Actor who played Toothless Man in ‘Deliverance’ dies at 85

Associated Press

Herbert Coward, known for his “Toothless Man” role in the movie “Deliverance,” died Wednesday in a crash on a western North Carolina highway, according to authorities. He was 85.

The crash happened Wednesday afternoon as Coward and Bertha Brooks, 78, left a doctor’s appointment, North Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. M.J. Owens said by telephone on Thursday. Coward pulled out onto U.S. Route 19 in front of a pickup truck, which hit his car, Owens said. Coward and Brooks as well as a Chihuahua and pet squirrel were killed, he said. Coward, who lived in Haywood County, was famous locally for having a pet squirrel, he said.

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The 16-year-old driver of the truck was taken to a hospital as a precaution. Authorities don’t believe speed or distraction were factors in the crash, Owens said.

Coward had a small but memorable role in John Boorman’s 1972 classic “Deliverance.” The film starred Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox as a group of businessmen canoeing down a river in remote Georgia. Their adventure turns into a backwoods nightmare when local mountain men assault them.

Coward’s character, known as the “Toothless Man” for his missing front teeth, is one of the men who hold several of the paddlers at gunpoint during the assault. Coward became the indelible face to one of the most infamous scenes in 1970s cinema, contributing the line, “He got a real purty mouth, ain’t he?”

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