The Cars of Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy is among my top 10 favorite movies. That’s saying a lot, considering that I was about ten years old the first time I watched it. You’d think I’d have been more into stuff like Die Hard, Uncle Buck or Weekend at Bernie’s, given my age at the time. Sure, I liked those movies too, but this one, sans action-movie explosions and car chases, or John Candy, is quietly and competently excellent. That it is also a prime car-spotting film makes it all the better.

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Daisy Werthan, an elderly widow, (played by Jessica Tandy) is forced to use a chauffeur after wrecking her 1946-48 Chrysler (in spectacular fashion). Cars play a prominent role, given the plot. 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, since her son is the one paying him.

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Boolie himself drives a beautiful, bottle-green Cadillac Series 61 Sedanet, the first of many Cadillacs to appear in this movie.

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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 model.

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Plenty of cool background cars can be seen through the whole movie, 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.

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Extreme attention to detail is paid to ensure historical accuracy car-wise. 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.

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The showroom scene is one of my favorites, for obvious reasons. Naturally the showroom is chock full of Caddys, including a sapphire blue Eldorado, shown here on the left. But as a restrained Southern lady, Daisy would never want something so ostentatious as an Eldo.

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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 the limited-production, $13,000 car.

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, which was a ‘junior’ Cadillac to an extent). Judging by its oblong jet-tube exhaust ports in the bumper, it’s the ’56 model we see here. (UPDATE: a Cadillac pal just informed me the ’56 wasn’t a Fleetwood, but a Series 62 sedan. The more you know…)

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Though it doesn’t appear for more than a couple of seconds in the movie, I just love this red 1963-64 Coupe de Ville.

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Here’s another one, apparently a black Sixty Special, wayyy in the back at the left side of the picture. The images and choreography of this movie are excellent.

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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 back when the movie was still recent, 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? If there were, we never see them. The white ’70 itself 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.

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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, or maybe a 280 SEL 4.5. 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.

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All movie images are courtesy of the Internet Movie Car Database (imcdb.org). More cars from this movie can be seen here.

14 Replies to “The Cars of Driving Miss Daisy”

  1. AvatarDennis Widner

    Driving Miss Daisy is one of my favorites also… because of the cars but also taking place in the south… specifically Atlanta. Another one of my favorites is Patton… maybe one day you can tell us about the trucks and tanks in that movie.

    Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      Unlike Daisy, the vehicles used in Patton were not accurate at all for the era, including a post-war Packard staff car used in one scene, and I don’t think any WWII era tanks were used. 1969 was prior to the advent of all WWII re-enactors who have restored lots of Shermans, Sheridans, and Greyhounds and even some Tigers and Panthers that a movie maker could easily access today unless they just decide to skip it all and use CGI versions. The real Patton also had a high squeaky voice and would have killed to have had the voice of authority of George C. Scott.

      Reply
  2. AvatarDavid Stanley

    I love Driving Miss Daisy and also grew up in Decatur, GA, inside the metro Atlanta area. The car dealership is on Ponce de Leon Ave in Decatur. Royal Oldsmobile used to be one or two buildings away from there where my parents bought a new ’76 Olds Vista Cruiser in the spring of 1976, when I was 10. In 1989 when this movie was filmed, I was in my first year in the USMC after having graduated Ga Tech with a BME.

    The scene where Hoke and Miss Daisy are in a traffic jam in the rain with a clock tower in the background is Agnes Scott College in Decatur. This is only two blocks from Decatur High School (I was in the class of ’84) and maybe a mile or less from the car dealership scene.

    In the scene where Hoke is describing a lynching to Miss Daisy and she chokes up, if you look closely you can see modern (for 1989) vehicles in the driveways of some homes. In another scene earlier in the movie, you can see the Hudson driving next to a MARTA station bridge between Decatur and Avondale. Most MARTA train stations were built in the 70s and 80s.

    Reply
  3. AvatarDavid Stanley

    Two more things: I know the movie idealizes the past with soft focus and saturated colors. The real Decatur and Atlanta, at least what I remember when growing up, was grittier and dirtier than what the film depicts. Real cars were dirty, sometimes dented, and in various states of repair. They weren’t all clean and polished and running well like in the film.

    Also, I never thought the late 80s synthesizer theme music fit the movie well. Just my personal opinion.

    Reply
  4. AvatarJohn C.

    This is a well constructed movie. By showing the strawman of the driver, the movie deflects enough from the real story to make it watchable of how a 1 percent minority hates the majority while at the same time getting rich off them. In how many regions of the world could this story be repurposed? Indonesia with the Chinese, Costa Rica with the Americans, Tanzania with the Indians

    I am no fan of Englishwomen Jessica Tandy who played Ms Rachel, excuse me Miss Daisy. She left her country for Hollywood success leaving her first husband, the super cool Jack Hawkins.

    Reply
  5. Avatar-Nate

    I too enjoyed this movie long ago, maybe it’s time to hunt for it on cable….

    The ’62 Ford sedan in the last picture makes me swoon ~ I had a 1962 Ranch Wagon & Galaxie two door long long ago, both were stellar automobiles .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • AvatarCompaq Deskpro

      It’s too bad all all the humongous irrational boats by the Detroit automakers cost 50K+ nowadays or I’d be the first in line,

      Reply
      • Avatar-Nate

        Yes and no ;

        There are some out there that are in the $10,000 range that are driver quality .

        Us Boomers are dying like flies so many are coming on the market .

        -Nate

        Reply
  6. AvatarArBee

    Nate, I’m with you. Of the cars shown above, my two favorites are the ’62 Ford and the ’41 Ford pickup. I just love me some older Fords.

    Reply

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