Friday, January 26, 2024

RIP Purty Mouth Man

Herbert Coward is not a name anyone knows. But his short, albeit horrifying, performance is one of the most memorable ones I can think of in cinema history. Upon stumbling across four Atlanta businessmen on a white-water rafting trip set in Georgia in the 1972 classic Deliverance, Coward, playing the character listed in the credits as Toothless Man, and his mountain buddy force Ned Beatty’s character to strip to his underwear and “squeal like a pig” while he’s violently sexually assaulted. Meanwhile Jon Voigt’s character is tied to a nearby tree and, as they figure out what to do with him, Toothless Man says, “He got a real purty mouth, ain’t he?”

Coward died this week at age 85 when his vehicle was hit by a truck in western North Carolina. Also deceased alongside him were his girlfriend Bertha Brooks, a chihuahua, and his pet squirrel. The truck driver survived.

Coward was interviewed in recent years and noted that he was illiterate and could only write his name. He said he learned his lines for Deliverance by listening to them on a tape recorder. Star Burt Reynolds had remembered seeing Coward working at an Old West-themed amusement park in North Carolina and suggested he have a role in the movie. 

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