Friday, December 03, 2010

Iowa I Opener: A Madison County bridge and some Cold Turkey

Cutler-Dohahoe Bridge
After a brief respite, Iowa I Opener is back. John Wayne was born in Madison County, but the book and the movie The Bridges of Madison County, is what makes this western Iowa county internationally famous.

I didn't read the book. I did see the film. Clint Eastwood is in it--he  also directs. It's a  big-time chick flick. Had I been asked to write the screenplay for The Bridges of Madison County, I wouldn't have shipped Meryl Streep's husband to the Illinois State Fair (what's wrong with Iowa's?), but I would have kept him at home, added some Shane-like sexual tension, and had the movie end in a shootout between Clint and hubby at the very bridge pictured above, the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge in Winterset's City Park.

However, Eastwood already had essentially filmed a Shane remake called Pale Rider.

But I'm going to talk about another movie filmed in Madison County, Cold Turkey. The 1971 film is about the fictional town of Eagle Rock, Iowa--which at the urging of an egomaniacal minister played by Dick Van Dyke, accepts the bet from a big tobacco firm offering $250,000,000 to any town that can convince all of its residents to quit smoking for a month. Most of the movie was filmed in nearby Greenfield, but Winterset, Madison's county seat and largest town, was used for scenes in the movie as well.

Norman Lear, the television producer behind the 1970s blockbusters All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, and The Jeffersons, directed the film, and many actors who went on to TV greatness, such as Bob Newhart, Jean Stapleton (All in The Family), Paul Benedict (The Jeffersons) Tom Poston (Newhart), Barnard Hughes (Doc), along with character actor Vincent Gardenia as well as the voice of Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch) appear in the movie. Randy Newman's first soundtrack work is here.

Madison County Courthouse
A woman I'm going to call "The Teacher" was an extra in Cold Turkey. She was surprised that I had seen it. I met her in City Park while I was photographing its bridge. I didn't tell her I was a blogger, so I didn't feel comfortable asking her name once she skewered Dick Van Dyke as a "mean, nasty man." The lovable one-time Rob Petrie was an alcoholic then and I've heard similar stories about him from that time, including from Van Dyke's niece, a onetime client of mine. She visited him in Las Vegas around the time Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. was released. She told me her uncle was a "horrible person" and hasn't seen him since. "Crusoe" was released in 1966.

But The Teacher thinks the world of Bob Newhart, whom she described as "charming." Newhart is from Chicago--my sister-in-law's father was a high school classmate of Newhart--the wisecracker always seemed to be in trouble. They went to St. Ignatius, a tough-as-nails Catholic high school on Chicago's West Side ruled by Jesuit fisticuffs.

Bridge graffiti
As for The Bridges of Madison County, its director, Eastwood, was described by The Teacher as "quite private,"  he spent most of his time in his movie set trailer while in Winterset. Streep apparently didn't think much of the town--she commuted to Madison County from a Des Moines hotel each day.

The bridges: The Cutler-Donahoe one is the only one I saw. Four of them are on unpaved roads--I like driving on asphalt. It would have taken me hours to photograph them all, and besides, as you know, I didn't think much of the movie. By the way, the bridges are graffiti magnets. But each bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The people of the county are a proud lot. I saw at least a dozen businesses that incorporated "Madison County" into their names.

Besides being home to the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, City Park is known for the filming of the picnic scene in The Bridges of Madison County.

Madison County is also blessed with a beautiful courthouse.

Next: Jesse James' first train robbery

Earlier posts:

John Wayne's birthplace
Louis Sullivan Jewel Box
Amana Refrigeration
Amana cemeteries
Amana Millrace and the woolen mill
Covered Bridge Realty
Amana Colonies overview
Anamosa State Penitentiary Cemetery
More about Stone City and Grant Wood
Stone City and Grant Wood
Where North Avenue ends
Field of Dreams
Guttenberg and its pool
A final look at Effigy Mounds National Monument
More Effigy Mounds
Effigy Mounds National Monument
Freedom Rock and Veterans Day
Pikes Peak
Buffalo Bill


Radio Patriot said...

Utterly fascinating.

Who knew Dick Van Dyke was so appropriately named?

And yes, that Chick Flick was and still is among my favorites. the sexual tension was excruciating.

Thanks for posting these very interesting pieces of Americana!


Anonymous said...

The other Iowa town used in movie Cold Turkey was Greenfield not Greenwood.
I lived in Winterset and watched the film being made.

Marathon Pundit said...

Thanks...I live near a Greenwood Street--my mind was wandering.

Anonymous said...

Some of the scenes in Cold Turkey were filmed at Terrace Hill in Des Moines (which doubled as the head offices of the tobacco company) and in the law library of the Iowa state capitol (not too far away). I had just studied Iowa history (in 5th grade) which involved a field trip to the statehouse and wondered why Bob Newhart and some of the others in the preliminary scenes would enter Terrace Hill--and end up in the Iowa statehouse law library.