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Discussion after

Two years before All in the Family made him a household name, Norman Lear directed this feature film. Although hailed by some critics as a great American comedy, this tale of a small town whose residents try to quit smoking for a month in order to win a $25 million prize, faded from sight after under-performing at the box office. The picture is ripe for re-discovery: its mordant wit, as the townspeople try to sublimate their urge to smoke, along with tobacco executive Bob Newhart’s attempts to trick them into falling off the wagon is way ahead of its time. The picture also features strong character turns from actors like Jean Stapleton, Barnard Hughes, Vincent Gardenia and Paul Benedict, all of whom would become regulars on Lear’s TV series. Dick Van Dyke stars as the town’s minister and legendary radio comics Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding get a rare chance to display their genius on film as newscasters covering the story. The film has even been credited as the first to feature a fart joke. Add the first film score by Randy Newman, and you have a cult film just waiting to happen. (d. Norman Lear, 99m, 35mm)

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