Cold Turkey (film)

Cold Turkey (film)
Cold Turkey

1971 movie poster
Directed by Norman Lear
Produced by Norman Lear
Written by Norman Lear
William Price Fox Jr.
Starring Dick Van Dyke
Bob Newhart
Paul Benedict
Helen Page Camp
Bob Elliott
Ray Goulding
Vincent Gardenia
Edward Everett Horton
Barnard Hughes
Graham Jarvis
Harvey Jason
Judith Lowry
Tom Poston
Pippa Scott
Jean Stapleton
M. Emmet Walsh
Music by Randy Newman
Cinematography Charles F. Wheeler
Editing by John C. Horger
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) February 19, 1971
Running time 99 min
Country USA
Language English

Cold Turkey is a 1971 satirical comedy film. It stars Dick Van Dyke plus a long list of comedic actors, several of whom are well known to North American television audiences. The film was directed, co-produced and co-written by Norman Lear and is based on the novel I'm Giving Them Up for Good by Margaret and Neil Rau.

Cold Turkey features original music by Randy Newman including "He Gives Us All His Love", a ballad with a gospel influence that serves as the film's theme song. This was Newman's first film soundtrack.

The film was made in 1969, but was shelved for two years by the distributor due to concerns about its box-office potential.

It was only released on VHS and LaserDisc (1993) in the pan-and-scan format. On 3 May 2010 Cold Turkey was released on DVD through with manufacturing on demand[1] and it is still occasionally shown on various cable and satellite channels.

A musical theatre version of Cold Turkey was workshopped at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington in February, 2005.



As part of a public relations and marketing strategy to compare the empathy of Big Tobacco to the nobility of the Nobel Peace Prize, advertising executive Merwin Wren (Bob Newhart) convinces the Valiant Tobacco Company to propose a challenge: a tax-free check for $25,000,000 (equal to $149,772,313 today). to any city or town in America that can stop smoking, or go cold turkey, for thirty days.

According to Wren, the offer will generate Valiant worldwide free publicity and praise as a humanitarian gesture, but no town in America would ever be able to claim the prize, cigarette smoking being too addictive to stop.

The Reverend Clayton Brooks (Dick Van Dyke), a kindly but fearsome minister of the Eagle Rock Community Church, takes up the challenge as a spiritual call. He urges the economically depressed fictional community of Eagle Rock (population 4,006), Iowa, to go for the prize.

The town council has been trying to woo back the military ever since it closed a base a few years back, hoping its return would help the local cash flow. Families have been moving out almost on a monthly basis and the town center is almost deserted.

Reverend Brooks recruits every smoker in the town to sign up. Needled for not smoking himself (he used to but quit), he begins to find solidarity with his "flock."

At midnight, the challenge begins. For the next thirty days, no smoking is permitted, Eagle Rock being the only city in America that got all of its smokers to pledge.

The tobacco company sends Merwin to report the progress of the townspeople's commitment. The company needs just one person to fail. Among the weakest: alcoholic Edgar Stopworth (Tom Poston); the elderly Doctor Proctor (Barnard Hughes), who must always have a cigarette before surgery, and the anxiety-ridden wife of the mayor, Mrs. Wappler (Jean Stapleton), who counts the small gherkin pickles she eats as the hours pass. However, a group of 29 non-smoking residents, all members of the ultra-conservative Christopher Mott Society (possibly based on the John Birch Society) have been asked by Brooks to police all traffic entering Eagle Rock to ensure no tobacco products enter. A running gag ensues when elderly Odie Turman (Judith Lowry) keeps needling leader Amos Bush (Graham Jarvis) about his pistol, which she later steals.

Eventually, the attention of the nation's leading newscasters at the time (all played by the comedy duo Bob and Ray), turns the small community's efforts into a matter of highly publicized failure or success. Soon the community is invaded by buxom "massage therapists," beer vendors, souvenir shops and more. Rev. Clayton appears on a Time magazine cover, which leads him to another epiphany: if he can save the town, he will be a hero.

Merwin is told by Valiant's board members to undermine the town's efforts at all costs, doing whatever he can to get someone to smoke before the thirty days are up, leading to hilarious results as the clock ticks down.


  • Crossing guard to little girl: Hey you! Where the devil do you think you're going? Did I give you the signal? Shut up, I don't give a damn what you've got to say - next time, you wait for my cigarette - uh, signal! Who the hell do you people think you are, anyway?
  • Odie Turman: I'll tell that to a Communist when he H-bombs me! Before you H-bomb me, you go over to that man with a gun and get captured! (immediately followed in the uncensored version) You're a bullshit, Amos Bush!
  • Odie Turman: He's a Communist - look at them cigarettes!
  • Odie Turman: Sure, and I'm an unwed mother.
  • Edgar Stopworth: The booze bone is connected to the smoke bone...
  • Merwin Wren: Big clocks are never wrong!
  • Merwin Wren: Repeat after me, gentlemen, in Wren we trust...
  • TV director: I don't want his goddamn cuff links - get me a shot of the President!
  • Natalie Brooks: We've become a pack of monsters! Do you know what that makes you? A monster-maker!
  • Man on operating table: For God's sake, let him smoke!
  • Mr. Candace (president of the United Tobacco Co. to David Chetley): Badly, very badly! Now you leave me the f(bleep)k alone!
  • Mr. Candace, 11 days later (movie time) to Chetley: I told you to leave me the f(bleep)k alone!


Although the story takes place in "Eagle Rock, Iowa," most of it was filmed in the small town of Greenfield, Iowa, and many local people were used as extras. Some neighborhood scenes were shot in Winterset, Iowa. The Methodist church in Orient, Iowa, and the bank in Macksburg, Iowa, were used as well. The Grayson Mansion scenes were filmed at Terrace Hill, located in Des Moines, Iowa. Some were also shot in the town of Columbia in south central Kentucky.


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