(first posted 2/3/2013) Driving Miss Daisy is one of my top 10 favorite movies–and that’s saying a lot, considering that I was about ten years old the first time I watched it. You’d think I’d be more into Die Hard- or Lethal Weapon-type movies at that age. Don’t get me wrong: I liked those movies too, but this one, sans action-movie explosions and car chases, is quietly and competently excellent. That it is also a prime car-spotting film is just a happy bonus.
As the movie is about Daisy Werthan, an elderly lady being forced to use a chauffeur after wrecking her 1946-48 Chrysler (and in spectacular fashion), cars play a prominent role. After the Chrysler’s demise, her son, Boolie, (played by Dan Ackroyd, who proves he can be excellent in a non-comedic role) hires chauffeur Hoke (played by Morgan Freeman), to drive her around. As much as vocal, stubborn Daisy hates the situation, she can’t fire Hoke, who is being paid by Boolie!
Boolie himself drives a beautiful, bottle-green Cadillac Series 61 Sedanet, the first of many Cadillacs to appear in this movie.
I have always loved the 1948-49 Cadillac Sedanets, and it was great to see this one early in the movie. In this misty, early morning image, we can see the hind end of Daisy’s replacement car, a 1948 Hudson Commodore. It is implied that it was provided by the insurance company, so perhaps that is why it wasn’t a new Chrysler or Cadillac: As Daisy remembers fondly in the immediate post-crash scenes, “You should have let me keep my LaSalle. It never would have behaved this way, and you know it!” To which Boolie replies, “Mama, cars don’t behave, they are behaved upon.”
The Hudson is the most prominently featured car in the movie, and even people who have never seen the movie likely know about the maroon Commodore. In 1947-48, the independent U.S. automakers stole the Big Three’s thunder with the ’47 Studebaker and Step-Down ’48 Hudson. While the Hornet, with its six-cylinder “Twin H-Power” carburetion, is a blue-chip collectible today, the Commodore Eight was the top-of-the-line.
Plenty of cool background cars can be seen, including this ’41 Ford pickup. There appears to be a couple of ’33-’34 Fords further down the street, with the Hudson approaching from the extreme right. If this shot was black-and-white, you’d be hard-pressed to think it was anything other than an original vintage picture.
Indeed, throughout the film extreme attention to detail is paid to ensure historical accuracy. In 1955, when the Hudson is traded in on a new car, Boolie and Hoke must go to Century Motors to pick up the brand-new Cadillac. Pretty cool dealership, eh?
We are even treated to a look at the showroom interior, which contains a beautiful sapphire-blue Eldorado, shown here on the left; however, as a restrained Southern lady, Daisy would never want something so ostentatious as an Eldo.
Instead, the replacement is an all-black Series 60 Special. I’ve always loved the 1954-56 Cadillacs, due partly to a similar black ’55 I saw at a summer car show when I was in first grade. The ’55 model may be the best, though, with its chrome side strip that turns 90 degrees into the quarter panel instead of ’54’s faux air scoop.
The Sixty Special gets a lot of screen time as it is driven on a trip to Mobile. Despite having this nearly-new luxury car, frugal Daisy does not allow Hoke to run the air conditioning. Boolie sees them off in his new Eldorado Brougham; apparently, the Werthans’ business was doing well if Boolie could purchase a $13,000 Brougham!
Interestingly, two Sixty Specials, a ’55 and a ’56, were used in the role of Daisy’s first Cadillac (unless you count the earlier, unseen LaSalle). Judging by its oblong jet-tube exhaust ports in the bumper, it’s the ’56 model we see here.
This movie was very realistic in its portrayal of era-appropriate vehicles, which is something seen less and less in today’s movies. Lately, it seems that if a movie is set in, say, 1967, the producers figure, “Ah, we’ll use 1960-1975 cars and no one will notice.” Well, we car guys notice!
Although it doesn’t appear for more than a couple of seconds in the movie, I just love this red 1963-64 Coupe de Ville.
Here’s another one, apparently a black Sixty Special, at the left side of the picture. Atlanta was quite the well-to-do, cosmopolitan city back in the early ’60s. The images and choreography of this movie are excellent–and, I feel, provide a very accurate picture of 1940s-1960s Southern life, even though that era was long over by the time I came into the world.
Here we can see Daisy’s last two cars, the ’65 Calais and the ’70 Fleetwood Sixty Special. I always thought the ’65 was a Sedan de Ville, but thanks to imcdb.org (which is also the source of these great screen shots) I now know otherwise. I wonder if there were any other cars between the ’55 and ’65? The white ’70 had only a brief appearance, shown above, and was not used in any action scenes. All we see of Daisy’s last Cadillac is its tail poking out of the 1920s-era garage.
Also mirroring real life is that at the end of the movie we see Boolie abandon Cadillacs in favor of a W109 Mercedes-Benz, specifically a circa-1971 300SEL. It was a sign of the times, and a neat little acknowledgement of the changing automotive tastes during the early ’70s.
All in all, Driving Miss Daisy is a fine film, as evidenced by its Best Picture Oscar in 1989. It’s a picture I’d enjoy even if all those great cars weren’t in it, and I highly recommend checking it out.
All movie images are courtesy of the Internet Movie Car Database (imcdb.org). More cars from this movie can be seen here.
Many exterior shots of DMD were filmed around Decatur, GA, a suburb of Atlanta. Decatur is also my home town. The exterior set of Century Motors was on Ponce de Leon, about three blocks from the Decatur Post Office (and is very close to where Royal Oldsmobile used to be where my folks bought their new ’76 Vista Cruiser). The rain scene where Hoke and Miss Daisy are stuck in traffic (“they done bombed the temple”) was filmed about a block from Agnes Scott College where the tower is visible. Agnes Scott College is by the train tracks. Only a few blocks from there, another exterior shot takes place where the Hudson is seen crossing the train tracks with a metal bridge in the background. That bridge is part of the MARTA train system (unrelated to the railroad tracks). I like the movie because it reminds me of home, although I grew up there in the 70s and 80s.
Okay, let me be the fist pedant!
Re the 1948 Hudson: “It is implied that it was provided by the insurance company, so perhaps that is why it wasn’t a new Chrysler or LaSalle:”
LaSalle production ended in 1940, hence no new LaSalle in 1948.
I enjoyed this article very much; thank you.
That’s odd, I thought I wrote “new Chrysler or Cadillac.” Yes, LaSalle did indeed go away after the ’40 model year. Will fix.
One of my favorite movies as well. I recall seeing it for the first time, how struck I was by the historical accuracy of almost every detail.
My only question is why such a wealthy family would have gone to a Hudson instead of a Cadillac or Buick in 1948. I get the Chrysler – everyone had waiting lists after the war and you took what you could get. But for a family that clearly preferred Cadillacs, the Hudson was always curious to me. But still, I love it.
The other question is why jump from a 55 Sixty Special (high end) to a 65 Calais (low end) then back to another Sixty Special for 1970? The 65 should have been a Fleetwood too. Oh well.
The 55 Fleetwood is one of my lust objects. I bought my 63 Fleetwood from my mother’s aunt in 1978. She was the well-off widow of a physician. Shortly before her husband passed away, he bought a black 55 Fleetwood Sixty Special. Aunt Alma never drove, but kept the car after his death. In 1963, she decided that the 55 was too old and replaced it with a new black 63 model (which she also never drove). Had she been less inclined to keep current, my second car could have been that 55 Fleetwood instead of the 63. Oh well, the 63 was plenty cool as well.
I think that goes back to the Insurance company providing the replacement. Which is a bit curious, because the Hudson would have been in high demand in 1948, so how’d they get their hands on one?
And I have to second Tom, for all these years I couldn’t tell that it was a Sedan DeVille rather than a Calais for the ’65, and I assume whomever had to dig up cars for the movie wanted the cleanest looking ’65 regardless of trim level. That Calais was pretty clean, so I forgive that minor goof.
But, instead of the cars, The Werthan house always inspired my envy. They skipped all of my favorite Cadillacs anyways, so my main lust object in the movie would have been Boolie’s Benz with that house…. or Hoke’s granddaughter Michelle’s Cougar…
This is a link for curbed Atlanta when the House was sold. I used to drive past it all the time. Great movie., one of my top 5 of all time.
All beautiful cars. My favorite is the Hudson though.
Thanks for this – it’s one of the best car spotting movies (aside from Gone in 60 Seconds or The Fast and the Furious) I can think of – and the fastidious attention to period detail relating to cars is something which is sorely lacking in many of todays films which feature vintage cars!
Favorite movie of mine too. Miss Daisy was plenty cantankerous and she may have had some say so about what was purchased – thus a less expensive Calais vs. something nicer.
As an interesting bit of trivia, fellow Canuckistani Dan Akykrod had to gain weight for this role and never managed to lose it.
>> I wonder if there were any other cars between the ’55 and ’65?<<
Well, my grandmother, not as well off as Miss Daisy, kept each of her last two cars for about 15 years apiece, so that could be realistic.
These were, btw, a '50 Buick Special fastback, bought just prior to my Grandfather's death, and a '64 Riviera, bought for her by my uncle. Wish I could find photos of them, they were some seriously attractive cars.
This is a movie I need to see again. I only saw it once, a million years ago, and liked it – but I barely remember it at this point. I also like all of these cars, but I’m sooooo into the fastback Caddy, which is in the perfect color for that model. The Hudson and Mercedes share a very close second place. Boolie had good taste…
At least that 1946-48 Chrysler wasn’t too damaged. 🙂 That reminded me of of an article I saw on Hemmings blog about someone who decided to build a 1946 Chrysler Town & Country Roadster who should had existed. http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2012/10/17/one-of-none-chrysler-town-and-country-roadster-heads-to-auction/
Jeez, that thing is absolutely gorgeous… wish I had a spare $150k or so laying around.
I second that–it would have been a great high-end companion to the Dodge Wayfarer, though that one didn’t come out until ’49. The deep red color, with the wood trim, is a knockout color combination!
EXCELLENT movie all around! Not just for car spotters. There’s a 1970 Cougar XR-7 towards the end, driven by Hoke’s Daughter. Like the Mercedes it’s a sign of the times: a smaller luxury/sporty car.
A friend of mine from the Cougar Club, and other friends would get together for “Movie Car Night” and play “Spot the Cougar!” We were watching this movie not too long ago for old cars in general………nobody remembered a Cougar in it before!
I always thought that this was a movie that had someone with good automotive attention to detail involved in the production, as someone said before, some movies it seems like they dont even care as long as the cars are before 1980, but this involved some real attention, the Cadillac dealer scene, they could have cheaped out and shown the car outside, but to take the time to create an entire 1955 Cadillac showroom, down to other cars, advertisements, that shows that it was done by someone that really likes cars.
I have always disargreed with the Mercedes at the end, it bothered me, yes I know that people were buying MB’s because Cadillacs were terrible and yada yada yada, but not middle aged, conservative, businessman in Atlanta GA, not in 1971, I don’t think so.
You’re in MB denial, not surprisingly 🙂
In Baltimore, in the conservative upscale suburbs where my parents lived, Mercedes SE/SELs became increasingly common right about then. In Towson, the Mercedes dealer had just moved into the prominent and quite large VW dealer’s former building, with a large showroom and service facilities. They were selling exactly to this kind of clientele: established, successful businessmen and professionals. Sorry…
I’m sorry I had a different opinion, thank you for correcting me, please let me know what else you would like me to think commander.
I guess those 267,868 Cadillacs must have been given away in the ghetto to poor people, because clearly no one wanted them, again, thanks for clearing that up for me.
I hope Canucklehead can also chime in and tell me how they were garbage too….
I know to you its perverse and stupid that anyone would want a Cadillac over your reichswagen, but believe it or not, 99% of guys like the one one in the movie in 1971, would have bought a Cadillac, Sorry……
I’m not telling you what to think. I’m telling you what I think, and you’re quite free to disagree. But if you’re going to be so prickly about an exchange of opinion, why do you even comment?
Seriously: reread your prior comment. You expressed a highly loaded opinion because Cadillacs were terrible and yada yada yada,. I only responded to your opinion with my memories of what I experienced in a similar city at that time. And I put a smiley emoticon on it in hopes you wouldn’t get bent out of shape.
But of course you did. re-read your response: it’s aggressive, as in spoiling for a fight. I hope Canucklehead can also chime in and tell me how they were garbage too… .Haven’t you had enough of that here lately?
Did I say anything in my comment about Cadillacs? Not one word. And this is all you can come back with?: I know to you its perverse and stupid that anyone would want a Cadillac over your reichswagen
All I did was give an accurate representation of historical facts that MB sales were increasing in this period. You seem to have a hard time accepting facts.
I’m not rising to the bait, though. Your attitude is spoiling the positive commenting vibe that predominates here. And I don’t like it. And I’m not the only one.
If you keep this up, I’m going to have no choice but to suspend your commenting privileges for a period of time. End of this comment thread.
Not to add fuel to the fire, but from my personal experience, there may be a bit of truth to both. Maybe they were stretching a bit to have that character get a Mercedes, but in the mid- and late-70s, in suburban Dallas (about as conservative as you can get!) a wealthy-ish couple at our church had a Seville AND a Mercedes. After a period of time, it seemed the Seville (much more interesting to me as a child) disappeared, but the Mercedes stayed. Must have been something appealing about that Mercedes, in the heart of the conservative South(west)! I was only about 9, but I think I remember hearing something about the diesel and a lot of talk about “engineering”. To me, the Mercedes seemed rather plain, especially inside! But it was foretelling of things to come…
Wow, CC finally has its own pissing match, which it never should have (lest we become TTAC, groan).
For What it’s worth: In the early 1970’s, my Parents had acquaintances somewhat above their middle-middle class status, living in the more fashionable, upscale neighborhoods of New Orleans.
More than a few of them were trading in their Cadillacs or Lincolns for a Mercedes-Benz or even a BMW Bavaria in the early 1970’s.
Seeing a trim Benz or BMW, sitting in the same carport/driveway that had been previously filled to capacity by a large American car was quite the surprise.
It was during this time period that I learned how marginal the air conditioning systems in German cars of this time period, combined with the de riguer leather interiors, were in the hot and humid New Orleans extended summer season!
Boolie’s wife was a real social climber and, to Miss Daisy’s disgust, by moving the family toward celebrating “Christian” holidays and such is portrayed as pushing their Jewish heritage into the background. I always figured the Mercedes was somewhat symbolic of her efforts in that regard.
Driving Miss Daisy is a car lover’s delight and every time I watch it I am amazed at how the cars are real characters in the story. My favorites are the mid-50’s Cadillacs. Those cars were so much more sleek and modern than the fat early 50’s models and avoided the excesses of what was to come with the 58-60 models.
Much is made of Miss Daisy being Jewish. Rare enough for the deep South, but what would have been cut out of the movie would be the scene where the son bought a Mercedes. No Jew at that epoch would have bought a German car.
I have a cousin who in the 2000’s had to ask his mother if she would be upset if he got a BMW. I remember a time when good Jewish people would not even get into VW’s. Too soon, as we say now.
A real false note in the film.
Thank you, I would have brought up that he was Jewish too, but I am already on “thin ice” here because having a different opinion ruins the “positive commenting vibe”, but yeah, that too.
I also love how the last part of my post is the one that has kicked up an ant hill, and not a word about my positive comments about the great automotive attention to detail that the movie has
Tell that to my Jewish orthodontist at the time. There may be some degree of of truth to your statement, but to say No Jew at that epoch would have bought a German car. is inevitably false. You realize that, right? Or can you prove it?
Don’t let facts get in the way, Paul.
And if you had spent any time in Beverly Hills or thereabouts in the early-mid seventies, you wouldn’t have made that assertion. That may not have been quite the common case in Atlanta, but the ice was well broken in Hollywood by then, if not earlier.
So true, Paul. I remember only a very few of my Jewish friends in LA and NY in the early/mid 70’s who had any hesitancy about purchasing a German car. I have no knowledge of the attitude in the South at the time but it is Interesting that the play’s author (not that he had anything to do with the choice of cars for the film), Alfred Uhry, is described thusly:
“He was a Jewish boy who, when he headed off to college at Brown, in 1954, says he didn’t know the difference between lox and bagels. (“There are Southern Jews that are very good Jews,” Uhry hastens to add. “Just not mine.”)”
You beat me to it. Uhry was also the screenwriter of the movie version, so I rather suspect he vetted the choice.
Your Jewish ortho would be like saying my negro friend… Afraid I hit a nevre. I would never say what ALL Jews do: they weren’t all bankers, tailors, lawyers, or even dentists.
But the mid-late ’70s early 80’s threre ere options like Jags, Lancia, Rolls were even attainable. Lexus would boom. Jeeps became chi- chi. And the very many, many Savilles.
I was around Beverly Hills, Hollywood, malibu a lot then. But don’t think I knew one reformed/liberal Jew who would drive a Mercedes to Temple on a Saturday. Guess they would have to borrow their maid’s Pinto.
Alfred Uhry wrote the play as well as the movie screenplay. He was Jewish and from the Atlanta area. I rather suspect he might have said something if he didn’t agree with the choice of the Mercedes, eh?
Your family sounds either really Orthodox or really out of touch, as we say now.
If Boolie was progressive, or agnostic, enough to marry a goyim, a car from Stuttgart is hardly a stretch.
Here in New Orleans, we do NOT consider Atlanta the “Deep South”! “Hotlanta” is considered no more in the southern part of the USA than Washington D. C. is considered to be in “The South”. It’s sneered at in more than a few social circles in New Orleans polite society.
This tradition-dripping southern city (#NOLA) has more than a few old line, upper middle class families of Jewish derivation.
The more assimilated families would have had no problem with a Benz or BMW automobile in the early 1970’s or having German appliances in their kitchens or dens.
Where do you live, Riko77? Just curious.
The MB was also symbolic of Boolie’s downplaying his Judaism, a recurring theme in the movie. Totally agree with your point – Mercedes were even popping up in my steel town home in the early 70’s.
Having owned a ’71 300SEL, as well as a ’68, this scene’s always been a favorite of mine. And my elderly neighbor across the street still had her black ’55 Sixty Special when I was growing up.
Not to raise the ire of the pro-Caddy lobby or anti-Caddy types, I’m thinking that the switch to the Benz circa 1971 had more to do with exclusivity than any hatred against Caddies. Folks in this income bracket didn’t want to be see in a car that was too “common”, so the Benz makes sense if there are too many Caddies about. Heck, even the chauffeur’s were driving Caddies!
Besides, real old money tended to drive Buicks….seen as less vulgar.
The same thing is happening here in Vancouver right now. BMWs and MBs are seen as too pedestrian by the bourgeoisie, who are snapping up Italian exotics like candy. The real old-money rich are now ordering and driving the Tesla Model S. Saw four last week. One my clients (stinking old money rich) has one on order with a six month delivery time. Ironically, his daily driver is a much used Camry!
I could see that, a 48 Super, then a Roadmaster, and then a series of Electra 225’s though the 60’s.
Boolie could have had a Roadmaster sedanet, then a Century Riviera, and a 1963-1965 Riviera later in the movie.
Even my Lincoln-loving father was checking out Mercedes in 1974. Ultimately, he was unwilling to pay more money for what he saw as less luxury. He was not so much into exclusivity as he was the idea of a luxury car as an isolation chamber. Lincoln did this much better than Mercedes did in the 1970s and beyond. Besides, in Fort Wayne Indiana, Lincolns and Caddys were still seen as plenty acceptable. Had he been in a larger, more cosmopolitan city, I could have seen him bite the bullet for an MB.
Lincoln did this much better than Mercedes did in the 1970s and beyond. Absolutely true. As much as I may have personally preferred a Merc, I’d say a majority of folks buying them back then would have had their actual driving preferences better served by a Lincoln or such. Mercedes were somewhat stiff-legged at lower speeds, at least compared to a Lincoln or Cadillac. And the seats were firmer than most American luxury car buyers were used to.
I saw the Mercedes Mania up-close in LA, and used to snicker at the Yuppies (and older drivers) in their shiny new 240Ds that vibrated and couldn’t barely make it up Mulholland Pass. They were excellent cars, mostly, but often in the wrong hands. The price of vanity…
Same sort of rationale why soccer moms won’t be caught dead in a minivan, and are compelled to resort to a SUV or CUV. The minivans are for common folks that live in less than 3000 sq ft homes.
I’ve seen soccer moms w/ CUV’s in 2000 square foot houses.
Hey, I sat in Miss Daisy’s Chrysler at a show In October! It’s a ’47 Royal. It has plates added underneath to help it through the crash scene. It’s owned by a guy in Boston, who believe it or not, uses it as a daily driver! To be sure, he lives in old Beacon Hill and probably doesn’t need to drive much.
I’ve been meaning to write about that and other finds at the same little show, Tom was clearly trying to subliminally get me off my duff. 🙂
I would love to see a Car Show Classic on Daisy’s Chrysler. I always assumed the undercarriage of that car got seriously messed up, as implied in the storyline.
I owned the ‘47 Chrysler Royal after the show and worked the picture cars every day on set. I’m driving a lot of them. The Royal didn’t get damaged at all. We welded channel onto the frame to help it slide over the wall. The gas tank had to be replaced because it was filled with water for the scene. I also had the ‘65 Cadillac for awhile but the engine blew and I had to sell it for salvage. The ‘55 and ‘56 Cadillacs were a nightmare. Hard to find and neither ran very well. A crew of people in transportation located cars which were ultimately approved by the director, Bruce Beresford.
This. Cadillacs were not crap in 1971 (although they had certainly been cheapened), but they were increasingly common and people who want exclusivity went elsewhere.
That’s one of the reasons why the original Seville, Cadillac’s answer to the Mercedes ultimately failed at its intended goal in spite of being a pretty good car. It was still a Cadillac, and people weren’t buying Mercedes because they were necessarily better, because they were different.
Based on Boolie’s character arc, he’s exactly the sort of guy who would have ditched Cadillac for Mercedes in the early ’70s. Yeah, it probably would have raised eyebrows at the country club, but that’s how it started. Then somebody else would buy one, etc.
Tastes change, too, because people change. Everything, from our wardrobes, to our attitudes about people who are “different” to, yes, even our cars, evolve as we age. Boolie changed, Daisy changed, Hoke changed. That was the whole point of the movie. Naturally, Carmine, would completely miss that because it interferes with his tired narrative where he’s the victim and we’re all so mean to GM.
I figured that Tesla really has a shot of catching on because it’s positioned in status symbol territory. The people buying them otherwise would have gotten a high-end BMW or Merc, and the Model S is price-competitve with that. It’s new, it’s different it looks good, it’s exclusive. The range limitations are less likely to matter to these buyers as well. Volt fans like to claim that it competes in this territory, as well, but the Chevy name is stigmatized for most. The Volt does seem to be doing well, albeit with heavy incentives, but you have to wonder how much better GM would have faired if the Volt technology debuted in a Cadillac.
Wait let me get my aluminum foil hat on……
Yes thats what it is, an anti-GM conspiracy, cause it couldn’t be anything but that, it couldn’t be that Cadillac was still the choice for the majority of luxury car buyers in the US, all I stated is that I had a different opinion of the car at the end of the movie, so what? I cant re-shoot it, or CGI the Mercedes out, so who cares, really?
Nobody. BTW, didn’t you say you had some errands you needed to run today?
Buick6: Agreed, and well said. And I’ve been saying the same thing about the Tesla S: it will be the new status symbol in Silicon Valley, and certain other locales. Whether it will catch on quickly enough, and with sufficient volume is the only question. But yes, the Mercedes S class is so yesterday.
I have seen many Tesla Model S on the roads here. Had a good look at one, too, and it is surprisingly well put together for a completely new model that sells in tiny volumes.
Just like Cadillac was a victim of lower quality and changing fashions, the S Class Daimler has also suffered. The W116 was in my opinion one of the finest cars ever built but my buddy’s new S550 does not a thing for me.
+1. You’d think an S Class or 7 Series where a Ninety Eight Regency or New Yorker these days. All the Steve Jobs wannabes in the Bay Area are shifting towards Model S’s as they move closer into San Francisco or Suburbs within the range capability of the cars, as the urban core of the Bay Area becomes more expensive.
The traditional high end cars have decidedly become the choice of middle aged middle management men that’ll never become super wealthy and are headed to a midlife crisis and a 2 seater version of their luxury sedans in the next 5-10 years around here. They also tend to live 25-50 miles away from their jobs in San Francisco or the Valley and live in McMansions that were the dream before the housing collapse.
Again, this is just the Bay Area, but I’m sure it’s probably a trend in any region that resembles in any way an episode of Portlandia….
True; and there’s a reason why the Tesla’s range is what it is: just enough to get one to Tahoe or Napa for the weekend; these folks would never drive further than that.
An S class can be leased at around $1700 a month in these parts, not beyond the reach money business people. This has made them as common as dirt around here. Kind of like what GM did with Cadillac in 1971.
…not beyond the reach money business people. This has made them as common as dirt around here
Sounds like I need to move to Vancouver…
Or Santa Monica – they are pretty common on the streets here as well. Of course I live about two blocks from a Tesla showroom.
The 48-49 green Sedanet was identical to the car I used to see in my home town in 1968 – 70. An older fellow used to drive it. I always wished I could have owned it. It’s amazing how a twenty year old car looked so ancient.
Around that time, I also used to occasionally see an ancient silver grey Rolls Royce, probably from the late 1930’s. I recall it had huge headlights adorning a massive grille.
Back then, the Rolls and the Caddy could have been bought cheap, if one came up for sale.
Good lord guys, I go to my office to get some paperwork done… I come back and you’re having a peeing contest over the choice of automobiles in a FICTIONAL movie. Aye, the film makers and script folks were likely just trying to show changing American tastes. Sorry they didn’t use a Seville toward the end.
Well it didn’t exist in around 1970-71, but really all I said was I disagreed with the choice, and I was shot right down, as I was going to change the movie itself.
This has been an interesting post and this two is also one of my favorite movies. The comments have been interesting and if you can stand one more perspective here is mine. I grew up in an affluent suburb in Connecticut and Audi, BMW, and Mercedes did not begin showing up in driveways until the mid to late 70’s. Up until then it was a nice collection of GM…the Caprice, Regency, and Electra’s were the sedans of choice for the commuter crowd while the wives piloted Thunderbirds, Grand Prixs, Cutluss Supreme’s, and Estate, Safari, and Vista Cruiser Wagons. It was quite a “scandal” when the first MB sedan arrived in 1976…my parents were the last ones to join the club when they ditched there 89 Sedan Deville for a Jaguar sedan..and they have never gone back to American cars…
Love the 49 Caddy and 57 Bro-ham. Really really love the 49 though. Milestone year for Cadillac.
I forgot about the Cougar at the end of the movie. Also a sharp ride.
I remember seeing this movie in 89 while at Disney World, the first family trip my parents took us on. Not quite sure what they were thinking taking us to this movie..but thats ok..good memories.
Lord ha’mercy, should I jump into this? Oh, why not. When I was running a Sunoco station in Richmond in 1972-73, my upper middle class customers – physicians, lawyers and self made businessmen – drove Cadillacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles, with plenty of Ford Country Squires thrown in. I had only one customer with a Benz, a man who had lived in Europe and brought it back with him. Except among enthusiasts, I didn’t really see Mercedes and BMW making inroads until 1976 or so. And that’s all I’m a-gonna say.
I agree. Big American cars lost their appeal, when they tried to become expensive little American cars. Up to 1976 or so, I saw very few MB’s, BMW’s, Jags, and other “foreign” luxury makes. I recall an acquaintance owned a BMW at that time. He was the only guy I knew that owned one.
Race, creed ,color, or national orgin aside, the downsizing of big American cars opened the door for the “foreign car”.
Foreign cars had a tough time in the Pittsburgh area when I was growing up in the 70s and early 80s – for obvious reasons. (Although there were a lot of Bugs – I remember people talking about how well built they were). Still, they did see a few. One of my neighbors had a ’73 450 SEL, which replaced a ’63 split-window Corvette. They also had a 2nd gen VW Bus, and really stood out in the neighborhood. Aside from a couple of Bugs, the only other foreign cars in the ‘hood were a guy with BRG TR-3 across the alley, and my Uncle’s raspberry ’73 911 a block away.
I do love this movie, and not to enter the fray late, but I think it was a conscious move to have Boolie go for a Benz as a Jew – it continued a theme set when he wishes his mom Merry Christmas. And sensitivities were still strong in those days – when Andre Previn played Wagner at the Pittsburgh Symphony in the mid-70s, people walked out.
I also love this movie because I have a personal connection with 2 of the cars – the widow across the street had a mint ’55 Sixty Special, black over Bedford cloth like Miss Daisy’s, that was driven about once a month. And in the late 90s, I owned a medium green ’71 300 SEL. One thing I can say from personal experience, switching to a Merc back then required a re-think on what constituted luxury. Yes, you still got real wood, but manual seats, and relatively rudimentary HVAC compared to a Cadillac. Also, significantly smaller inside, and front buckets didn’t say luxury back then – you wanted a 50-50 power split bench back then.
Lastly, I can second the point about people keeping luxury cars for a long time. My Great Aunt and Uncle, who lived around the corner, replaced their ’65 LeBaron with a ’73 (and the ’65 replaced a ’55), while the couple across the street from them had a his and her set of ’64 Cadillacs – his a sedan, hers a coupe.
Richmond native here, and my dad, who was a successful lawyer with conservative taste in cars, bought a black MB 220 with a tan MB-Text interior by way of European delivery in the summer of 1972. He drove that car for at least ten years. His next car was an Oldsmobile, then a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“… why jump from a 55 Sixty Special (high end) to a 65 Calais (low end) then back to another Sixty Special for 1970? The 65 should have been a Fleetwood too. Oh well.”
Maybe the provider of cars for the movie couldn’t find a 1965 Sixty Special or higher end Caddy in time? It’s not as if studio could have ordered any 1965 GM car in 1989, and wait for it to be built.
Then again, in the story, maybe the new Calais was an offer Daisy’s son couldn’t refuse at the time? Went to local Caddy dealer and they wanted to unload the Calais that someone ordered and walked away from.
I lived in Falls Church, Va around 1986, and my route to work passed through an older neighborhood. In the back yard of one old stately house was what appeared to be a mid to late 50’s Cadillac, but it was so different from any I had ever seen. It was just sitting there in the grass, rotting away.
After about a year of this, one weekend I decided to stop and take a look. I guess no one was home because I didn’t get bothered. But I checked it out thoroughly, and was amazed at how cool it was, but still didn’t know exactly what.
Jump forward maybe 8-10 years, and I’m reading a magazine I subscribed to at the time, though I can’t remember the name of it. And right there in the mag is a picture of the exact same car still in the same yard. Someone else had done the same thing I had, but they knew what it was, a 1957 Eldorado Brougham. This finally identified the car for me, since I knew nothing about these at the time. I did what research I could on what these cars were, and my CPI guide (Cars of Particular Interest) showed a value in the neighborhood of $75,000 for the condition it was in. Wow. So, I thought I might inquire as to a possible sale. Just in case.
Somehow I found the number of the person who lived in that old house, (I was in Baltimore by this time) and found out that someone else saw it in the same magazine, and bought it for $7500, and took it to Florida to restore it.
To this day, my greatest missed opportunity. You just don’t find that kind of thing anymore. Miss Daisy is on list of movies to watch at least once a year. For all the cars. But the scene where Dan drives the Brougham up the driveway is still my favorite.
There was a plant guard at the company I worked for in 1973, that had a similar car. I don’t know what year it was, maybe a 55 or 56. An Eldorado Seville coupe, with the tail fins of a 57, but the body of an earlier model. It was in drivable condition at that time.
The guy bought a new grey 76 Coupe deVille to replace it. I never talked to the guy about the old car, but it was a rare bird.
One day in about 1980, a co-worker told me that the fellow had a heart attack, and died at a stop light with his foot on the brake. The guy in the car behind him saw the slumped over body, and shut the car off.
Werthan family and Werthan Bag were/are real in Nashville, TN and yes, they are Jewish. Loved the movie and the cars but I wouldn’t dream of getting into a discussion on what if?????
I can understand why the filmmakers would have wanted to use one if it was available, but the Eldorado Brougham would have been an unlikely choice for Bootie. Amongst the wealth of data that has been compiled about Eldo Broughams, I found that only two 1957’s and no 58’s were originally designated for shipment to Georgia — as opposed to 78 for California, for example. See http://www.cadillacdatabase.org/Dbas_txt/brg_stat.htm.
One of your stills captures a great old Piggly Wiggly facade. To this day I encounter people who think the Piggly Wiggly name was just made up for the movie. Nope, there were and still are real PIggly Wigglys. There’s one less that 2 miles from where I am sitting right now.
Great photos & article. And I love the spirited discussion! 🙂
Ironically when Cadillac really tried to channel Mercedes they came up with the 1980 Seville, which rather perversely had a late-1930’s thing going on at the rear end.
I remember having a visceral dislike of this design when it came out. It was a joke in my office at the time that I thought the rear of the new Seville ‘looked fascist’. I sure wouldn’t have gone to the synagogue in one of those!
And since I’m also a pedant, I have one small quibble @ pic #6.
“If this shot was black-and-white, you’d be hard-pressed to think it was anything other than an original vintage picture.”
Except for the ‘Piggly Viggly’ sign.
Good catch on the “Piggly Viggly”. Maybe the producer cound not get a release from the owners of the trademark. They are very common in smaller towns in the mid-south and south east. As a kid, there was a Piggly Wiggly on Metairie Road near my home as a child.
I had a 1966 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, bought in California in 1983. I was still driving it in the early 1990s when I finally saw the movie. I said “That’s my car!” My Caddy was dark blue with a light blue interior and a padded vinyl top. Tonight I just saw the movie again and realized the upholstery was a little different. That would be the difference between Miss Daisy’s Calais and my Sedan de Ville. Still the body is the same, and it took me 20 years to notice the upholstery. Great cars were incidental but added a lot to a great movie.
The stage version of “Driving Miss Daisy” has no actual cars in it, doggone it. I’ve seen it a couple of times and it’s really special. However, the driving scenes are done with, most commonly, 4 chairs arranged in a 2+2 fashion. The play is, in my opinion, a better portrayal of the times than the movie, but I found myself looking at the stage and mentally furnishing it with the Hudson and the Cadillacs.
BTW, I really enjoy cruising through “Curbside Classics.” Many thanks, Tom.
There was just something about that Hudson that I got fixated on. That was the very first time that I can recall laying eyes on a Step Down Hudson. The second time was in the Disney Pixar movie Cars, with Doc Hudson. I loved the look of the Hudson so much to the point I actually purchased a 48 Hudson Commodore, and it is a dead ringer for the one Hoke drove.
I love my Hudson.
I have to say, these old-school Cadillacs are the bomb!! Nothing made today compares…
Boolie’s ‘47 Cadillac Nd ‘57 Eldorado we’re gorgeous cars. A lot of the Caddy’s came through a local Cadillac club.
I haven’t watched this movie in years, but I think I’ll have another viewing this weekend. The great cars are worth it alone.
Social/demographic commentary – I grew up just up I-75 around Knoxville and in the 70’s the Mercedes Benz S Class already ruled the status roost there so it certainly did in Atlanta. Boolie driving one would not be uncommon at all. There’s plenty of Jewish folks (and every other type of folks) in metro Atlanta as well. Look at a nighttime satellite picture of the US if you are unclear of where metro Atlanta fits in as far as cities go.
I too felt that the Mercedes Benz was out of place for a secessful Jew to drive. Back then few Jews drove a Mercedes. Though perhaps a Volvo or Saab instead. My aunt married a Jew and became one. She drove big Bonneville brougham Pontiacs. She didn’t succumb to getting a Mercedes until the early 80s when she got a 300 turbo diesel. They always felt the need to explain having a German meaning (Nazi I suppose) car. It was because they could write of the lease as a business expense for clients or moving products between offices in a car appropriate to uncle’s status. He was an unassuming man and humble in reality. Or we heard how all the bad Germans we’re either killed, or changed their ways and now worked for the space program. As a kid this sort of stuff seemed bizarre. At this time I thought she traded a perfectly good Bonneville brougham for a rattly noisy austere uncomfortable rather awful car.and was embarrassed. Other Jews I knew if wealthy didn’t.go German until around 80. They also made excuses about them. At time of movie in the early 72s no Jew would drive a Nazi mobile. A Volvo or Saab perhaps.
Here’s some irrelevant trivia no-one will read, five years on from the post.
With all this fuss about the Mercedes, it’s not widely known this beautiful-looking film, this very American film with its dead accurate choice of period US machinery, was directed by a damn foreigner – worse, an Australian, Bruce Beresford. Beresford wasn’t interested much in playing the Hollywood game, and thus the film won Best Picture but was not even nominated for Best Director, leading Billy Chrystal to quip at the Oscars, “Driving Miss Daisy – the film that apparently directed itself.”
Personally, I think the film is very pleasant, but also very thin. The dialogue given to Hokie sounds like that of a “loyal Negro” in some overwrought 1930’s or ’40’s saga (“Yes sah, I does” etc), with the effect that it becomes, to me, as much about enforcing stereotypes as the gentle essay on overcoming prejudice it’s supposed to be. But I’m well-digressing.
I clearly remember the appearance of that Mercedes, immediately first thinking “For a Jewish character in ’72?” but then just as quickly thinking it a deliberate choice in with the theme of change and so on, which I’m sure it was. What really struck me though was what a plain and dull old box this expensive machine seemed after the sheer lushness of the chrome and gleam and infinite excess that had been onscreen till then.
Given the conservative nature of the Werthan family; I would had looked for some Buicks of the 1950’s and 1960’s instad of the flashier, more vulgar Cadillacs. (“Too Tacky”, as we say in the South.)
IMO Boolie should had been driving a Lincoln (either a Town Car/Continental or a Mark) in place of the Benz.
Growing up in the south (New Orleans) during the 1960’s and 1970’s, I was acquainted with several upscale Jewish families. No German car or brown dress/suit was EVER seen in their homes!
Given Henry Ford’s well documented antisemitism, I’m not so sure a Jewish person would drive a Ford product, either.
Antisemitic behavior was not limited to Henry Ford; especially in the 1920’s/30’s/40’s.
And Ford didn’t ship Jewish families by boxcar to concentration camps to be murdered.
Learn some history, WildaBeast.
History? Ford was one of the richest men in America in the ’20’s. He bought the Dearborn Independent and published 91 issues about the vast Jewish conspiracy. He had them bound in four volumes as The International Jew and had half a million copies published. The Dearborn Independent was spread by edict through all his dealerships. Ford re-published the vile Protocols of The Elders of Zion. Hitler was well aware of Ford’s views, and referred to his writings. He received a personal award from the Nazi regime in 1938. He was seriously close to being a presidential candidate in 1924. The sheer fame and respect Ford had thus gave voice and legitimacy to ideas that may have gained little traction on the fringe; he made quite sure he promoted them. Anti-Semitism wasn’t limited to Ford, but it was given an extremely large voice by his hand.
The point is this. Ford certainly had the touch of genius about him, and his achievements were remarkable. Amongst much else, he hired black people, and the disabled. But it is very much best not to defend him from charges of appalling Jew-hatred. They are sadly very much part of his history.
As for history, I have no idea if Jewish Americans did not drive Fords because of the company history. There were Ford dealers who destroyed the publications, and concerted campaigns by Jewish groups to condemn his views and even the slumping sales of ’27 may have been partly in response to that. (Understand, the stain is Ford’s, not America’s). Ford even recanted (sort-of) in ’27.
But I do know that as late as the 1950’s at Ford’s Australian outpost, recruitment ads stated plainly that Jews need not apply.
Ford also supplied cars, parts and built airplanes for the United States war efforts in both WWI and WWII, helping to defeat the German military.
I suggest that his Jewish stance was as much a product of the times that he grew up and lived in as much as of his own making.
A complicated man, to be sure.
As for WildaBeast’s hypothesis that no Jew would drive a Ford: I suspect that he is quite inaccurate and most prejudicial.
To some extent, Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism stemmed from his hatred of Wall Street and bankers. Like many people of that era – particularly farmers – he viewed the finance sector as being heavily influenced by Jewish people.
That message, of course, did not come through in his publications and statements. Those came across as simple, unvarnished Anti-Semitism.
None of this excuses his decision to use his celebrity and influence to publish and say some very nasty things about Jewish people.
And, yes, for many years many Jewish Americans boycotted Ford products. One of the tasks undertaken by Henry Ford II was repairing the considerable damage done by his grandfather in this area.
I view this movie as frequently as possible.
Much to the amusement (and annoyance) of the non-car people in the room; I often crank up the surround sound system to hear the sound of the various cars starting up and in motion past the camera.
To the comment about chauffeurs driving Cadillacs: in a 1953 (I think) movie titled “The Caddy,” starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, the two pals are seen walking through the parking lot of an exclusive golf country club, whose aisles of cars are practically all late-model tail-finned Cadillacs. At some point, I believe it is Jerry Lewis who, displaying excitement at this display of wealth and status, says: “Wow! What a place! Even the caddies drive Caddys!” A footnote on Jews driving German cars: my college roommate, who is Jewish, and his wife have driven nothing but BMWs and Benzes since 1974. His late father once said that he would never ride in a German car. Obviously, much has changed over the years.
I grew up in an upper middle class community in the mid-late ’70’s and there were many successful Jewish families residing there. They drove all sorts of things – Mercedes, BMW’s, Jag’s and of course domestic premium cars. While wounds were still deep and I’m sure many chose not to drive Teutonic vehicles, obviously numerous members of that community did not feel that way. I think the sheer success of Cadillac in the ’60’s contributed to rise of competitors in the exclusivity segment it occupied – Cadillac’s became just too common and plentiful and therefore, the cache’ and sen of achievement they formerly manifested became diluted. While Mercedes, BMW’s, etc were not as luxurious as Detroit’s premium cars, they were better built and engineered and delivered a much different driving experience – their success indicates that the target market was more than partially ready for that different experience – irrespective of the greater “luxury” found in Cadillac and Lincoln.
DMD is one of my favorite movies of all time, loved it when it came out as a 23 year old and love it today, for the cars, the acting performances, the story, the writing, the social commentary – just a superb film.
Today i am part of the socioeconomic group that Cadillac formerly targeted, and to which Cadillac ownership for a cople of generations meant something. I have owned precisely one new Caddy – an ’07 Escalade. My friends and I are all in the same group more or less, and not one of has owned a single domestic premium car other than a single Escalade each – no Lincoln, Cadillac or anything else over a period of about 20 years. Instead, it is all manner of Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Audi, the odd Volvo and even a few Jag’s. We were NEVER drawn to Cadillac or Lincoln the way prior generations were. Strangely, at one time 5 of us had Escalades simultaneously – due to all being at similar life stages with similar vehicular imperatives. These were uniformly poor and compared most unfavorably with foreign premium competitors. They were expensive, powerful and loaded with features but the quality was not even close. The aspirational component behind Cadillac ownership which is alluded to in much of DMD is gone, and I doubt we’ll ever see it again. That said, I have never felt that way about any vehicle that I have bought.
This is as good a time as any to point out that what made this movie special was HEART– an ingredient sadly lacking in today’s movies. There seems to have been a Golden Age of movie-making which started in the 1970s, peaked in the ’80s, and trailed off into the ’90s. A movie like DMD would not (and maybe COULD not) be made today–and I’m not sure why that is. This is very difficult to explain, but it’s a real phenomenon.
P.S.: There don’t seem to be any really funny stand-up comedians today, either!
I think one reason why the prestige of Cadillac was so powerful in the ’50s and ’60s was that, since the Depression, Cadillac was a marker of success for those who were later called “The Greatest Generation” (people of my father’s age group). It was aspirational for them, and after surviving the Depression and WW II, and with the demise of the Packard marque, Cadillac emerged once again for them as THE car to own. Not only does no one car carry that aspirational mantle today, but people with large amounts of discretionary income are quite fickle in their buying habits, and the car companies are constantly chasing their competitors’ customers. No marque can claim to be the “Standard of the World” today, but only, on occasion, the “Flavor of the Month.”
Oh, a step-down Hudson. What a great looking car.
A curious coincidence, too, as I saw one just recently (photo).
Didn’t watch the film, unfortunately, but I’ll try to rectify that – this article is an excellent recommendation.
I tried to read all of the comments, but got bogged down in the Cadi/Lincoln/MB drama. Did nobody notice that Hoke couldn’t turn on the air because it DIDN’T HAVE AIR. The AC came up through the package shelf in lucite tubes into the headliner and blew down through chrome vents over each door. Drove the heck out of a 55 Sixty Special in the nineties. White over gray.