Remembering Herbert Coward: The Iconic ‘Toothless Man’ from ‘Deliverance’

The entertainment world recently bid farewell to a unique character actor, Herbert Coward, best known for his portrayal of the ‘Toothless Man’ in the 1972 film ‘Deliverance.’ At the age of 85, Coward’s life came to a tragic end following a car crash in western North Carolina, leaving behind a legacy that has resonated with fans for decades.

A Tragic End to a Remarkable Life

The incident occurred on a fateful afternoon as Herbert Coward and his companion, Bertha Brooks, were returning from a doctor's appointment. Their vehicle collided with a truck on U.S. Route 19, leading to fatal consequences for both Coward, Brooks, and their beloved pets. The 16-year-old driver of the truck was taken to the hospital as a precaution, and authorities have stated that neither speed nor distraction were factors in the crash.

The Legacy of 'Deliverance'

'Deliverance,' a film that garnered critical acclaim and multiple award nominations, featured Herbert Coward in a role that, despite its brevity, left an indelible mark on cinema history. His portrayal of the 'Toothless Man,' a menacing figure in the backwoods of Georgia, became a symbol of the film's exploration of primal fear and survival. The movie, starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox, follows a group of businessmen on a harrowing canoe trip that turns into a nightmare when they encounter hostile locals.

Coward's character, with his missing front teeth and chilling demeanor, became synonymous with one of the film's most controversial scenes. His line, "He got a real purty mouth, ain't he?" has since become a memorable quote in the annals of film history.

A Local Legend Beyond the Screen

Outside of his cinematic achievements, Herbert Coward was a beloved figure in his local community in Haywood County. Known for his eccentricity and his pet squirrel, Coward's presence was a familiar and cherished part of the local culture. His passing has not only left a void in the hearts of movie enthusiasts but also among those who knew him as a neighbor and friend.

Remembering a Unique Talent

As we reflect on the life and career of Herbert Coward, it's clear that his impact on the film industry and those who knew him personally was profound. His role in 'Deliverance' may have been small, but it showcased his ability to leave a lasting impression with just a few minutes of screen time. His portrayal of the 'Toothless Man' will continue to be remembered as a testament to the power of character acting in cinema.

As we mourn the loss of this distinctive actor, we also celebrate the unique contributions he made to the world of film and the memories he created for his fans and loved ones. Herbert Coward's legacy will live on, not only through his memorable role in 'Deliverance' but also through the stories and memories shared by those who were fortunate enough to know him.


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