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Walking Tall More at IMDbPro »

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21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

What's the fuss about?

Author: topsail33 from Big Blue Marble, #3
28 September 2003

Wow, the previous reviewer really had issues with this film! Judging from his/her use of overly-descriptive adjectives, I'd say he/she was looking down their nose, even before they entered the theatre.

"It coincided with the beginning of a sordid bottom period in the social and intellectual history of the United States from which the nation has yet to recover."

Whoa! Where'd that come from !? For starters, that wasn't the beginning of any bottom period for this country. I'm not even sure what context he/she is referring to. If it's violence in society, then you need to roll the clock back 10, 20 or more years to find the bottom. Sounds like someone lived in a glass house during the McCarthy-era, JFK's assassination, Vietnam, MLK's assassination - and that's just going back 10-20 years! Dip back further into the early part of the century, when the country was involved in labor fights (of which I highly recommend watching "Matewan One", a movie about unionizing coal miners of West Virginia back in the 20's or 30's).

Sorry to digress. Here's my take on Walking Tall:

I watched this the other night and was glued to it! Not for the display of violence, but for the fact that this movie is now nearly 30 years old and it's like a time capsule of sorts. Yes, it was a story based on violence, but the real story is how morally bankrupt one town had become, while still functioning as a little town somewhere in America.

Joe Don Baker played an excellent role in being a not-so-nice guy bent on cleaning up the scum of his childhood town. He had been away too long, and when he returned, it was too much for him to handle.

I took to watching this movie lightly. A lot of viewers commented on the social aspects of this, but I took-in all of the surrounding things like the props and scenery. For instance, look how huge those Dodge sedans were! Boats with wheels! The bad hair, bad clothes, especially one scene where his wife is wearing this blouse that has about 4 different contrasting patterns on it. Truly Seventies Americana.

As mentioned in another post, the boom operator must have been someone's kid helping out on the set, as the mic is shown in many of the scenes. Being an independent company, they must have said the heck with it in the editing room. Not enough money for a re-shoot.

I take this movie with a grain of salt. I was entertained by the time period of it and the acting. This movie belongs in the yet-to-be implemented IMDB genre category of "The Seventies". Hint hint IMDB.

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Buford Pusser is the best!

Author: wlmlbl from Hawaii
27 August 2002

One great movie! Joe Don Baker does a great job portraying Buford Pusser. This movies deals with a man that has just givin up pro wrestlng because he is sick and tired of being controlled by someone else. He returns home to Tennessee, and finds the same thing going on. His mother warns him to ignore it, but by accident, he finds out the hard way how these people operate. His battle is an uphill one. First, he is jailed for robbing the local bar. He acts as his own defense at the trial and wins. Then the local sheriff tries to kill him, and is killed himself. Once Pusser is elected sheriff, the fight really begins. He eventually cleans out the graft and corruption in McNairy County, and then he is ambushed, and his wife is tragically killed. Pusser finally has one last showdown with the people at the Lucky Spot. I would like to have seen Joe Don Baker do the other two movies. This movie is a real tear jerker at the end.

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Walking Tall

Author: mhrabovsky1-1 from michigan
18 January 2006

Remember seeing this film when it first hit the theatres in 1973...had some hype in the local newspapers and TV ads and was ballyhooed a lot like "The Exorcist" the same year. This film does not disappoint. If you like underdog films and the bad guys getting their a's kicked you will love this movie. Joe Don Baker, a bit actor at the time puts in slam dunk performance as the tough tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser who is a southern dirty harry type cop. Some fans might remember Baker as one of the prisoners in Paul Newman's "Cool Hand Luke". Story centers around Pusser returning home after a long sabbatical as a pro wrestler to find corruption running amok. After getting sliced and diced at a corrupt card table in the local septic tank bar and left for dead on the side of the road Pusser gets angry enough to make a run for sheriff....after winning the surprise election Pusser has to recruit some honest deputies - a rather hard task in that small corrupt town - and proceeds to try and weed out the gangsters and prostitutes running amok in the town. After running the corrupt judge into the basement of the local court house Pusser has to stop the moonshining operation run by the mob also. Along the way he literally castrates a corrupt deputy who is a mob informer. His preferred weapon is not a pistol but a big round wooden "stick" if you will he uses to bang up and batter down all criminals with. Gets to be sort of fun waiting for the next scumbag Pusser will pound down with that big wooden stick......scene of Pusser and his wife getting ambushed by the mob is very graphic and humbling...several people getting very teary eyed in the theatre the first time I saw this film. Scenes of Pusser and his children walking in funeral procession for his wife get to your emotions in a warm and tender way. Plenty of action, and the bad guys get mowed down in the end by Pusser. Almost like a carbon copy of the original Dirty Harry film the same year with Clint Eastwood mowing down the criminals. Poor cinematography and film editing the only downer for this film. Why does the viewer have to see part of a microphone hanging down from a bedroom?? Don't bother with the sequels without Baker as sheriff Pusser. Bo Svenson poor substitute after you have seen Baker as Pusser. Great overall action film - can be quite graphic. Not for young kids to see.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Optimistic about human nature

Author: Dr Jacques COULARDEAU from Olliergues, France
29 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw it when it came out, in Dunn North Carolina, mind you, in the new cinema complex that had just open in the new shopping mall that had started opening in 1970 (I bought a tie there, the tie of Campbell community college next door, in 1970). I thought it was interesting, fascinating, but maybe slightly extreme. I have not changed my mind. But what is it about? A man coming back to his birth place and his family, along with his wife, their two kids and their dog, a birth place they decide to call home, in Tennessee. I have seen that pattern so often like in "Sometimes they come back" by Stephen King. He is at once, on the very second day, face to face with the perversion prohibition can produce. The county, or at least the city, is anti-alcohol, anti-prostitution, anti-gambling, and what had to happen happens. Just beyond the county limits a bar cum bordello cum gambling hall opens and attracts the males of the county who want to be ripped of their money by cheating game masters, of their soberness by moonshine whisky unduly called Daniels and of their kinky dreams by trailer female visitors, go and have a good time. But this business is of course in the hands of hard traffickers, of some organized crime at least at the level of the whole state and anyone who opposes it is dead meat, but after it has been severely tenderized. Our hero decides to run as sheriff against the rotten one who is in place and the rotten racist local judge who is covering the whole business. And then it is the story of how he will learn how to do things, how to integrate a black man in his team, how to inspire courage and fight corruption, how to bust the facade of these traffickers, bust the heads of a couple as soon as they draw a weapon, and finally inspire the people to build a posse and go out for the Lucky Spot of their dreams and burn it down. True of course, but too extreme. Things never happen that way. It takes time, a lot of time, to move public opinion, particularly in a small town. It takes time and finesse to trick and trap mafia criminals. It takes time and patience to trick and trip a judge who has so much power in his hands. But in 1973 it was a sign on the road away from the good old silent majority. The very first step on a very long way that is just coming ripe right now, maybe, and the silent majority might finally get some voice and shout "Yes We can" to their desire for "the change they need". Will that be a landslide or a tottering stumble? The film seems to believe that such radical change is possible once the fruit is ripe. Yet it does not show the ripening of the fruit, just the plucking.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

"Walk softly and carry a big stick."

Author: wmjahn from Austria
31 July 2009

Unfortunately the IMDb allows only comments up to 1000 words and I was so much taken in by WALKING TALL that my comment got longer, so please go to my entry in the message board, if you want to read the whole review! :-) ... :-))

I love movies with balls and brains and this is one of 'em! :-)

OK, I know this movies has its small shortcomings, because it does not belong to the category of over-financed Hollywood-junk (which is a movie-category established by the film industry (!) in the later 80ies and beginning 90ties consisting of movies costing anywhere from 50 to 200 million bucks and which look like most designer-stuff: well crafted but hollow), but to the category of a small independently financed B-picture. Don't get me wrong, this ain't a movie financed on a shoestring-budget, this is just one of those movies, where the producers did not have million's to burn. It's very decently made and 95% perfect, just here or there you think, well, they could have tried one more take or something similar. But anyway, are you going to the cinema to see a technically perfect movie and receive joy from seeing designer-tailored action-scenes, or do you go to the movies or buy a DVD to enjoy yourself with a movie full of balls and brain? If you belong to the 1st category, I suggest you save the time reading this and forget about watching this flick.

But if you belong to the later category, then this is something for you, you gonna enjoy this roller-coaster-flick! Especially if - as is the case with me - 70ies B-flicks are your cup of tea. They certainly are mine! I won't dwell here on the storyline of WALKING TALL (you can find details elsewhere here), it's probably enough to point out that the title is the program and that our hero's tag-line is "walk softly and carry a big stick" (or - as the old Latins said - "suaviter in modo, fortiter in re"). Yeah, that's what he does and he uses that big stick to clean house very properly.

I do not know, which part of the story is actually "fact" (based on incidents in the life of Buford Pusser) and which parts are fiction (that could be a lot, since the disclaimer reads that this picture is based on "incidents suggested by the life of BP", which sounds like something, but in fact can mean nearly everything or nothing at all), but IF just 50% of the story-line happened in some way or another, this guy must have had enormous luck and 7 lives. Already the incidents, when somebody tries to kill him, amount to at least 5!

The movie is quite brutal, at least for a flick made in the middle of the 70ies. Quite a lot of dead and quite a high number of severely beaten-up bodies, but there ain't that much of it on-screen. Just the first beating of our hero is really tense and was probably only outdone by Mel Gibson's Christ a couple decades later. Of course it looks a bit unrealistic to see Joe Don Baker in a T-shirt so soaked with blood, because anyone loosing that much of it would certainly be dead, but then again Phil Karlson had a point to make and wanted to make sure we'd get it: our hero had been severely wounded by the villains of the town and now he had a task to handle, do what a man has to do, simply WALK TALL!

This movie is pure 70ies magnetism, a wonderful ride into rural Americana, with so many classic (partly stereo-)types, wonderful original characters, hardly any cardboard ones, and actors indeed looking like someone you could meet at any corner of such a town. This is what lifts such classic productions over the Hollywood-product we get today: we do see real people doing things, that could at least be possible (while when we watch Die Hard IV everybody should know that 90% of the action-scenes there could simply never happen, because they are against the laws of physics). Here you got a lot of beat-ups, car-chases, shoot-outs, more beatings, cars driving in houses, all things that normally don't happen if the police does its job, but things that COULD happen, that are physically possible.

And they are staged with zest and verve by a veteran director in the twilight of his career, who took this job at the age of 66 and wanted to give it a last (which then was his penultimate) try. And he does deliver ALL the goods, pulls all triggers. He certainly knew this could very well be his last effort, so why not give the best. With 4 decades (!!) of movie-making experience, Phil Karlson (who also directed THE SILENCERS and THE WRECKING CREW-entries in the lovely Matt Helm-series and quite a couple very good noir's and western) certainly knew how to build up a good storyline and how to stage it as well as possible with whatever budget he had available.


ATTENTION ! This comment here is NOT COMPLETE, because the IMDb allows only 1000 words and I wrote more, so please go to my entry in the message board (if you liked to read my few cents) to get the whole review and to be able to comment on it! :-)

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

"Do you have a warrant?" "Yeah. It's in my shoe!"

Author: hammerfan1 from United States
5 September 2007

If you are a southern male who grew up in the 1970's, "Walking Tall" is your "Gone With The Wind". This 1973 movie is based on actual events in the life of Sheriff Buford Pusser of McNairy County, Tennessee during the 1960's. Though the screenplay takes some liberties with Pusser's story, it is an exciting account of one man taking on organized crime and corruption .

The story begins with Buford and his family moving back to his home town in McNairy County. Shortly after arriving, Buford realizes that his home town has changed. Gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging have taken over. Buford exposes the gambling operation to be corrupt and is brutally beaten and left for dead. He recovers and seeks vengeance using a big piece of lumber. He is arrested for his troubles. Buford is cleared of the charges and is soon elected Sheriff. He promises to rid the county of crime and corruption. The rest of the movie shows how difficult it was for Buford to follow through with his promise.

Buford Pusser is played by Joe Don Baker, who gives the performance of his career. Baker's Pusser faces the tragic events of the movie with a sense of sad but heroic nobility. The audience is able to feel what Pusser must have felt when these events actually happened through Baker's brave performance.

The story is ultimately a tragic tale of one man who walked tall and stood up against the forces of corruption. It is the rare action movie that makes you cheer and cry at the same time. This is essential viewing for anyone who loves true heroes.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Ironic Thought Provoker.

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
5 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Joe Don Baker is Buford Pusser, an ex Marine who returns to find his small, peaceful Tennessee town corrupted by an immoral cabal marketing illegal stuff like gambling, white lightning, and trailer hos. He is elected sheriff and cleans it all up.

Baker is mulling over the decision to run for County Sheriff. It's a dangerous job in this milieu. He's already seen a friend killed and has himself been horribly tortured. His wife, Elizabeth Hartmann, objects. "Is your pride worth the lives of your wife and children?", she asks. Both Baker's character and the viewer take the sentence to be rhetorical. It's not.

But it's the sort of challenge that every wife lays down before her man when he's about to commit himself to some heroic deed. How many times has John Wayne's cinema wives clashed with him and his career as a sheriff or a Marine because they want him safe at home, not out risking his life, wondering if he'll come home in a body bag? Phil Karlson, the director, has made a couple of powerful movies but I'm not sure that he understood the import of Hartmann's question. It may have been that he realized it, but it may also have been an accident, the kind of phrase that slips easily by someone's critical apparatus. That's what I meant when I called the movie ironic.

There's another scene that demonstrates the same irony. Baker has just been ambushed, his wife murdered and half his jaw shot away. His face is encased in plaster up to his eyes. He's weak and can barely move. And we see the crowd of friends in the corridor gawk and make a path when Baker's young son solemnly enters the room, carrying the little rifle that Baker gave him for Christmas. The kid is going to kill anyone who tries to hurt his Dad. Do the film makers know what they're saying? Anyone expected a Steven Segal wisecracker or anything resembling the loutish remake with Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson will be disappointed. This movie is ambiguous in too many respects. It's not a simple revenge movie like "The Punisher," although there is an abundance of violence and blood. After that first mauling and the subsequent humiliations, Baker is rabid with revenge. His face turns into a horrifying Gargoyle mask as he tortures the spies and law breakers.

I would guess -- judging from some recent polls and comments from our own politicians -- that about one out of four Americans will see this as the simple triumph of good over evil. (The distribution will be skewed in the direction of boys in their early teens.) It won't occur to them -- though the notion is brought up once or twice by character is the movie -- that Baker is a flawed person, that his pride verges on arrogance, and his anger on enjoyment. He brags about his scars.

It's hard to argue with such a black and white view of the sheriff. He only drinks an occasional beer to be friendly, doesn't smoke, doesn't cuss, doesn't approve of see-through blouses, doesn't hold with loose women even if they love him, he's all tenderness with his wife and children, and doesn't gamble. Has there ever been such purity -- outside of the Bible and Arthurian legends? Baker is surprisingly good in the role of the real-life Buford Pusser. You can tell the story is based on actual facts and personalities because where else would you find people with names like Lutie McVey or Ferrin Meaks? As for Buford Pusser, that name would be the first to go. As the heroic central figure, he'd have to have a name like Matt Steel or Bull Durham.

But the acting (and the location photography) are fine across the board. Nobody is a dud. Baker himself always sound like he's reciting lines in an acting class, doing his level best, but it's okay in this kind of role. After a while you get used to it and come to believe that this is how he sound off screen. He had a similar role, except as a murderer, in "Charlie Varick," where he was easily the most complex character. Probably the best performer in this film is Rosemary Murphy as the villainous Callie Hacker, head of the Whore Division. She doesn't get a chance to exercise her chops here, but catch her in "Night Moves" if you can.

It doesn't really matter how you take the movie. You can either accept it as a shallow revenge story full of blood and sentiment or as the rather deeper and murkier thing I suspect it is. It will still be gripping and emotionally moving. The climax has the law-enforcer breaking the law in search of insurance that the law will prevail. Dirty Harry with a motive. Ironic.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Standard Actioner

Author: richard winters (rwint) from Chicago, Illinois
17 March 2002

Yes Virginia there really was a man named Buford Pusser. He was a south Tennessee sheriff who was shot 8 times, knifed 7 times, survived a ambush, and even jumped onto a speeding car to make a arrest. The film, which was admittedly given the Hollywood treatment, looks at his exploits in a somewhat routine,somewhat gritty style with some surprisingly stirring moments. Though by the end when Johnny Mathis sings a ill advised syrupy song do you realize how emotionally manipulative it all really is.

Shot right in Tennessee and not some reprocessed Hollywood backlot. The excellent location shooting almost becomes a star in itself. However someone should have told the producers that even in the south the grass is not all green and the leaves aren't all on the trees at Christmas time.

Baker plays the lead role very, very well. Not only does he resemble the real Pusser, but shows some real fiery anger that's just lurking beneath the surface.

The action is intense, bloody, and well staged. Good for those who are game for this type of standard actioner.

It is interesting to note that the real Buford Pusser acted as a consultant to the film and then ended up dying in a very mysterious car crash just a year after the films release.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Take your best shot cause it'll be your last.

Author: bluesman-20 from Canada
18 January 2014

Walking Tall. Is the story of Sheriff Buford Pusser. Pusser was the sheriff of Mcnairy county Tenn. during the late 50's to the early 70's . Pusser led a colourful life from being a wrestler Buford the bull or Buford the wild bull. to a stint in the marines in which he was given a medical discharge for asthma. Buford came home to Adamsville Tenn. As a young man he visited a crooked casino across the state line and caught them cheating and stealing his money. They beat him and carved him up and left him for dead. Buford lost a friend in that attack and he returned to the casino and took his money back by force. He was arrested and during his trial he stood up for himself and was acquitted. Buford ran for the job as Adamsville's police chief and started a war to clean up the state line . Buford's term as police chief expired after four terms and he ran for the more powerful position of county sheriff. he made powerful enemies and was shot and knifed countless times and left for dead but he came back stronger then ever.

until Aug 12th 1964. Buford Pusser was responding to a call out on new hope road. His wife PAuline terrified for her husband went along. The day was beautiful and no sign of trouble until the cars came and ambushed Buford Pusser and his wife. Pauline Pusser died and Buford was severely wounded. His jaw almost shot off. Buford was in the hospital for almost a year recovering. But when he did he continued his relentless war. In 1967 Mort Briskin caught a news story on Pusser and was captivated and believed this would make a great movie. He contacted Buford and he agreed to make the movie as a consultant. Buford Pusser himself would say WAlking Tall was 50 percent true 50 percent Hollywood. And you can see what's true and what isn't. But they got the important details right. And they got the legend right. When Walking Tall became an incredible hit Buford Pusser received death threats. He was worried he would die before they finished telling his story. He screen tested for the next chapter simply called Buford and got the job to play himself but died before it was made. But Joe Don Baker does a great job here as Buford and keeps his memory alive. The film isn't perfect it's not a documentary of a incredible man. But it's a fitting cornerstone into the legend that has become Buford Pusser. I've seen this film hundreds of times and each time it's affected me deeply. Not bad for a film made in 1973.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A compelling,intense,fictionalized account of Sheriff Buford Pusser

Author: Joe O'Brien from Virginia Beach, Virginia
27 April 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I first saw "Walking Tall" in the theater when it first came out way back in 1973,back when tickets were only $1.50.I was only 17 at the time and I was very impressed with the movie.Saw it at least 3 more times within that year with various family members and friends whom I insisted go see it."Walking Tall" became a big sleeper hit making around 40 million at the box-office.Adjusted for inflation that translates to around 100 million in today's dollars.That's considered a legitimate blockbuster by Hollywood's standards.Not bad for a low budget movie with no big stars from a small independent studio.That studio called Cinerama Releasing unfortunately went out of business in 1974.The late Phil Karlson did a good job directing the dramatic scenes and intense action sequences.Joe Don Baker,who hails from Texas and attended the acclaimed Actor's Studio,is a fine actor and gave an emotionally charged performance.He really didn't look like the real guy.By comparison,Buford Pusser at 6 foot 6 inches tall with short,light hair and Joe Don Baker at 6 ft. 2 in. with longer dark hair. Anyway,there are some spoilers ahead.Anyone who wants to know more about Buford Pusser read on.

Late in 1973,Buford Pusser said in an interview in NEWSWEEK magazine,"That the film was about 80 percent accurate." He served three two year terms as sheriff from 1964 to 1970.In another interview he said,"That his only criticism of "Walking Tall" was that it wasn't violent enough." The film mentions in the opening and closing credits that this was a fictionalized account of certain events in the life of Buford Pusser.In the book "Reeling" by Pauline Kael,who was the film reviewer for THE NEW YORKER magazine for around 25 years that I know of,it included a review of "Walking Tall",along with reviews of many other films from that time.Ms.Kael had published several books of her movie reviews.She was considered by many to be one of the foremost film critics.She retired in 1991.She passed away in late 2001 from complications from Parkinson's disease. In Ms.Kael's review of "Walking Tall" she shed some light on the facts.For instance Pusser was never in the Marines.The crooked Sheriff Thurman,(played by the late Gene Evans),whom Pusser said to,"Thurman!I'voe known you since I was a kid.I always thought you walked tall.But,it looks like you done learned how to crawl!",was killed in car accident,but not by trying to run Pusser over,as it was depicted in the movie.Also,his father,(played by the late Noah Beery,Jr.),was a former sheriff of the county.Also,he had many deputies but never a black deputy,(in the movie well played by the actor Felton Perry.Mr.Perry was also very good in "Magnum Force" that same year,where he played the partner of Inspector Harry Callahan,(Clint Eastwood).Remember this was the segregated South of the 1960's.The filmmakers understandably wanted to appeal to the black audience.Also,he didn't have a young son.His wife had a son by a previous marriage but he was a few years older than the young boy portrayed here.And,Kael mentions in her review that he wasn't reelected sheriff.It seems he developed a reputation of being a big bully when it came to arresting suspects.He was accused of excessive use of force.The candidate who won the election for sheriff,in his platform asked the voters"Who would you rather have arrest your son? Evidently the voters didn't want him arresting their sons any longer.I found "Reeling" to be a good book.Although I didn't agree with some of her reviews.I think the book is out of print now.

Some footnotes,Mort Briskin,the producer and writer of the film,decided to do it after seeing a 10 minute interview with Sheriff Pusser with Roger Mudd on the CBS television network in 1969.Red West,who was one of Elvis Presley's bodyguards,had a small role in the film as a sheriff from Alabama.West was one the bodyguards Mr.Presley fired for being a bit too rough on certain fans.There were fears of lawsuits for assault.Also,it is known the Mr.Presley sent an anonymous donation to Sheriff Pusser when his home was badly damaged by certain criminal elements to help with the rebuilding.They both lived in the same neck of the woods.Mr.Presley was a very nice guy.Actress Elizabeth Hartman,who played Pusser's wife,this was her last film role.Ms.Hartman died in 1987 from a suicide.She suffered from manic-depression or bi-polar disorder.And,the actress Brenda Benet,who played the kindly prostitute who helped the sheriff out by being an informer,died in the early '80's from a suicide.She had been recently divorced from the actor Bill Bixby and she had been very despondent over the death of her young son after a long illness.How sad.I saw Buford Pusser in a television interview in 1974 talking about going to Hollywood for a screen test for Part 2 Walking Tall.But,he never got the chance because of his death later that year when someone or some people,presumably the criminal element,planted a bomb in his Corvette.He was killed driving home late one night.His demolished car was found on the side of some lonesome road.May he rest in peace.

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