Designing Women S4 E4 Extra Sugar - Deliverance
Updated: Mar 26
Cue the banjos! It’s time to talk about one of Designing Women’s favorite references – or at least Suzanne’s – Deliverance!
This movie turned 50 in 2022, but it still has a foothold in the pop culture zeitgeist. Join us as Salina breaks down the trivia, themes, and impact on the South. Scout’s honor: there will be no squealing like pigs.
Dig into some of Salina’s sources:
Come on, let’s get into it!
Welcome to this week's edition of Extra Sugar.
This week's episode of Designing Women recalled film's most infamous canoeing trip um via vis a vis Deliverance and there's no tiptoeing around it.
I don't care who you are.
The show in the episode description directly references the iconic movie and let's face it Designing Women Loves Deliverance.
They talk about it all the time.
Usually Suzanne usually disparagingly, but it definitely gets referenced once a season, at least if not more times.
So, um Nikki say a word so they know that you're not kidnapped.
Uh We've, we've also talked about it albeit briefly way back in season one, episode four when we talked about the stereotypes of hillbillies, hicks and rednecks.
But today, I'm hoping that we can tackle this whopper of a reference in a more substantial way.
We'll start by covering some basics about the movie and the book that inspired it.
Then we'll cover some movie trivia and themes and finally we'll talk about the movie's impact on the South sound.
That sounds great.
And then as always, uh my normal disclaimer for you, Nikki jump in, let me know if you have questions, obviously, I'll answer anything I can and I'll give you cut eyes for anything I can.
Okie dokey sounds good.
Which isn't really true.
I'll just go cut eyes, dear and head, light eyes.
I think it's you in headlight.
That's usually mine.
Hell, that wasn't in my notes.
I thought it about everything.
So just to cover the basics Deliverance was first a critically acclaimed best selling book published in 1970 by author James Dickey.
And the movie which just had its 50th anniversary last year was released in 1972 in case you are because I feel like people like they think they know what Deliverance is, but I don't always feel like they really know what the story line is.
I think people know about two parts.
I think they know about the pig part like big.
And I, and I still think that some people don't even realize what happens there when they make that reference.
And then also, um people are familiar with the, the banjos and the dueling banjos.
I should be clear.
I actually do know what happens in that part and that's the reason I won't watch this movie.
It sounds terrifying to me.
Yeah, I, so I, I'm going to go into this a little bit later to tell you what my thoughts are.
But I did watch Deliverance because I see the, well, I didn't feel like it was fair for me to come on here and talk about things that I read through other people's deep dives and not have watched the darn thing myself.
So I actually I will ask Casey if he will watch it with me.
And I got a big old fat note.
He said, yeah, he'd already seen it and he was like, no, I'm good, Salina.
So did you at Least watch it on like 1.5 speed or something?
No, I mean, I, I'll go ahead and just say as for me, uh, I mean, that scene was, it was, uh, a lot and it just, it was just long, it was like just a really long, long, long, long scene.
It wasn't really all that.
I, I, hm, the way that you see shows now, I feel like they would have shown more.
You got a lot of close up faces, but I actually think that might have made it worse.
I think that's worse for me.
I think that's absolutely right.
I think it's, it's letting my imagination run wild and that's not a great place for me to be.
But so people, like, focus on that part of the movie, but it's, it's a very small part of a Much longer movie and what I would call a 1970s pacing of a movie which is just, it's just, it's not for me, it's not for me.
Uh, so here's what the movie is about, I am.
This is from BBC culture because I think they did a nice job.
It's like distill, but it also gives you enough information, especially Nikki since you haven't seen it.
I'm hoping this gives you a nice like uh introduction to the characters a little bit.
So it centers on four city boys on an outdoor weekend around the fictional Kawai River.
This is really Georgia's Chattooga River in the Appalachian Mountains.
Lewis played by Burt Reynolds is the group's natural leader, determined to take the other three away from their more usual golf courses to face the forces of nature.
The river and its surrounding area are about to be flooded for a dam.
Ed played by John Vot looks up to lewis' his machismo while Bobby played by Ned Beatty and Drew played by Ronnie Cox are perplexed and amused by the trip as well as ignorant of the dangers of the landscape and condescending to the local mountain community.
They drop off their cars and take to the water in spite of warnings about the perilous rapper Rapids.
What follows for the four men is a brutal weekend of survival, not simply facing off against the landscape but also several locals who are far from welcoming.
So I hope that gives you a good idea like of what this movie is about.
I will say that one thing I actually disagree with on that is the character of Drew.
I actually didn't think that he was disparaging to any of the locals, but maybe I missed something.
So the movie was a critical and box office success with several Academy Award and Gold Golden Globe nominations.
Among the nominations were best picture and best Director Academy and Globes as well as best screenplay, actor and song for Globes.
It was also the fifth highest grossing film of 1972 and it made $46 million domestically, that would be $322 million today.
So not insubstantial in 2008, Deliverance was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.
And I'm mentioning that to say that like this film is taken seriously.
Um It was i it and to really kind of drive home this point that like it, it seeped into the culture in a way.
Um But like it was also something that uh I think people in more of the artistic circles were taking seriously at the time.
Do you know if it's categorized as a drama, a thriller, a horror, some version of all the above just uh as a movie.
I think people see it um uh as somewhere between drama, suspense and horror.
I've seen it all and it actually, it winds up being a little bit of a blueprint for a type of horror movies and we'll talk about that too.
So let's get into some of that trivia deliverance wasn't just set in North Georgia.
It was primarily shot there specifically in Raven County in the northeast corner of the state.
Uh You, this is like where Dillard House is just to give you some bearings.
Uh You know, me, I'm actually the one that needs the bearing and for anybody else who's listening and they're not sure what's in the northeast corner of the state or the northeast corner of their home.
I don't think Dillard's Dillard House is gonna help them.
We, I think we've talked about it here before.
Don't y'all go and just look up every single thing that we talk about.
Um Yeah, you know, the Dillard House in the northeast corner of the State.
I know exactly where that is.
Well, you should go because it's delicious.
Um I think at least part of Tuula Gorge is also in Raven.
I think that's right.
That's actually the probably more the mile marker that helps me is knowing where Tuula Gorge is.
I went down a big rabbit hole there because it looks like it stretches across a couple counties.
The sucker is big.
Yeah, the Gorge and Chattooga River are both where the canoe scenes were filmed.
And then there was also a few scenes shot in South Carolina, specifically Salem.
I don't know if you're familiar with Salem's, it's a place.
So Salem, South Carolina, I'll be looking that up.
Look it up.
Uh The actors all had stunt persons, but notoriously they performed a lot of their own and they all almost, I feel like had a brush with death.
So John Vot slipped while climbing up a cliff and a key grip called him with his head only inches from a sharp rock.
Burt Reynolds who had a reputation for doing his own stunt, cracked his tailbone going over the falls when he finally emerged far away from the stunt site, he had no clothes, shoes or socks on the falls had torn them all off.
So there's actually even a story.
They were gonna send a dummy over the fall.
I know they, I don't know how true this story is, but they, um I'm gonna tell it anyway, they were gonna send a dummy over the falls.
That's what the director wanted to do.
Burt Reynolds insisted on doing this stunt to make it better and more realistic, realistic.
So the story goes that he wakes up in a hospital bed after this happens and the director is sitting next to him and he like kind of cracks, open his eyes and he's like, how was the shot?
And the director goes, it looks like a dummy going.
I thought I had have read at some point and it's just like clanging around in the back of my head.
Maybe that Burt Reynolds had a career long injury as a result.
I think it's the, yeah, because I think so.
He died like a handful of years ago.
It's either 2016 or 2018.
I'm sorry, I, I, I, I don't recall off the top of my head.
What is time anymore?
This is what I'm saying.
So, but, um, what this story came up a lot around like, right, like right before he passed and then maybe right again after, because they ran a bunch of stories where they talk about, this was the one he really regrets doing on his own 2018.
So Ned Beatty also almost drowned when he got caught up in a hammering gush of falling water.
This is known as a pummeling hydraulic in the white water rafting world.
So you learn every day.
I know, I mean, I don't want to be pummeled by anything.
Um The cast could have looked a lot different early on the director John Borman is his name.
He secured Jack Nicholson is Ed.
And so that's John Void's character and Marlon Brando is Lewis.
That's Burt reynolds' character, but they were too expensive.
Donald Sutherland and Charlton Heston turned on the role of Lewis.
I guess Donald Sutherland famously said it was too violent at the time, Robert Redford, Henry, Fonda George C.
Scott and Warren Beatty were all also considered.
So James Dickey, he didn't just write the book.
He also pinned the screenplay.
Dickie was apparently very tricky to work with.
There are rumors that he broke Borman's nose and knocked out 44 of his teeth after the two got into a fist fight.
Yeah, a couple of articles indicate they made up Borman even gave him a cameo role as the sheriff at the end of the movie.
I got to tell you, I probably need to take a beat if someone knocked out four of my teeth.
I'm not sure that's repairable.
I'm not sure that's coming back together.
I mean, we, we have to have a really, we'd have to have a real long unless they were baby teeth.
Unless they, how were they baby teeth?
I'm thinking at this age, you probably, probably not.
I t um, so Dickie was controversial maybe, but also very talented and a very intriguing character.
He's actually a Buckhead native.
He was a war vet, a poet, laureate professor.
Many, many things and we'll link to some additional information for those who want to dig into his work and life.
It really is a very, uh, interesting character study.
Even if you've never seen Deliverance, chances are, like I said at the beginning, you know about dueling banjos, da da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da da.
I think I got that right.
That's probably close, close enough.
Do you know what I'm talking about?
So it's bluegrass first composed in the fifties, but it's actually Deliverance that made it famous so much so that the darn thing winds up charting and it spent four weeks at number two.
It was only beat out by Roberta Flack Killing Me Softly.
Um There was not to be confused with the Fuji version.
That was a few years later.
Um Actually, I think the name of the song is Killing Me Softly with his song.
And I just want to suggest the edit to Killing me Softly.
It's very long, but it sounds like something I would do.
Uh There was an oopsie poopsie though when the original composer Arthur Boogie Smith was not, he wasn't acknowledged by the filmmaker, so he winds up.
Oh my gosh, how horrible.
I know he sues him.
He wins and he receives songwriting credit as well as royalty.
He's good for him.
So I thought one that was just interesting trivia but also like, yes, exactly good for him.
I'm glad that he like stepped up and said, what was his, you know, my gosh, I mean, it was a really successful song and he had a little something to do with it.
He also is from South Carolina.
I mean, well he passed but he was from South Carolina.
Deliverance is credited with spawning subgenres.
And this is what I was referring to earlier known as Hillbilly and backwoods horror.
The Texas Chainsaw massacre is one example that the first one came out in 1974 that has its own really interesting back story.
The hills have eyes came out in 1977.
Both of these have been remade ad nauseum, but there are several iterations.
Um So I watched the movie in preparation for today as I mentioned it while it wasn't for me.
As I've also mentioned, what I will say is that much like other people who've done a closer read of the movie, there are a lot of themes to unpack and explore and I did find that um something that was definitely worth the time and effort.
So let's start with some of the easier ones and then we'll move into some of the, a little bit more challenging themes.
So a couple of things that come up is man versus nature.
The movie asserts that nature demands respect for man.
And the river turned out to be just as big of a foe as the men, the force of them were trying to escape.
Another theme that's in there is environmentalism versus industry.
So they go on the trip because the fictitious Kawai River is being dammed and turned into a lake.
And there's a lot of talk about that in the beginning, which is rather unusual for the times, but maybe sort of like you're starting to see some of this like, oh, hey, we only have so much going around kind of talk.
And it was interesting to see that pulled into the narrative.
This is where it starts to get a little tougher.
But there are these themes of masculinity.
So I ran across several articles and that speak to this theme.
There's different reads that people have on the theme of masculinity and how it plays out in the movie, but it's definitely there in the sauce.
There's a really good article and we'll link to it, um, from study the South.
And the author, the author argues that there was a quote crisis of masculinity in the seventies where there is so much change, including the women's movement from watching it.
I will tell you there were a few things that stuck out to me.
So the first thing is the movie was definitely wrestling with this idea, idea of male identity and this fear of being soft, so of not being able to hack it in the great outdoors.
There's a lot of little moments that are threaded through the movie about that.
They're very quiet, long moments.
Um but they're definitely there.
And then there are also, there's no women in this movie, really.
Certainly no leads.
You know, there's maybe a few women towards the end and they're like part of the community.
I think maybe one of them has like a spoken line and I think that in itself is a sign of the times.
And then I ran across something from professor and writer Joan Mellon who called women's absence from films in this decade, a punishment for their demands and gains.
So yay masculinity, um You look like you're thinking, so do you want to stop and explore what you're thinking.
I was processing.
So I was thinking, it's a guy's weekend, a movie about a guy weekend, which got me thinking about like, um, movies like the Hangover.
And then I was trying to remember, is there a significant female character in that movie?
There is the one, there's like, he's getting married, she's there for a minute.
Um, but then there's like the one woman that one guy accidentally gets married to.
So I guess there's a woman in it.
Yeah, that's right.
I could see her, I could see her outfit.
I couldn't see her face.
It's a pretty minor role.
So I'm super, I'm just processing those things and trying to decide how I feel about that.
I'm not super offended that women aren't included in a movie about a boy's weekend.
But that's my first blush.
Thought on that.
Yeah, I, I hear you.
It, I, I, I hear you.
Um, I'm like, now I'm, I love the process on the fly and I don't know, it's offensive and I don't think I'm trying to say it's offensive.
So I want to be clear about that.
I think I'm, I'm just trying to talk about how this is a theme of the movie and the masculinity piece.
I was trying to, what I was parsing or, um, squaring that with was the comment about women's lack of roles in this, like, decade or whatever, whatever you just said.
So, at least there's reason for this one that's for sure.
And unfortunately, like, while I was able to read her thoughts on it, I didn't, like, go back and, and, and read like, or look at other movies from the seventies.
I mean, like I said, it's not my favorite decade for movies personally.
It's just a weird pacing for me.
There's like this, um, ode to naturalism.
I just, I don't know, it's not, it's not for me.
So literally, I can only think of like Barbara Streisand movies and guess what?
She's a woman.
So it's not helpful.
Um So there's another theme that comes up a lot and I think this really kind of ties more into what we were talking about in the main episode which is rural versus urban, you know, so all the main characters are from the city and they're, they're, they clearly look down on the locals, the locals in turn were highly suspicious of outsiders.
Um but, you know, it may be more complicated than city folk versus mountain folk.
So going back to the study, the South article that I mentioned, Deliverance is just another example of the South as other um particularly poor white southerners.
And I want to read a passage from the article because I think they're hitting on something really important and this is what I think might be playing into the designing, web, designing women episode, at least on some level.
So the stigmatization of a group as the other always implies a relation of power.
The negotiation of power and deliverance happens not only on an inner regional level but also between classes.
The new educated and redeemed sunbelt white South needed to construct its own other in the post civil rights era, African Americans, the other others seem to be off limits.
Hence what better demographic group to serve this function than the historically stigmatized poor white southerners.
You talk about a lot to promise a lot.
Uh The author goes on to argue that the film is also an exotic.
This is a very hard word for me to say.
Um but of poor white trash and certainly they were playing into it.
There are some good examples with Billy Redden.
He was a local student who was cast to play the young banjo playing boy.
Uh And in the second draft of the film screenplay, he is described as probably a half wit likely from a family inbred to the point of imbecility and albinism.
They apparently also powdered his face and shaved his head for the part all to accentuate the exotic, the exotic aspect or whatever.
And so it's just, it's like a lot.
What, what it's all so weird.
I know it's just like it really weigh, it really weighs on me.
Um You know, they, some, it depends on what you read.
Some people say they did it because they, the studio kept cutting their budget over and over and over again.
And the reason that they were cutting their budget is because they really want this movie to be made.
They were very nervous about the rape scene.
And um so they wanted to pull it all together.
So they just kept trying to make them go away and the directors in a lot of articles talking about that aspect.
So they wind up casting about, I've read uh estimates up to half of the cast were locals.
And so there's some argument that's like they had to do that because they kept cutting their budget.
But then you read these other articles where they like they wanted this certain level of authenticity.
But then if they're saying things like that in the script and describing that way, them that way and then playing it up in these ways, it is it authentic, you know, it is it or does it feel somehow more like characterization and a really weird voyeurism?
Because now we are dealing with real people.
This is really hard for me to process that.
This movie has now been identified as something important in culturally, culturally important.
But also sounds to me as a Southerner problematic.
That's just a lot for me to process.
Yeah, I mean, I'm gonna be honest with you before we go into this last thing, it took me a long time to work on this one.
Um I, I found the, um, I found the articles that I've read very insightful.
Uh, if people find this topic interesting or you just kind of want to dig in, like, we'll have all of those resources there because I do think it's worth exploring.
I think it, it says I'll, um, it, like, makes you kind of examine yourself, especially if you're from the south.
Some of the thoughts that you think about rural versus urban, even if you don't mean to, it's like it's all baked in.
So, I don't know, it's something to marinade on while we're both marinating.
I'm gonna continue to try and talk at the same time, but Deliverance certainly has had an impact on the South while the director remembers a largely positive response from the locals who were excited and proud to have such a successful movie filmed in their backyard.
Some were not as charmed.
So, you know, say, right, there was a lot more that albino kid.
Well, so there's like a whole, that's a whole thing that you can chase down because people have interviewed him and he has a lot to say, God bless him.
Well, but it wouldn't be what you think it's going to be.
So A local commissioner, uh, County Commissioner told CNN around the 40th anniversary, which subsequent or like, just as like a side note, there was a lot more coverage around the 40th and the 50th.
I think we're just getting into a time where people don't know as much about deliverance as they used to 50 years ago is a long time, a long time.
So this is what he had to say about it.
We were portrayed as ignorant backward, scary deviant, redneck hillbillies that stuck with us through all these years.
And in fact, that was probably furthest from the truth.
These people up here are a very caring, lovely people, but it's a mixed bag.
So even the banjo boy, I mean, no, I mean, I thought that was in his comments, but it's a mixed bag.
I got the crazy Uncle Joe in the backyard.
This is why you're here.
So you can be the voice of the audience.
So no, it is a mixed bag about how people in the area reacted to the film, including Billy Redden, who's the banjo, who played the banjo boy.
I mean, they've been just as likely to say including him.
It's just a movie.
Let's all move on.
Well, you know, their opinion probably matters more than mine.
I shouldn't be offended on their behalf if they're not offended, but some people are.
So now I'm offended for this.
I'm offended for anybody who needs offense.
Oh, yeah, for you.
Um But you could argue that the movie perpetuated and deepened stereotypes of southerners, particularly those in Appalachia.
But I think one important point is it did not create them.
And we talked about some of that last season with the Hatfields and the mccoys.
And I have every confidence that we'll continue to learn things across these extra sugars and across digging into different references that show us these stereotypes.
They've just been there a long, long, long, long time.
So I know let's cap things off with some good news.
Shall we hear the movie had some tremendous downriver effects?
Which I'm, I'm suddenly like, why did I put that in there?
It set off uh five decades of film production here in Georgia.
Film and television brought 4.4 billion into Georgia during fiscal year 2022.
And this was reportedly a new industry record and then tourism also exploded.
So I couldn't Find anything super recent on revenue again, are really covering that 40th anniversary.
But from what I did find, even at that time, 10 years ago, it, it being tourism was the largest source of revenue bringing in 42 million a year.
And this is up in northeast Georgia.
And as 2012 rafting had become a $20 million dollar industry in the region.
So there's some good things that really came out of it.
Uh And good things for the area because when you're bringing money in, it's better for the people who live there, at least most of the time.
Um I'm certainly hoping that's the case.
So what did I miss?
What did you wish I covered?
Reach out and tell us you know the ways Instagram, Facebook, tiktok or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send us a Raven.
The options are endless.
There was a lot more than this just to be clear, but I had to find a stopping point so that Nikki didn't kill me.
Like otherwise I would have mentioned that Burt Reynolds used to say he was born in Way Cross Georgia but like he wasn't.
So that's something way cross.
What way cross, what is going on down there?
Women's favorite place is the place?
Burt Reynolds said he was born is, is what I'm saying about burgers.
All I know that's all you need to know.
So, what did we learn?
One, the seventies were a weird time.
Two Georgia is really pretty.
Please try not to disparage large swaths of people in the meantime.
Cue the banjos because that song is actually pretty good.
And that's this week's extra sugar.