“Y'all come back now, you hear?”
Those good ole boys from Hazzard County, Bo and Luke Duke, entertained millions in The Dukes of Hazzard TV show, which ran from 1979 to 1985. The series was inspired by the 1975 movie Moon Runners and shares many of the same locations and character names with the film. More than just a show about the Dukes of Hazzard car, The General Lee, it included a whole cast of great characters including; Uncle Jesse, Boss Hogg, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, and Flash the dog.
Although the show took a dive in ratings, when Bo and Luke, played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat, were replaced by lookalike cousins Coy and Vance Duke (more on that later), The Dukes of Hazzard TV Show ranked second only to Dallas in the ratings at one point. There was a Dukes of Hazzard movie made in 2005, but like most of the attempted reboots of 70’s and 80’s TV shows, it was panned by the critics and flopped at the box office. As always, the original is always the best and here are ten little known facts about the Dukes of Hazzard TV series.
1. The show’s producers paid an arm and a leg for The General Lee’s Horn
The horn that plays the first few notes of “Dixie” on the Dukes of Hazzard car, The General Lee, was added as an afterthought. Two of the show’s producers were sitting in their car eating breakfast, when another car passed them by playing the same tune. They chased after the car and bought the horn from the owner for $300. It was some time later that they found out they could have bought one from any local car accessory store for a whole lot less.
2. They weighed down The General Lee to make the jumps work
By far the majority of the car jumps made by the Dukes of Hazzard car on the show were done for real. To keep The General Lee flying straight and to stop the weight of the engine bringing the car down nose first, the stunt coordinators welded 400 pound steel boxes into the trunks of the car. Nearly all the jump scenes in each episode were unique too; they rarely used old stock footage.
Daisy was originally intended wear short skirts on the show and it was actress Catherine Bach, who came up with the idea for those unforgettable short shorts, or Daisy Dukes as they became known. The producers resisted at first saying that they were too provocative and only relented on the condition that Catherine Bach wear something underneath them.
4. The General Lee set a world record
The scene in the opening credits of The Dukes of Hazzard TV show, where the General Lee jumps over a police car, made TV history when it was shot. At that time in 1978 when the hot was filmed, it was the largest TV car jump that there had ever been at 16ft high and 82ft long.
5. The idea show can be traced back to real characters
The TV series took its inspiration from the movie Moon Runners, and the inspiration for that movie was the real life character of Jerry Elijah Rushing. Rushing was a moonshiner from North Carolina who evaded the cops in his modified Chrysler 300D. His car was called Traveller, after General Lee’s horse. He often travelled with his brother, Johnny, or his cousin Delane, and their tales evading the police are what, via the movie, lead to the Dukes of Hazzard. Rushing appeared in one episode of the show and later had legal wrangles with the studio, Warner Bros, over rights to the characters.
As the show progressed, the character of Boss Hogg, which as played by Sorrell Booke, morphed from a distinctly nasty and corrupt person, into more of a comical, money grabbing, character. As the character evolved, it became more apparent that there was a certain comic chemistry between Booke and James Best who played Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, which lead to the pair often being allowed to completely ad-lib their dialogue.
7. They ran out of Dodge Chargers to use in the show
Because the jumps and stunts were real, the show got through about one General Lee per episode and that meant about 150 Dodge Chargers were totalled. Dodge chargers became so scarce while the show was in production that members of the crew would offer to buy any Chargers that they saw. They were so desperate Dodge Chargers; they even left notes on peoples cars if they saw one in a car park.
John Schneider, who played Bo Duke, is a New Yorker, but he claimed to be a redneck from a small town in Georgia when he auditioned for the Part of Bo. He arrived at the audition unshaven and carrying a can of beer. He also claimed that he had graduated from the Georgia School of High Performance driving, but he only attended it for brief time.
9. The show had no black characters to begin with
There was a noticeable lack of black actors in the first season of The Dukes of Hazzard. In subsequent seasons, producer Gy Waldron rectified that with appearances from Don Pedro, who played the role of Sheriff Little, and the appearance of black federal agents investigating Boss Hogg.
In 1982, Tom Wopat and John Schneider failed to turn up for filming because of a dispute over pay and merchandising royalties. After a few weeks, lookalike replacements Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer were hired to play Coy and Vance Duke and the scripts changed to allow Bo and Luke to go NASCAR racing. The replacements didn’t go down well at all with fans and the show’s ratings slumped. Even though the original Duke boys did return to the show in 1983, the show never really recovered. The badly handled temporary disappearance of Bo and Luke Duke, poor and sometimes very silly scripts (Remember the alien landing in Hazzard County?), and an increasing reliance on fake car jumps using a miniature car, all added up the demise of the show in 1985.
The drop in popularity of The Dukes of Hazzard TV show wasn’t helped at all by its having to compete for the petrol head audience with a chap called Michael and his carcalled KITT. Stay tuned to this blog for more on that topic shortly!
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