The McCann Time Capsule: ‘Deliverance,’ Burt Reynolds and James Dickey
For Burt Reynolds, the heartthrob actor who died today, the 1972 movie “Deliverance” was the “turning point” in his career inasmuch as it was his “first substantial role in a major movie,” as The New York Times said in his obituary. “His star turn in ‘Deliverance’ that year was critically praised and prompted talk of a possible Oscar nomination.” While he was snubbed at the Academy Awards, the movie itself, one of the top-grossing films of 1972, did win three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Film Editing) as well as five Golden Globe Awards.
The male-bonding movie “Deliverance” was based on the famous 1970 novel of the same name by James Dickey, the well-known novelist and poet (U.S. Poet Laureate- 1966) whose writing career also intersected with McCann New York in the mid-1950s.
Dickey, 33 years old in 1956, joined McCann that year and became one of the agency’s first copywriters on Coca-Cola after the agency won the U.S. account in 1955. As he said in a 1976 “Paris Review” interview, “I wrote many hundreds of catch phrases for Coke. . . ‘Things go better with Coke’ may have been based on an idea I had and turned in.”
He said that he began in print and then “moved into the radio-television end of it” where, as he said in that interview, “I was known not as Jungle Jim, but as Jingle Jim.” Dickey then moved from New York to Atlanta, where he worked with two other agencies before leaving advertising as VP-creative director of one of those Atlanta agencies in 1961, a year after his first book of poetry appeared.
While Dickey was “glad” to leave the advertising business, he also told the “Paris Review” that he remembered it “with affection and a certain amount of gratitude.”
“It's a fascinating and exciting way to live. It's very frustrating; it's got its hang-ups; it's a man-killing pace; and it's tremendously difficult. But I love business people and I met some really terrific people whom otherwise I wouldn't have known. . . I enjoyed it. There's something about the nine-to-five existence and the five-thirty cocktails after work on Friday afternoons and talking over the problems of the week with your buddies who are working on the same problems that's really kind of nice.