The Cannonball Run is an action comedy film released in 1981. Hal Needham directed the film, which was produced by Golden Harvest Films in Hong Kong and distributed by 20th Century Fox.
It boasts an all-star ensemble cast, including Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Jackie Chan, and Dean Martin, and was shot in Panavision. The film is based on a real cross-country outlaw road race that took place in the United States in 1979, starting in Connecticut and concluding in California.
It was one of the most financially successful films of 1981. Cannonball Run II (1984) and Speed Zone (1985) followed (1989). Dean Martin’s final cinematic performances were in Cannonball Run and its 1984 sequel. Jackie Chan made his second appearance in Hollywood in this film. During the closing credits, the picture continued director Hal Needham’s tradition of presenting a comedy reel of bloopers (a practice he started with Smokey and the Bandit II). This, according to Jackie Chan, prompted him to perform the same thing at the end of most of his flicks.
The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, an actual cross-country outlaw road race held four times in the 1970s, began at the Red Ball Garage on 31st Street in New York City (later the Lock, Stock and Barrel Restaurant in Darien, Connecticut) and ended at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California, in Los Angeles.
Yates was one of 46 teams with filmmaker Hal Needham to compete in the March 1979 race with a 150-MPH van modified into an ambulance, with LA doctor Lyell Royer and Brock’s second wife, Pamela Reynolds, riding as the patient on the gurney.
Although the ambulance never made it to the finish line — the transmission failed 50 miles short of the Redondo Beach finish line — Yates and Needham, as well as the ambulance and even the transmission breakdown, made it to the movie.
The Cannonball Run was a major commercial success when it debuted on 1,673 screens on June 19, 1981, grossing $11,765,574 in its opening weekend, the fourth highest of all time. However, this was not enough to match Superman II, which debuted the same weekend with a record-breaking $14,100,523.
After Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond, Superman II, Arthur, and Stripes, the picture grossed $72,179,579 in the United States and Canada, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 1981.
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