During a nice conversation with friends, someone commented about recent entertainers and celebrities who recently passed away.
Sean Connery, B.J. Thomas, Jackie Mason, Johnny Crawford and Rush Limbaugh were some mentioned who brought back fond memories. But one man particularly brought back a surprising response from all: Ned Beatty.
Beatty died on June 13, 2021. It seems none of us thought about his outstanding performances in All the President’s Men (1976), Network (1976), Superman (1978), Rudy (1993) or Toy Story 3 (2010).
For better or much worse, Beatty will always be recollected for the movie Deliverance, in 1972.
This movie was a star vehicle for two of the biggest actors in Hollywood at the time: Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight. Beatty costarred with them along with Ronny Cox.
The story is about four, “civilized” professional men from the big city who decide to take a canoe trip in a very rural area. After some initial fun, including a legendary scene where one of the men who brought his guitar plays Dueling Banjos with a mentally challenged boy. (Ronny Cox who was a musician actually played the guitar, although the boy’s performance was dubbed by someone else.)
Later, while out in the woods, they are separated and two of the men are accosted by two mountain men. Played by Bill McKinney and Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, they are arguably two of the scariest villains in history.
Armed, they tie up one of the men (Voight) and he watches in horror as they force his friend (Beatty) to strip. They make him squeal like a hog and rape him. They say:
“You sure got a pretty mouth boy.”
This has to be one of the most chilling lines in history.
Their friends arrive, and with steely studliness Burt carefully aims his bow and arrow killing one of the men. He takes the gun from the other who runs.
More terror ensues as they decide to bury the body rather than report what happened and battle nature as the rapids turn rough. They later kill another mountain man thinking that he is the one that got away, but realize later that they may have killed an innocent man.
Beatty suffered from nightmares thereafter over the role. He developed PTSD. At one point his friend Burt Reynolds loaded up his camper and took Beatty to the site where the rape was filmed. Reynolds thought confronting it would give Beatty some closure. Unfortunately vandals had littered the sight with crude graffiti making fun of the scene and Beatty was even further traumatized.
He seldom talked about the experience but appeared to make peace with the role.
Beatty’s credits include the prestigious films Network, 1941, and he appeared in some major TV series such as The Walton’s, Roseanne, Kojak, and M*A*S*H. His status as a character was never tarnished even after some misfires such as Stroker Ace and Ed and His Dead Mother (which is actually a wildly funny dark comedy.)
In 2001 before the 30th anniversary of Deliverance, to coincide with the DVD release Beatty joined the other three cast members for a photo shoot at the filming location of the movie. The film also had a limited theatrical rerelease and the cast participated in that.