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Cold Turkey: A Hilarious and Thought-Provoking Take on Addiction

Cold Turkey is a comedy film that was released in 1971. The movie was directed by Norman Lear and starred a cast of accomplished actors, including Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, and Jean Stapleton.

The film tells the story of a small town in Iowa, where the entire population decides to quit smoking on the same day. The resulting chaos and hilarity that ensues is a great example of how quitting smoking is difficult, but also how it can bring about unexpected consequences.

The story

In the movie, the mayor of the town of Eagle Rock, Iowa, has a heart attack that prompts him to give up smoking. In an effort to inspire his town to follow his lead, he announces a contest to see who can go the longest without smoking.

The grand prize is $25,000, which is a significant amount of money for the small town. The residents of Eagle Rock initially take the challenge seriously and quit smoking, but as time goes on, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms and become irritable and irrational.

Things come to a head when the residents start turning on each other, stealing cigarettes, and even sabotaging each other’s attempts to quit smoking. Throughout the film, the audience is treated to a series of hilarious scenes, such as a group therapy session where the residents are encouraged to express their feelings, a local man who becomes a spokesperson for the American Tobacco Company, and a dramatic scene where one resident tries to burn down the town hall in a fit of nicotine-induced rage.

The message

While Cold Turkey is a comedy, it also has a serious underlying message. The film highlights the addictive nature of smoking and the struggles that many people face when trying to quit.

The residents of Eagle Rock may have taken the challenge lightly at first, but they soon learned just how difficult it is to break the habit. The film also addresses the issue of addiction in general and how it affects both individuals and society.

As the residents become more desperate to obtain cigarettes, they turn on each other, showcasing how addiction can bring about negative consequences and lead to destructive behavior.


Overall, Cold Turkey is a movie that will leave viewers laughing and thinking about the issues of addiction and quitting smoking. The film is a classic example of how comedy can be used to address serious topics and deliver messages in an entertaining and memorable way.

In addition to its comedic moments, Cold Turkey is a satirical film that explores how individuals and society deal with addiction. The movie presents a scathing critique of the tobacco industry and its marketing practices.

One of the key elements of the film’s plot is the competition between Eagle Rock and the American Tobacco Company. The tobacco company sends a representative to the town to try and sabotage their efforts to quit smoking.

The representative hires a public relations consultant, who creates a campaign to promote smoking and undermine the town’s efforts. The campaign includes billboards, newspaper advertisements, and radio jingles that promote smoking as a healthy and enjoyable activity.

The jingles are particularly memorable, featuring catchy tunes and lyrics such as “We love to smoke our cigarettes, it keeps us happy and content” and “Smoking makes us feel so fine, it keeps us going all the time.”

The tobacco company’s campaign is successful, with many of the residents of Eagle Rock beginning to doubt their decision to quit smoking. The temptation to smoke is strong, and several residents eventually give in and start smoking again.

The competition between Eagle Rock and the tobacco company eventually comes to a head when the town decides to sue the tobacco company for $25 million. This scene is a highlight of the film and is a great example of its satirical tone.

In the courtroom, the tobacco company’s lawyers argue that smoking is a personal choice and that the company is not responsible for people’s decisions to smoke. The judge, played by Jean Stapleton, responds by saying “If you think people smoke because they want to, you’re living in a dream world!”

The courtroom scene is a powerful commentary on the tobacco industry’s practices and how they have contributed to the addiction of millions of people.

It also highlights the challenges that individuals and society face when dealing with addiction. While quitting smoking may seem like a personal decision, the reality is that addiction is a complex issue that involves social, cultural, and economic factors.

Another important aspect of the film’s plot is the character development of some of the residents of Eagle Rock. Dick Van Dyke’s character, for example, undergoes a transformation from a brash and self-centered individual to someone who cares about his community and takes responsibility for his actions.

This character arc is a great example of how addiction can bring about self-destructive behavior, but also how individuals have the power to change and improve their lives.

In conclusion, Cold Turkey is a film that uses comedy and satire to address serious topics such as addiction, the tobacco industry’s practices, and individual responsibility.

The film’s plot is engaging and entertaining, but also thought-provoking and informative. The movie’s characters are relatable, and their struggles with addiction and the challenges they face resonate with audiences today.

Ultimately, Cold Turkey is a must-see film that offers a fresh perspective on addiction and the impact it has on individuals and society. Cold Turkey was directed by Norman Lear and produced by his own production company, Tandem Productions.

The film was shot in the fall of 1970 in the small town of Greenfield, Iowa, which served as the backdrop for the entire movie. One of the challenges of filming Cold Turkey was finding a suitable location for the town of Eagle Rock.

The town in the movie is depicted as a typical American small town, with a town square, a local diner, and a city hall. The filmmakers looked at several potential locations before settling on Greenfield, Iowa, which had all the necessary elements to bring the town to life on screen.

The production team worked closely with the city officials and residents of Greenfield to ensure that filming went smoothly. The town’s historic square served as the centerpiece of the movie, with the surrounding buildings and streets serving as the background for many of the movie’s scenes.

Another important aspect of the film’s production was the casting of the actors. The filmmakers wanted to create a cast of recognizable stars who could bring the characters to life on screen.

The film stars Dick Van Dyke as the town’s radio station manager, Bob Newhart as the town’s doctor, and Jean Stapleton as the judge who presides over the town’s lawsuit against the tobacco company. The casting of Van Dyke and Newhart was particularly important, as they were two of the biggest stars on television at the time.

Van Dyke had just finished his series The Dick Van Dyke Show, while Newhart was starring in his own sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show. Their presence in the film helped to generate buzz and attract audiences to the theaters.

The film’s production values were also impressive, especially considering the relatively small budget of the movie. The movie was shot on 35mm film, which helped to give the movie a more polished and professional look than some of the low-budget comedies of the time.

The movie also features an original musical score by Randy Newman, who was just starting his career as a film composer at the time. Newman’s score adds an extra layer of emotion and humor to the movie, and helps to bring the characters and the town to life.

One of the most notable aspects of the film’s production was the use of non-actors in several supporting roles. The production team cast several residents of Greenfield in minor parts, which helped to give the movie an authentic feel and capture the essence of small-town life.

Overall, Cold Turkey is an impressive feat of filmmaking, especially considering the relatively low budget and the challenges of filming on location in a small Iowa town. The film’s production values, casting, and score all contributed to its success, and helped to make it a classic of its genre.

Cold Turkey was released in the United States in February 1971 and received mixed reviews from critics. Despite some negative reviews, the film was a commercial success, grossing over $7 million at the box office.

One of the factors that contributed to the film’s success was its marketing campaign. The filmmakers targeted college students, who were seen as a key demographic for the movie.

The film’s anti-establishment message and its critique of the tobacco industry were in line with the counterculture movement of the time, which helped to attract young audiences to the theaters. Another important factor in the film’s success was the popularity of the cast.

Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart were both beloved television stars at the time, and their presence in the film helped to attract audiences who were fans of their shows. Additionally, the film’s satirical tone and its message about addiction and the tobacco industry were timely and resonated with audiences.

Cold Turkey was also notable for its controversial ending, which showed the town ultimately being won over by the tobacco company’s advertising campaign. While some critics felt that the ending undermined the film’s anti-smoking message, others saw it as a satirical commentary on the power of advertising and the difficulty of changing people’s behavior.

The film’s release was not without controversy. The tobacco industry, which was one of the key targets of the film’s satire, was not pleased with the movie’s message.

Several tobacco companies took out ads in newspapers denouncing the film and defending their practices. Despite the backlash from the tobacco industry, Cold Turkey was a financial success, and Norman Lear’s Tandem Productions went on to produce a number of other successful films and television shows over the years.

The film’s legacy has endured over the years, with many critics and film historians citing it as an important example of satirical comedy. The film’s blend of humor and social commentary helped to pave the way for future comedies that tackled serious topics in a lighthearted way.

In addition to its cultural legacy, Cold Turkey is also an important example of the changing landscape of Hollywood in the 1970s. The film was made outside of the studio system, with a relatively small budget and a young, up-and-coming director at the helm.

This model of filmmaking would become more common in the years that followed, as a new generation of filmmakers sought to shake up Hollywood and make movies that were more reflective of the changing times. Today, Cold Turkey remains an entertaining and thought-provoking film that continues to resonate with audiences.

Its critique of the tobacco industry, its commentary on addiction and social behavior, and its blend of humor and satire all make it a classic of its genre. The soundtrack of Cold Turkey is an integral part of the film’s success, adding depth and emotion to the movie’s scenes.

The original score was composed by Randy Newman, who had previously worked on several other films and had established himself as a talented and versatile composer. Newman’s score for Cold Turkey is notable for its use of traditional American music styles.

The score mixes bluegrass, folk, and country elements to create a sound that is both nostalgic and contemporary. This mix of styles helps to create a sense of the film’s small-town setting and resonates with the film’s themes of tradition and community.

One of the most memorable tracks on the soundtrack is the song “He Gives Us All His Love,” which is sung by the character of Reverend Clayton (played by Edward Everett Horton). The song is a highlight of the film, featuring a gospel-influenced melody and lyrics that speak to the film’s themes of faith and redemption.

Another notable track from the soundtrack is “Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong,” which is a duet between Dick Van Dyke and Edward Everett Horton. The song is a comedic number that showcases the film’s humorous side, with Van Dyke’s character struggling to come to terms with his addiction to cigarettes.

In addition to the original score, the soundtrack also features several classic songs from the era, including “The Age of Not Believing” by Angela Lansbury and “I Wanna Be Loved By You” by Helen Kane. These songs help to establish the film’s setting in the early 1970s and add to the film’s nostalgic tone.

One of the interesting aspects of the soundtrack is the way that it underscores the film’s themes of addiction and community. The music often reflects the emotions of the characters, with the score becoming more intense during moments of tension or conflict.

This helps to create a sense of momentum and urgency, contributing to the film’s sense of drama. Overall, the soundtrack of Cold Turkey is a key component of the film’s success, helping to elevate the movie from a simple comedy to a film with emotional depth and resonance.

Randy Newman’s score is a standout, with its use of traditional American music styles adding a sense of authenticity and nostalgia to the film’s small-town setting. The soundtrack also features several classic songs from the era, which help to establish the film’s time period and add to its overall mood.

In summary, Cold Turkey is a classic satirical comedy that successfully blended humor and social commentary. The film’s storyline, production, cast, and soundtrack all contributed to its success and its enduring popularity.

The film continues to be studied and appreciated for its insight on addiction, the tobacco industry, and the power of advertising.


Q: Who directed Cold Turkey?

A: Norman Lear directed Cold Turkey.

Q: What is the plot of Cold Turkey?

A: Cold Turkey is a comedy film that follows the residents of a small town in Iowa who attempt to quit smoking at the same time.

Q: Who starred in Cold Turkey?

A: The film starred Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Jean Stapleton, and Edward Everett Horton.

Q: When was Cold Turkey released?

A: Cold Turkey was released in February 1971.

Q: Who composed the soundtrack for Cold Turkey?

A: Randy Newman composed the soundtrack for Cold Turkey.

Q: What was the message of Cold Turkey?

A: Cold Turkey explored themes of addiction, the tobacco industry’s practices, and individual responsibility.

Q: Was Cold Turkey successful at the box office?

A: Yes, Cold Turkey was a commercial success, grossing over $7 million.

Q: Why was Cold Turkey notable in the history of Hollywood filmmaking?

A: Cold Turkey was made outside of the studio system, with a relatively small budget and a young, up-and-coming director at the helm, foreshadowing a new era of independent filmmaking.

Q: What is the legacy of Cold Turkey?

A: Cold Turkey continues to be an important film in the history of American cinema, noted for its satire and social commentary.

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