a Japanese talk show, Jackie Chan, Japan’s Subaru driver #1, and his computer scientist partner, Subaru driver #2 Michael Hui, demonstrate their computerized race car. Elsewhere, a sheik races his car through the desert as he prepares for the race. In an airplane, a business executive, ... +


J. J. McClure, owner of a land-sea-air delivery business, and his partner, Vic, discuss their plan to participate in the “Cannonball Run,” but J. J. is annoyed when Vic refers to a mysterious “him.” At a gambling establishment, a race car driver named Fenderbaum asks oddsmaker “The Greek” about the Cannonball Run, and The Greek explains that it is a 3,000 mile race across the U.S. with an average speed of eighty-five miles per hour. Fenderbaum and his driving partner, Jamie Blake, a former Formula One driver, place a bet that they will win the Cannonball. Meanwhile, J. J. and Vic speed through a police roadblock and crash. When Vic emerges from the car, he is wearing a red superhero mask and cape, and introduces himself as “Captain Chaos.” Later, J. J. and Vic fly a private plane and discuss how to camouflage their Cannonball vehicle. Realizing that they are out of beer, J. J. lands the plane on a busy street and waits while Vic buys more alcohol. Elsewhere, millionaire Seymour Goldfarb, Jr. is chastised by his mother for calling himself “Roger Moore” and thinking he is the star of James Bond films. Meanwhile, J. J. and Vic crash their speed boat and are taken away in an ambulance, which they realize is the perfect vehicle for the Cannonball race. On a Japanese talk show, Jackie Chan, Japan’s Subaru driver #1, and his computer scientist partner, Subaru driver #2 Michael Hui, demonstrate their computerized race car. Elsewhere, a sheik races his car through the desert as he prepares for the race. In an airplane, a business executive, Brad, tells his team to find his friend Shakey Finch, an expert motorcycle racer, then Brad rides a motorcycle off the plane and parachutes to the ground. The team of Mel and Terry drive their car into a hotel pool to avoid the police, and later “re-tune” their car outside a “Friends of Nature” meeting where a tree-loving attendee, Pamela, meets A. F. Foyt, the guest speaker. Foyt’s speech decrying automobiles is interrupted when Mel and Terry’s re-tuning causes the room’s windows to explode. As the “Cannonballers” assemble at the hotel, a driver named Mad Dog drives his truck into the lobby, knocking out Foyt in the process. When J. J. and Vic arrive dressed as ambulance drivers, the hotel manager asks them to attend to Foyt. J. J. soaks him with water, then heads for the bar. Later, when Foyt and Pamela get a drink, Foyt eavesdrops on J. J. and Vic as they discuss hiring a doctor and a patient to be on their team. J. J. spots two sexy women, Marcie and Jill, and asks them to join his team. The women, however, decline, as they are also Cannonballers and are determined to win. Fenderbaum and Jamie arrive, dressed as priests. Foyt leaves to call his employer at the Safety Enforcement Unit and promises to stop the Cannonballers. Back in the bar, J. J. tries to romance Pamela, but Vic interrupts and Pamela leaves. When Shakey Finch arrives, his partner, Brad, is surprised that he has gained weight, but they still plan to participate on their motorcycle, disguised as a bride and groom. Just then, Seymour pulls up with a date in his car, as Mel and Terry load their vehicle with beer, and Vic finds a wild-eyed proctologist willing to be the doctor on his team. As “priests” Fenderbaum and Jamie recognize J. J. and Vic, Jamie worries that Vic is strong competition. At the start of the race, the Cannonballers are warned that approximately ten thousand highway patrolmen are waiting. The participants are instructed to punch in their race card at the start, and punch their card in again at the finish line in California. Foyt records license plates as he and Pamela watch from afar. The Cannonballers include the “priests” Fenderbaum and Jamie in a red sports car, the Sheik, the Japanese team with the computerized car, Seymour and a new girl, Marcie and Jill, and Brad and Shakey on a motorcycle. J. J., Vic and their “doctor” start the race, but they still need to find a female “patient.” When they see Pamela and Foyt standing next to a wrecked car, J. J. pulls Pamela into the front seat and they leave Foyt behind, but Pamela is not happy to be kidnapped. Later, when they are stopped by police, J. J. and Vic tell the officers that they are driving a senator’s wife across country for an emergency operation. The police are skeptical until they see Pamela on the stretcher, incoherent from nitrous oxide administered by the doctor. A madcap race across the country ensues. The Japanese car utilizes its computer to avoid radar and to rocket up a steep slope. Marcie and Jill flaunt their cleavage to get out of tickets, although it does not work on a female officer. Mad Dog loses control of his brakes as he nears a moving train, but he speeds up and propels over the engine. Seymour enjoys a steady flow of different female passengers, and Shakey’s excess weight causes Brad’s motorcycle to race on its back wheel. The “priests” convince J. J. and Vic to stop and have their ambulance blessed, but while Jamie distracts the men, Fenderbaum slashes their tire. J. J. and Vic retaliate later by convincing an officer that the priests are actually armed and dangerous sexual offenders. Meanwhile, Foyt meets a variety of problems as he chases the Cannonballers, although he successfully stops several participants at a roadblock. J. J. hides the ambulance on the back of an eighteen-wheel truck and they sneak through Foyt’s roadblock. J. J. and Pamela get to know each other, and Pamela also bonds with Vic when he shares the story of “Captain Chaos,” who came to Vic’s rescue when he was bullied as a child; Vic insists Captain Chaos is not an imaginary creation, but is an actual superhero. Along the way, the Cannonballers are forced to stop at a construction site and wait for the road to open. A motorcycle gang arrives, surrounds Brad and Shakey’s motorcycle, and attacks them. Suddenly, Captain Chaos appears and leads the Cannonballers into the fight. The road soon opens, and, as everyone races back to their vehicles, Jackie Chan dispatches the remaining bikers with a series of martial arts moves. As they near the end of the race, Captain Chaos leaves and Vic returns to his place behind the wheel, but J. J. knows that they can only win if Vic drives like Captain Chaos, and Vic says he will try. Transforming back into his alter ego, Vic, as Captain Chaos, speeds the ambulance past everyone; however, as they approach the finish line, accidents create a roadblock, and the Cannonball Run becomes a foot race. Giving Captain Chaos the punch card and telling him to run for the finish line, J. J. tackles a group of the other drivers. Although Captain Chaos is about to win, he hears a woman scream that her baby needs help. As he stops to rescue the woman’s dog, Marcie runs past him and wins. Furious, J. J. rips off Captain Chaos’ mask and cape, but Vic is not upset because he always wanted to be Captain USA. Vic spins around and is suddenly wearing a new blue mask and cape. Everyone laughs and celebrates the end of the Cannonball Run. +

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

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