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