"Cold Turkey" - The Movie, Not the Method

Discussion created by DavesTime on May 1, 2020
Latest reply on May 5, 2020 by elvan

 Has anyone seen it?


Decades ago I first saw this movie, which was both a farcical comedy about quitting smoking and a biting commentary on greed and the predations of the tobacco industry.  It was written and directed by Norman Lear and starred Dick VanDyke, Bob Newhart, Jean Stapleton, Tom Poston, and other familiar faces.  The movie helped pave the way with CBS executives for Lear's "All in the Family" and his other television classics.


Well, most of the movie was filmed in the rural town that I live in here in Iowa! 


The premise of the film is that a tobacco company's public relations guy (Bob Newhart) comes up with an idea which will show how "benevolent" his company is.  The company will pay $25 million dollars (a lot of money in 1969 when the movie was filmed) to the town whose residents all pledge and completely quit smoking for a month.  Most of the movie follows the comedic desperation of those who are trying to quit and those who have been "persuaded" to remain smoke-free.  The economically depressed town of "Eagle Rock" enthusiastically begins it's effort to go cold turkey, even as Newhart's character tries to sabotage the effort (because, after all, the tobacco company didn't anticipate that any town would take up the challenge and actually quit!).  The most intransigent addict of all is the town doctor.  This is where, for me, it gets interesting: leading the effort to get his town to quit is the minister of the local church (VanDyke), whose wife, unknown to him, is a closet smoker.  As he seeks to enlist the final hold-outs in the pledge, someone in the crowd says, "It's easy for you, Reverend; you've never smoked!"  The minister admits that he used to be a smoker and, with people of the town egging him on, he takes a puff, rekindling his addiction and shouldering the burden of quitting with the rest of the town's many smokers.


When I first saw the movie I never imagined that I would ever move to the very town in Iowa where that movie was filmed, much less become the pastor of a local town church (who happened to be a closet smoker!).  But that's just what I did.  We've lived here for almost 30 years now.  Many of the town's residents were extras in the movie, and it's fun to see my town on the screen.  And now I have been quit for over 19 months!


(In 1999 Norman Lear, VanDyke, Stapleton, Poston, and others came back for a "Cold Turkey Reunion."  I spoke to Lear briefly when he came back a few years ago when the local opera house theater was named in his honor.)


So, do you remember the movie?