Herbert Coward Actor Who Played Toothless Man in 39Deliverance39 Dies

Herbert Coward, Actor Who Played Toothless Man in 'Deliverance,' Dies at 85

Herbert Coward, the actor whose modest career included the small but memorable role of Toothless in the 1972 thriller “Deliverance,” died Thursday in a car accident in North Carolina. He was 85.

Mr. Coward died after he drove onto U.S. Highway 23 in Haywood County in the western part of the state and was struck by a truck, said Sgt. Marcus Bethea, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. A passenger in Mr. Coward's vehicle, Bertha Brooks, 78, was also killed, as were a Chihuahua and a pet squirrel, Sergeant Bethea said.

According to local news reports, Mr. Coward, who lived in Canton, North Carolina, in Haywood County, was often seen with his pet squirrel.

The 16-year-old driver of the truck was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, according to Sergeant Bethea. He said it was unclear what led to the crash and no charges had been filed.

Mr. Coward, who went by the nickname Cowboy, was best known for his role in “Deliverance,” which starred Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Jon Voight. The film is an adaptation of a novel by James Dickey about four Atlanta businessmen on a harrowing canoe journey in rural Georgia.

In the film, two of the businessmen encounter two hostile miners in the forest, one of whom is Toothless. The men tie one of the friends to a tree and then force the other to strip down to his underwear and “squeal like a pig.”

As the two men ponder what to do with their friend tied to the tree, Mr. Coward's character delivers the line: “He's got a real pout, hasn't he?”

The four friends eventually reunite and escape by killing one of the men with an arrow and driving away Mr. Coward's character. The scene is brief, but Mr. Coward's line became one of the most memorable movie lines of the 1970s and the most well-known of Mr. Coward's career.

Mr. Coward's acting career was largely limited after “Deliverance.” According to IMDB, he appeared in the 2007 film “Ghost Town: The Movie” and in an episode of the TV series “Hillbilly Blood” in 2013.

Herbert Coward was born Aug. 21, 1938, in Haywood County to Fred and Moody Parker Coward, he said in a 2019 interview with The Smoky Mountain News. His mother died when he was young, and Mr. Coward said he worked various jobs around the country, including appearances at a Wild West theme park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available Thursday.

While at the theme park, Mr. Coward worked briefly with Mr. Reynolds, who later recommended Mr. Coward for the role of Toothless, Mr. Coward said in the interview.

In a 2022 television interview on the 50th anniversary of “Deliverance,” Mr. Coward said that he was illiterate and learned his lines for “Deliverance” by listening to a script on a tape recorder.

“I write my name,” he said, “and that’s it.