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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a comedy film made by the Coen Brothers. Released in 2000, the film is set in Mississippi during the Great Depression (specifically, 1937).

The film is loosely based on the story of Homer’s Odyssey and the 1989 novella A Dozen Tough Jobs by Howard Waldrop, which sets the Labours of Hercules in July 1937 in Mississippi.

By its very title, the film displays a sly reference to another type of mythmaking: filmmaking, specifically the 1941 satire Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges, in which the title character sets out to make a grim, socially conscious film to be called O Brother, Where Art Thou? After the privileged director experiences hardships of his own, he decides that comedic films are of more value than self-important dramas. Similarly, the Coen brothers' movie also has the tone and imagery of Depression-era realism interlarded with the comedic element.

The film stars George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, and Charles Durning. The American roots soundtrack won a Grammy for Album of the Year in 2001.


O Brother, Where Art Thou? tells the story of a trio of escaped convicts. Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), known as Everett, Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) escape from a chain gang and set out to retrieve the $1.2 million in treasure that Everett claims to have stolen and buried before his incarceration. They have only four days to find it before the valley in which it is hidden will be flooded to create Arkabutla Lake as part of a new hydroelectric project. Early on in their escape they encounter a blind man traveling on a manual railroad car. They hitch a ride and he foretells their futures similar to the oracle of Homer's Odyssey.

The group sets out for the treasure, and when they pass a congregation on the banks of a river, Pete and Delmar are enticed by the idea of baptism. As the journey continues, they travel briefly with a young guitarist (real-life blues musician Chris Thomas King). He introduces himself as Tommy Johnson and, when asked, reveals that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to play guitar. Tommy describes the devil as being 'White, white as you ol boys...with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He loves to travel around with a mean old hound.', a description which also matches the policeman who is pursuing the trio.

The four of them record "Man of Constant Sorrow" at a radio broadcast station, calling themselves the Soggy Bottom Boys. While they initially record the song for some easy money, it later becomes famous around the state. The trio parts ways with Tommy after their car is discovered by police, and they continue their adventures on their own. Among the many encounters they have, the most notable are a car trip and bank robbery with one George Nelson (who hates being called Baby Face Nelson), a run-in with three sirens who seduce the group and lull them to sleep (using a similar technique to those in the Odyssey) before apparently turning Pete into a toad, and a mugging by a cyclopean Bible salesman named Big Dan Teague.

Everett and Delmar arrive in Everett’s home town only to find that Everett's wife, Penny (Holly Hunter), is engaged to Vernon T. Waldrip, campaign manager for gubernatorial candidate Homer Stokes. She refuses to take Everett back and is so ashamed of him that she has been telling their daughters he was hit by a train and killed. While watching a movie in a cinema, Everett and Delmar discover that Pete is still alive, the sirens having turned him in to collect the bounty on his head. After Everett and Delmar rescue him from jail, he tells them that he gave up the location of the treasure. Everett reveals that there was never any treasure; he only mentioned it to persuade the other men (to whom he was chained) to escape so he could reconcile with his estranged wife. Pete is outraged at this news, primarily because he had only had two weeks left on his original sentence, which has now been extended 50 years in light of his escape.

As Everett scuffles with the furious Pete, the group stumbles upon a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob that has caught Tommy and is about to hang him. They disguise themselves and attempt a rescue. Big Dan, one of the Klansmen, reveals their identities and chaos ensues, in which the Grand Wizard of the gathering reveals himself as Stokes. The trio flees the scene with Tommy, cutting the supports of a large burning cross, which falls on a group of Klansmen, including Big Dan.

Everett convinces Pete, Delmar, and Tommy to help him win his wife back. They sneak into a Stokes campaign dinner that she is attending, disguised as musicians. Everett tries to convince his wife that he is "bona fide," but she brushes him off. The group begins an impromptu musical performance, during which the crowd recognizes them as the Soggy Bottom Boys and goes wild. Stokes, on the other hand, recognizes them as the group who disgraced his mob and shouts for the music to stop, angering the crowd. After he reveals his white supremacist views, the crowd runs him out of town on a rail. Pappy O’Daniel, the sitting state governor, seizes the opportunity and endorses the Soggy Bottom Boys, granting them all full pardons while the entire event is being recorded and played on the radio. Penny accepts Everett back, but she demands that he find her original ring if they are to be married. This series of events is similar to the return of Odysseus to Ithaca and his task of winning his wife Penelope from her suitors. As they leave the dinner, they run into a mob taking George Nelson to the jail to be electrocuted. Delmar comments, "Looks like George is right back on top again."

The group sets out to retrieve the ring, which is at a cabin in the valley that Everett originally claimed to have hidden the treasure in. When they arrive, the police order their arrest and hanging. Everett protests that they had been pardoned on the radio, but the leader of the police force tells them that it is of no consequence since the law is only a human institution. Suddenly, the valley is flooded and they are saved from hanging. Tommy finds the ring in a desk that is floating on in the new lake, and they return to town. However, when Everett presents the ring to Penny, she tells him it is the wrong one and demands that he get her ring back. As Everett protests the futility of trying to find it at the bottom of the lake, the blind prophet the trio met earlier rolls by on his railway handcar, ending the film.


  • George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill. A dashing, fast-talking Dapper Dan man, Everett was imprisoned for practicing law without a license. He escapes from prison so that he can stop his wife from marrying another man and preventing him from seeing his children. Ulysses is the Latin language form of the name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey.
  • Tim Blake Nelson as Delmar O'Donnell. Delmar is good-natured but simple-minded. He was imprisoned for robbing a Piggly Wiggly supermarket in Yazoo City; he claims at first that he is innocent, but later admits to the crime. Delmar says that he will spend his share of Everett's non-existent $1.2 million buying back his family farm, believing that "you ain't no kind of man if you ain't got land."
  • John Turturro as Pete. A crude, brutish criminal, Pete reveals little about his past. He believes in being true to your "kin", even when his cousin Wash betrays the group. He dreams of moving out west and opening a fine restaurant, where he will be the maître d'. He agreed to go along with the break out even though it is revealed that he only had 2 weeks left on his sentence.
  • John Goodman as Daniel 'Big Dan' Teague. Big Dan is one of the main enemies of the trio in the film. Masquerading as a Bible salesman, he cons Everett, then robs him. Later, he reveals the true identity of the trio when they are in disguise at a Ku Klux Klan rally. Big Dan has one eye, just as Polyphemus the Cyclops does in the Odyssey. It has been suggested that the character is based on the itinerant bible salesman who exploits a naive woman in the short story Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor.
  • Holly Hunter as Penny McGill née Wharvey. A demanding woman, Penny Wharvey is fed up with Everett's previous behavior and divorces him while he is in prison, telling their children that he was hit by a train. She is engaged to Vernon T. Waldrip until Everett wins her back. Her name is believed to be taken from Odyseus's wife, Penelope.
  • Charles Durning as Governor Menelaus "Pass the biscuits/Pappy" O'Daniel. Pappy O'Daniel is the incumbent Governor of Mississippi. He is frequently seen berating his son and his campaign managers, who are depicted as simpletons. Pappy O'Daniel's first name, Menelaus, is the name of the king of Sparta who fought alongside Odysseus in the Trojan War. His character is loosely based on former Governor of Texas W. Lee O'Daniel.
  • Chris Thomas King as Tommy Johnson. Tommy Johnson is a very skilled blues musician. He is the accompanying guitarist in the band that Everett unwittingly forms, the Soggy Bottom Boys. He claims that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his skill on guitar. He seems to be based on the actual blues guitarist of the same name.
  • Daniel von Bargen as Sheriff Cooley. The sheriff pursues the trio for the duration of the film. He eventually captures them after they have been pardoned on the radio; he proposes to hang them regardless of this. He fits Tommy Johnson's description of the devil in that his sunglasses look like "big empty eyes" and he travels with a bloodhound. He further indicates his otherwordliness when, advised that it would be illegal to hang the pardoned fugitives, he sneeringly opines that "the law is a human institution."
  • Wayne Duvall as Homer Stokes. Homer Stokes is the reform candidate in the upcoming election for the position of Governor of Mississippi. His travels the countryside with a midget mascot, who depicts the "little man," and with a broom, with which he promises to "sweep this state clean." He is secretly a Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan.
  • Ray McKinnon as Vernon T. Waldrip. Vernon T. Waldrip is Penny Wharvey's 'bona fide' suitor. He is a weaselly campaign manager, working for Homer Stokes in his campaign against Pappy O'Daniel. It has been suggested that the character's name is a subtle nod to novelist Howard Waldrop whose novella A Dozen Tough Jobs is one of the inspirations behind the film. The character's name can also be taken as an allusion to William Faulkner's If I Forget Thee Jerusalem, which includes a character named Vernon Waldrip. The character, the situation, and the performance almost directly parallel a similar situation in John Ford's The Searchers.
  • Michael Badalucco as George Nelson. He dislikes being called Baby Face Nelson (a real-life bank robber in the 1930s.) His character is depicted as being manic-depressive.
  • Stephen Root as Mr. Lund the Radio Station Man. He is the blind radio station manager who pays musicians to "sing into a can" and originally records the Soggy Bottom Boys' hit, "Man of Constant Sorrow".
  • Lee Weaver as the Blind Seer. An important character in the film, the Blind Seer accurately predicts the outcome of the trio's adventure, as well as several other happenings. In the Odyssey, a similar role in the story is played by the shade of Tiresias.
  • Ed Gale as the Little Man. Homer Stokes' mascot

Southern politics

A major theme of the film is the connection between old-time music and political campaigning in the southern U.S. It makes reference to the traditions, institutions and campaign practices of Bossism and political reform that defined Southern politics in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Ku Klux Klan, at the time a political force of white populism, is depicted burning crosses and engaging in ceremonial dance. The character of Menelaus "Pappy" O'Daniel, the Governor of Mississippi and host of the radio show 'The Flour Hour', is similar in name and demeanor to W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, one-time Governor of Texas and later U.S. Senator from that state. W. Lee O'Daniel was in the flour business, and used a backing band called the Light Crust Doughboys on his radio show. In one campaign, W. Lee O'Daniel carried a broom, an oft used campaign device in the reform era, promising to sweep away patronage and corruption. His theme song had the hook, "Please pass the biscuits, Pappy", emphasizing his connection with flour. In a scene reminiscent of the film, during his 2003 campaign to win the Governorship of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger held up a broom and promised to sweep insiders and special-interest manipulators out of office.

While the film borrows from real-life politics, there are obvious differences between the characters in the film and historical political figures. The O'Daniel of the movie used "You Are My Sunshine" as his theme song (which was originally recorded by real-life Governor of Louisiana, James Houston "Jimmie" Davis) and Homer Stokes, as the challenger to the incumbent O'Daniel, portrays himself as the "reform candidate", using a broom as a prop.


  • Pete was born in 1903. Calendars seen in the film place the date at mid-1937, and Pete says that he'll be sent to prison for 50 years for escaping, and that he'll be 84 when he gets out.
  • Using this same method, and the fact that he says he'll only be 82, Delmar can be safely assumed to have been born around 1905.
  • Tommy's description of the Devil fits Sheriff Cooley to a T: "He's white... with empty eyes [Cooley never removes his sunglasses] and a big, hollow voice, [and] he loves to travel with a mean ol' hound."


Much of the music used in the film is folk music from the period the film is set in or earlier, including that of Virginia folk/bluegrass singer Ralph Stanley. The music selection is drawn from spiritual music of this region (including that of the Primitive Baptist Church) and other popular religious music,most notably the Fairfield Four, an a cappella quartet with a career extending back to 1921 who appear in the soundtrack and as gravediggers towards the film's end.

Music is a vital element of the film. In addition to providing atmosphere, and serving as a plot element with "Man of Constant Sorrow," music spontaneously erupts from the characters themselves, who frequently sing songs that correspond to their actions or reflect the emotional moment of the scene. The effect is a world suffused with and inseparable from its regional music.

There is a notable use of dirges and other macabre songs, a theme which often recurs in Appalachian music ("Oh Death", "Lonesome Valley", "Angel Band") in contrast to bright or corrective songs ("Keep On the Sunnyside", "You Are My Sunshine") in other parts of the movie.

Many people think that the lead guitarist character (Tommy) of the Soggy Bottom Boys is an intended reference to the Delta Blues artist Robert Johnson, who supposedly claimed that he sold his soul to the devil in return for being able to play the guitar. To many viewers, Robert Johnson would be a more familiar name, and a similar soul-selling story has been attached to him (though not promulgated by himself). In addition, Everett and company first encounter Tommy at a rural crossroads, a fairly obvious allusion to Johnson's famous song, "Cross Road Blues." Nevertheless, T-Bone Burnett has explained that the character was not meant to represent Robert Johnson. Rather, the character, portrayed by blues/rap artist Chris Thomas King, is probably moreover a reference to Tommy Johnson, who was also purported to have sold his soul to the devil. And the song that Tommy performs at the campfire, "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," is by Skip James, so the Tommy character may serve as an amalgamation of a variety of country-blues artists of the 1930s.

Soggy Bottom Boys

The Soggy Bottom Boys are the fictitious Depression-era 'old-timey music' quartet and accompaniment from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The name Soggy Bottom Boys is possibly a reference to the famous Foggy Mountain Boys bluegrass band of the 1940s with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs but also a humorous name given the two backup singers who were wet from being baptized earlier in the film. It may also be a reference to Foggy Bottom Bluegrass, a West Virginia bluegrass group. The Soggy Bottom Boys’ hit single is Dick Burnett's "Man of Constant Sorrow", a song which had already enjoyed much success in real life.

After the film's release, the fictional band became so popular that the actual talents behind the music (who were dubbed into the movie) Ralph Stanley, John Hartford, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Dan Tyminski and others, performed music from O Brother, Where Art Thou? in a Down from the Mountain concert tour and film.

The voices behind the Soggy Bottom Boys are well-known bluegrass musicians: Union Station's Dan Tyminski (lead on "Man of Constant Sorrow"), Nashville songwriter Harley Allen, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band's Pat Enright The three won a CMA Award for Single of the Year and a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, both for the song "Man of Constant Sorrow." Tim Blake Nelson, playing Delmar O'Donnell in the movie (one of the Soggy Bottom Boys), sang the lead vocal himself for the song "In the Jailhouse Now."

"Man of Constant Sorrow" has five variations: two are used in the movie, one in the music video and two in the soundtrack. Two of the variations feature the verses being sung back-to-back, and the other three variations feature additional music between each verse. Despite its subsequent success "Man of Constant Sorrow" received little significant radio airplay, and only charted at #35 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts in 2002.

In 2003, the band Skeewiff remixed "Man of Constant Sorrow. The song was so popular in Australia that it featured at number 96 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2003.

Similarities between the film and the Odyssey

The similarities between O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Homer's Odyssey are numerous, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. While the Coens did not originally intend to base the film on Homer's epic, Joel Coen has been quoted as saying:

It just sort of occurred to us after we’d gotten into it somewhat that it was a story about someone going home, and sort of episodic in nature and it kind of evolved into that. It’s very loosely and very sort of unseriously based on The Odyssey.
While the overall plot is only vaguely similar to that of the Odyssey, there are certain "episodes" which closely mirror the film's classical influence.


The only direct reference is the line of text shown at the beginning of the film, "O Muse! Sing in me, and through me tell the story...", which is one translation of the first line of the Odyssey. In addition to this, there are a few characters in the film that share names with similar characters in the Odyssey:

  • Ulysses, the Latin form of the Greek name Odysseus, is the first name of the film's protagonist, Ulysses Everett McGill.
  • Menelaus 'Pappy' O'Daniel, who pardons the Soggy Bottom Boys at the end of the film, shares his first name with the King of Sparta who fought alongside Odysseus at Troy.
  • Pappy O'Daniel's challenger in the election is Homer Stokes, who shares his first name with the author of the classical text.
  • Odysseus' wife was named Penelope. Penny, a shortened version of Penelope, is the name of Everett’s wife.
  • The soundtrack song of the Soggy Bottom Boys is named 'Man of Constant Sorrow.' Homer described Odysseus through epithets as the man of many sorrows.

References to Homer

  • When we see Pappy O'Daniel discussing the upcoming campaign in the restaurant, over his shoulder we can see a bust of Homer.

Many other characters are related without literal translation. The Sirens (washing women) that seduce the Heroes are the Sirens that attempt to seduce Odysseus and his crew. Vernon symbolizes the suitors waiting to marry Penelope. The Blind Seer (railroad hobo) is Tiresias, the blind ghost prophet. There are many other character relations. Daniel 'Big Dan' Teague (John Goodman) is obviously the Cyclops.

Character parallels

Parallels between Odysseus and Everett

Besides the obvious reference from Everett's name being Ulysses (the Roman name of Odysseus). Odysseus is an expert dissembler and loquacious talker, as is Everett. Everett uses his cleverness to escape situations, similar to Odysseus. One of Odysseus' most important epithets is polutropos sometimes translated as "the man of many turns" or "the tactician" Ody.1.1. Everett once mentions the importance of tactics, and another time refers to himself as a tactician. Odysseus frequently suffers misfortune when he falls asleep on his journeys, as does Everett, often awaking quickly and murmuring, "My Hair!"

Parallels between Penelope and Penny

  • Odysseus tested Penelope’s faith by first appearing before her in disguise, and Penelope does not recognize him, until he later reveals himself. Everett appears in disguise on stage when they sing "Man of Constant Sorrow." Penny likewise does not recognize him until he reveals himself to her. Also, suitors come to try to marry Penelope and a "suitor" comes to try to marry Penny. Oddly, Penny shows traits opposite from Penelope. Unlike Penelope, Penny was not excited for Ulysses to come home. When he finally finds her she demands that he leave her alone because her suitor has the money and a job.

Parallels with monsters and others met by Odysseus

  • Big Dan Teague (with an eye patch) corresponds to Polyphemus the Cyclops, most especially in that he pretends to preach the word of God as a Bible salesmen, then mugs them - the Cyclops as a species were descended from Poseidon and built thunderbolts for Zeus. In the Odyssey, the cyclops falls asleep and has his eye put out by Odysseus and his crew with a sharpened smoldering log. In the film, Big Dan is almost blinded by the sharpened stake of the Confederate flag but catches it, only to be crushed underneath the flaming cross that Everett cuts loose. Also, Odysseus hides under sheep, which the blinded Cyclops examines with his hands before letting them out of the cave. The parallel here is that the men dress in the Ku Klux Klan's white robes to enter the ritual and save Tommy Johnson.
  • Sirens lure Odysseus and his men with their singing. In the film, they do the same, and hypnotize Everett, Delmar and Pete, and compel them to drink corn liquor until they pass out. They also correspond to the witch Circe, who turned some of Odysseus's men into animals; Delmar thinks the women are witches who have turned Pete into a toad after he sees a toad emerge from Pete's abandoned clothes. There is also an allusion here to Nausicaa, a maiden whom Ulysses encountered (and seduced) on a beach as she was doing laundry.
  • The blind radio station owner who records "Man of Constant Sorrow" corresponds to Aeolus. He also could correspond to the Greek poet Homer, as he, too, is blind, and to a certain extent spreads the story of Everett through their song "Man of Constant Sorrow"
  • The manic-depressive George Nelson corresponds to the shape-changing Proteus.

Plot parallels

Parallels with the journey of Odysseus

  • The black man on the railroad handcar may be a parallel to Nestor, oldest of the Trojan War heroes, who is consulted by Odysseus' son Telemachus. He is repeatedly and formally described by Homer as the 'Gerenian charioteer': the railroad handcar may represent Nestor’s chariot. As another parallel Homer himself was according to tradition blind and bearded. However, it is more likely an allusion to Tiresias, who prophesied the trials and tribulations of Odysseus' route home when Odysseus visited him in the underworld.
  • The merciless sheriff is analogous to the god Poseidon who torments Odysseus and prolongs his journey home. A link between Satan and Poseidon may be being made when Everett mentions that Satan carries "a giant hay fork" (a trident); both figures are often depicted with just such an instrument. In the penultimate scene of the film, the sheriff's dog and his hired men are killed in a surprise flood (though we do not know if the sheriff himself is dead, as no body appears), while Everett and his friends save themselves; Poseidon, god of the waters, destroyed all who had manned a ship sent to aid Odysseus, turning them into a rock in retaliation for the blinding of his son Polyphemus, and also plagued Odysseus himself constantly with floods. The sheriff may also reference the god Hades who, as ruler of the underworld, is sometimes compared to Satan; the sheriff's hound echoes Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of the underworld.
  • The travelers' siege in the Hogwallop barn parallels Odysseus' dangerous course between Scylla and Charybdis when Everett helplessly cries "Damn! We're in a tight spot!" several times. This also could have paralleled Odysseus' peril in Polyphemus' cave.
  • There is a trance-like progression of worshipers seeking to be baptized. Their glassy eyed placidity draws a parallel with the Lotus-Eaters of the Odyssey.
  • At one point George Nelson shoots at a herd of cattle. Odysseus and his fellow travelers slaughter the cows of the sun god Helios. Odysseus warns his men against killing the sacred oxen. Delmar warns Nelson, "Oh, George, not the livestock!" In addition to this, in the Odyssey, Odysseus' ship is struck by a thunderbolt — killing all but him. In the film, George is sent to be executed in the electric chair. During the parade to the execution, someone leading a cow behind the mob yells, "Cow killer!!!"
  • Everett has to enter the dinner party in a disguise to avoid detection. This parallels when Odysseus had to enter his own palace disguised as a beggar.
  • Odysseus did not reveal himself before his wife's suitors until having strung his own bow and shot through twelve axes, a feat which only he could perform; similarly, the Soggy Bottom Boys' anonymous recording of "A Man Of Constant Sorrow" becomes a smash hit, a fact which they remain unaware of until they perform the song again at the dinner party.

Parallels with the underworld

  • The scene in the theater, when Pete tries to warn Everett and Delmar, parallels Odysseus' descent into the underworld, Hades. Delmar, believing that Pete had died, mistakes him (and thus also the other people in the theater) for a ghost. In this scene Pete parallels Tiresias in the underworld.
  • Following Everett's beating by Waldrip, Everett warns Delmar of the treachery of women. This is much like how Agamemnon, who had been betrayed by his wife and killed by her new husband, warns Odysseus not to trust women.

Miscellaneous parallels

  • The dialogue in a scene between Everett and his daughters also gives a nod to its ancient influence. Using Latin terms, one of the girls says that Waldrip is bona fide, and Everett responds that he is the pater familias. The girls also use the word "suitor" at least twice.
  • In the scene where the trio and George Nelson are sitting around the fire after the robbery at Itta Bena, there are Greek columns in the background. (The columns could possibly be meant to be Windsor Ruins, located outside of Port Gibson, MS.)
  • Everett also comes back to stop the marriage and fight Vernon, much as Odysseus comes back to kill the suitors. Everett, however, is badly beaten by Vernon, perhaps creating a parallel with Telemachus' inability to discharge his mother's suitors.
  • When Everett, Pete, Delmar, and Tommy encounter the sheriff at the cabin, the sheriff remarks, "End of the road, boys. It's had its twists and turns". The opening line of "The Odyssey" is "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns".

Other allusions

The title of the film is a reference to the 1941 Preston Sturges film, Sullivan's Travels, in which the protagonist (a director) wants to direct a film about the Great Depression called O Brother, Where Art Thou? that will be a "commentary on modern conditions, stark realism, the problems that confront the average man." Lacking any experience in this area, the director sets out on a journey to experience the human suffering of the average man but is sabotaged by his anxious studio. The film has some similarity in tone to Sturges' film, including scenes with prison gangs and a black church choir.

The sheriff who pursues the Everett, Pete and Delmar, wearing a particular style of sunglasses even at night, is similar to the sheriff seen in Cool Hand Luke.

The scene in which Everett, Pete and Delmar have to infiltrate a Ku Klux Klan rally to save Tommy is strongly reminiscent of the scene in The Wizard of Oz in which the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow arrive at the Wicked Witch of the West's castle and have to infiltrate the Winkie Army in order to enter the castle and save Dorothy. The KKK members march in the same formation as the Winkies and chant the same "oh-we-oh" battle chant, while Everett, Pete and Delmar infiltrate the group in the same manner as the Wizard of Oz scene, namely by luring three members out of the formation, knocking them out and donning their uniforms. Pappy O'Daniel's speech in which he pardons the trio also contains allusions to the Wizard's farewell speech to Oz.

The film also draws on and alludes to the Southern Gothic literary tradition of writers such as William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty.

Look of the film

One of the notable features of the film is its use of digital color correction to give the film a sepia tinted look.

Ethan and Joel favored a dry, dusty Delta look with golden sunsets. They wanted it to look like an old, hand-tinted picture with the intensity of colors dictated by the scene, and natural skin tones that were all shades of the rainbow.|30px|30px|cinematographer Roger Deakins|

This was the fifth film on which the Coen Brothers had worked that was slated to be shot in Mississippi at a time of year when the foliage, grass, trees and bushes would be lush green. Filmed near locations in Canton, MS, Florence, SC and Wardville, LA. After shooting tests, including film by-pack and bleach bypass techniques, Deakins suggested digital mastering be used. The cinematographer subsequently spent eight weeks fine tuning the look, mainly de-saturating green and timing the digital files. This made it the first feature film to be entirely color corrected by digital means, narrowly beating Nick Park's Chicken Run.

Deakins was recognized with both Oscar and ASC Outstanding Achievement Award nominations for his work on the film.


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