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Cold Turkey

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Cold Turkey (1971) starring Dick Van Dyke, Pippa Scott, Bob Newhart, Tom Poston
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Cold Turkey (1971) starring Dick Van Dyke, Pippa Scott, Bob Newhart, Tom Poston

In Cold Turkey, Norman Lear makes his directorial debut with this farce about an entire town that tries to give up smoking in order to win $25 million.

Buy from Amazon The basic premise of Cold Turkey is fairly simple. A fictional tobacco company offers $25 million dollars to any city that can have all of it’s citizen stop smoking for 30 days. It’s a publicity gimmick, since no town could actually accomplish it. But tiny Eagle Rock, Iowa, thinks it can.

Spearheaded by local pastor & health enthusiast (Dick Van Dyke), the city council wants to do it. They can use the money to rebuild the dying town, and hopefully entice the military to return and build a base there.

Despite the odds — and the fact that his wife is a closet smoker — the reverend convinces the entire town to stop smoking cold turkey for 30 days. Soon, most of the population is irritable, starting fights, etc. Many people try replacing the urge for smoking with candy. In a very funny recurring bit, the reverend and his wife … Engage in marital relations. Frequently, and often.

However, the cigarette company doesn’t want to actually pay out the money. And so they send Bob Newart to get someone — anyone! — to smoke before the thirty day deadline. By hook or crook. As the ending comedically demonstrates.

Cast of characters

  • Dick Van Dyke (The Dick Van Dyke Show) as Rev. Clayton Brooks. The driving force behind the attempt to get the town to give up smoking. A former heavy smoker, he feels that Eagle Rock is a dying town. With no room for growth for an eager young minister …
  • Bob Newhart (Newhart) as Merwin Wren. The unscrupulous tobacco company executive, who will stop at nothing to get somebody to start smoking! He’s very funny throughout the movie, especially at the zany ending.
  • Pippa Scott (Auntie Mame) as Natalie Brooks. Clayton’s suffering wife. They talk, but he doesn’t actually listen. Small wonder she doesn’t tell him about her smoking.
  • Tom Poston (Soldier in the Rain) as Mr. Edgar Stopworth. The town drunk, who’s bribed to leave town for 30 days.
  • Edward Everett Horton (Top Hat) as Hiram C. Grayson. The tobacco company president. Edward played the role in a wheelchair and without dialogue. His final film appearance.
  • Bob Elliott as Hugh Upson/David Chetley/Sandy Van Andy
  • Ray Goulding as Walter Chronic/Paul Hardly/Arthur Lordly
  • Vincent Gardenia as Mayor Quincey L. Wappler
  • Barnard Hughes as Dr. Proctor. The town doctor, who’s dying for a cigarette …
  • Jean Stapleton (All in the Family) as Mrs. Wappler. She’s the anxiety-ridden wife of the mayor, who counts the small gherkin pickles she eats as the hours pass

Editorial review of Cold Turkey courtesy of

A tobacco tycoon offers a $25-million prize to any town that can entirely give up smoking. It’s a publicity stunt to get the tobacco company a billion dollars worth of publicity. A small-town parson (Dick Van Dyke) wants to put his town–and himself–on the map by winning this challenge.

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