Toothless Man Actor Herbert Coward Killed In Car Crash – He Was 85
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Renowned actor Herbert Coward, best remembered for his portrayal of the Toothless Man in the 1972 classic Deliverance, has passed away at the age of 85. The veteran actor lost his life in a car crash, along with his partner Bertha Brooks, 78, and his cherished companions, a pet Chihuahua and a squirrel. The unfortunate incident occurred when Coward’s silver Nissan was struck by a truck driven by a 16-year-old on Wednesday afternoon.
The Tragic Accident
The fatal crash took place as Coward was attempting to make a turn onto the U.S. Route 23 Highway in Haywood County, North Carolina, following a medical appointment. Tragically, neither Coward nor Brooks were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident, as reported by ABC news. It was confirmed that the teenage driver was not exceeding the speed limit.
According to law enforcement sources cited by FOX Carolina, the actor failed to yield the right of way, leading to the collision. The 16-year-old driver survived the crash and was promptly transported to a local hospital. However, his current condition remains unclear. State Troopers concluded that no crime was committed, and the teenager faced no charges.
Herbert Coward rose to fame with his memorable performance in Deliverance, where he delivered some of the film’s most iconic lines, including the infamous ‘He got a real pretty mouth, ain’t he?’ Most of Coward’s lines in the movie were improvised, as he later revealed to News 13.
Early Life and Cowboy Nickname
Coward’s journey into acting began when he met Burt Reynolds while working at the Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Reynolds, impressed by Coward, insisted on bringing him in for the role. Despite his challenges, including difficulty reading and writing due to leaving school early, Coward’s acting prowess shone through.
Friendship with Burt Reynolds
Reynolds spoke highly of Coward in a cast reunion video in 2017, saying, ‘He couldn’t read or write and he stuttered, but he was a wonderful actor.’ The actor, affectionately known as ‘Cowboy’ for his role in building Ghost Town, gained his distinctive toothless smile after being struck in the face with a pistol during a staged gunfight at the park.
Reflecting on his early years, Coward shared,
‘I was working on pretty heavy equipment for $18 and $20, that’s big money for back then.’
‘I’d run them and [his boss would] say, ‘Ride ’em, cowboy!”
His association with Ghost Town led to the creation of his cowboy persona, which became a defining part of his identity.
Following his breakthrough in Deliverance, Coward’s career took a hiatus for 35 years. In 2007, he produced Ghost Town: The Movie, a documentary about the theme park, and made a return to acting with a role in an episode of Hillbilly Blood in 2013.
In his later years, Coward embraced a quieter life in his mountain home, often spotted by locals with a pet squirrel perched on his shoulder. He maintained a lasting friendship with Burt Reynolds, even meeting the star just weeks before Reynolds’s death in 2018. In Coward’s own words,
‘Burt said he didn’t have but three friends — real friends — and I was one of them because I never asked him for nothing.’