Winners Never Quit.
November 12, 2010 8:33 AM   Subscribe

One of the greatest movie satires you almost never saw, Norman Lear's first stab at film making sat for two years before its 1971 release. Shot on location in Greenfield, Iowa, it featured a who's who cast of television comedy,

Starring Dick Van Dyke as an oversexed preacher, Barnard Hughes as a chain smoking surgeon, Jean "Edith Bunker" Stapleton as a overeating nicotine fiend, a perfectly wonderful tracking shot and opening theme by Randy Newman, and though he never speaks, cuts what might have been the first fart in movie history, Edward Everett Horton in his last film role.

While it runs occasionally on TCM, you can also see it today at 3 PM central, on many ThisTV affiliates
posted by timsteil (25 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
great video , thanks for sharing
posted by flx89 at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2010

I saw this when it first came out, it was absolutely hilarious. I had forgotten it was a Norman Lear film. It really does understand how addictive smoking is, doesn't it?
posted by tommasz at 8:45 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember renting this in a video store in the 80s, and then eventually losing it in my stack of videos. I ended up having to buy it off the store after my late fees stacked up.

I never smoked again.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:52 AM on November 12, 2010

Saw it, and was hooked from the first rambling shuffle of that pathetic looking dog wandering down the dusty road while Randy Newman sings, "He gives us all his love".
posted by Mike D at 9:09 AM on November 12, 2010

Sorry. Next time I'll read the whole post before inflicting my own favourite moment on y'all... just on the odd chance someone else might have already liked it too.
posted by Mike D at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2010

Not many of these frantic 60s comedies holds up with time but this one does, not in small part because of surprisingly rich characters as performed by the likes of the brilliant Judith Lowry.
posted by victors at 9:13 AM on November 12, 2010

Yes, I caught this on VHS a while back. Among its many virtues are Bob and Ray in multiple roles as news anchors. Also, Bob Newhart.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 9:28 AM on November 12, 2010

Wow. had never heard of it - thank you so much - that opening credits tracking shot is up there with TOUCH OF EVIL = brilliant.
posted by jettloe at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2010

Holy crap and that's Bob & Ray on the radio!
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on November 12, 2010

Fond memories of renting this from Kim's. Fine flick.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2010

Anybody who grew up in the Quad Cities (Illinois/Iowa) in the 1970s/early 80s -- or at least in an area where that's where your local TV channels came from -- must remember this movie as something that was on the late show movie (back when they did those) on the NBC affiliate maybe every other Sunday.

(Or at least it felt like that to a kid who only had 3 channels and could sometimes get to stay up late or have a TV in his room on Sundays when there was no school the next day.)

I liked the parts I saw of it even as a kid who admittedly didn't get most of it, am glad to be reminded of it and look forward to seeing it again.

(I guess now that I know about its location filming, maybe that makes sense to why it would be on the local Iowa channel so often.)

God, I love Norman Lear.

(This is mostly morbid and a total detail, but I swear to God if, when he dies, somebody puts up a crappy rush-to-be-first front page post without giving Mr. Lear the proper respect he deseves, I will be so tempted to go Archie Bunker on your meathead, dingbat self. Just fair warning.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:02 AM on November 12, 2010

derail, damnit
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2010

I was a huge Bob Newhart and Dick Van Dyke fan in grade school and was quite excited to see this. Most of it went over my eight or nine year old head and I put it in the "don't category". In college I watched it again realized how great it is. I didn't even remember/know it as a Norman Lear project until just now - that makes total sense.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:50 AM on November 12, 2010

cuts what might have been the first fart in movie history

Reason enough to burn every extant copy and run Norman Lear out of town on a rail.
posted by straight at 10:52 AM on November 12, 2010

I am genuinely intrigued by the suggestion that this was the first fart in movie history.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:56 AM on November 12, 2010

Thanks for the tip on the showing today. In the past few minutes I kept thinking of favorite scenes and lines of a movie I haven't seen in years. Just set the Tivo. Looking forward to seeing it again.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:00 AM on November 12, 2010

Thanks. I have never heard of this and will be looking for it on TCM.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:20 AM on November 12, 2010

God, that first linked scene where Dick van Dyke as the preacher starts using sex to quell his cravings - where his wife is making up the bed and glances out the window to see her clearly jonesing husband grimly headed towards the house - the way she irritatedly hurls the sheets back and starts to disrobe... As a kid who was just figuring out the whole sex thing I remember being titillated and amused and slightly shocked (preachers have sex?; women can have sex when they're annoyed and don't want to? What's more, they will?) and have used sex to quit everything I needed to ever since. Except sex, of course. :) That plus Bob Newhart's increasingly desperate attempts to thwart the town....I had forgotten all about this movie, great post, thanks!
posted by umberto at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

The other writer, besides Lear, involved in this movie was the great William Price Fox, author of Southern Fried. (If you can find a copy of the original paperback with Jack Davis illustrations, snap it up!) His forte was creating characters and writing funny stuff.
posted by CCBC at 1:51 PM on November 12, 2010

Love, love, loved this film as a kid - it made a huge impression in a way similar to Mad magazine - and have been dying to see if it holds up decades later. Judging from the clips, all signs point to YES. I always get blank stares when I rave about it; even big 70s film buff friends missed it completely.

Why on earth hasn't this movie ever been released on DVD?
posted by mediareport at 4:13 PM on November 12, 2010

Why on earth hasn't this movie ever been released on DVD?

Netscape:Microsoft (browsers) as Cold Turkey:Blazing Saddles (cinematic farting).
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2010

It is now on DVD (sort of - manufactured on demand) through Amazon.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 7:19 PM on November 12, 2010

More than anything else I'm amazed it took from 1971 to 1975 (i.e., the time that elapsed between Cold Turkey and Blazing Saddles) for farts to become somewhat commonplace in movies. Nowadays you can't watch a movie without vast herds of movie folk farting frequently and with great abandon. Just like in real life.
posted by motown missile at 10:43 PM on November 12, 2010

"The greatest thing you almost never saw" sounds like a very difficult metric to calculate.
posted by mhjb at 11:44 PM on November 12, 2010

"The greatest thing you almost never saw" sounds like a very difficult metric to calculate.

Walks by cinema, glancing up.

How about a movie? he thinks. Cold Turkey? Dick Van Dyke? Him again? Yeah, I'd like to quit that guy cold turkey -- put him out to sea with goddam Flipper.

Starts to walk away. Suddenly, from within the cinema, an unmistakeable ripping noise, followed by gales of laughter.

"Whoa. One ticket, please." Can't believe I almost never saw THIS.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:42 AM on November 13, 2010

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