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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Though not technically a Western, the picture, with an early-Thirties
West Virginia setting, had all of a Western's action and plot
Once more, Andrew V. McLaglen directed Stewart in an
ambivalent, morally reprehensible characterization
In an uneasy blend of melodramatic themes, Stewart is a convict who squirrels away $25,000 A murderer, he has done all the hard prison jobs and has been a model prisoner He gets out of prison with bankrobber Strother Martin and rapist Kurt Russell, and having paid their collective debt to society, they set out to make their fortune as civilians once more But corrupt prison officer George Kennedy and banker David Huddleston are out to relieve Stewart of his nest egg
Baxter, whose houseboat is doing part-time bordello duty, wants Stewart's money too
The film remains a curious admixture of comedy, adventure and violence from James Agee, author of "The Night of the Hunter."
I had quite low expectations for this little known film, since I saw it was directed by the usually awful Andrew V. McLaglen, who directed the worst movies of the late John Wayne and the larger-than-life MST3K classic "Mitchell". However, I was pleasantly surprised with this fun story of three ex-convicts led by James Stewart who only try to start a new life by opening a store, and are pursued by their ex-jail keeper (George Kennedy) who wants to steal the money that Stewart earned by working for forty years. Based on a novel by Davis Grubb (the author of The Night of the Hunter), who seems to have a thing for evil religious characters: villain Kennedy is the local religion teacher, and one of his sidekicks is a young shooter that has no problem in killing anyone... as long as they're Atheists. This character propiciates one of the funniest scenes in the movie by interacting with Stewart and his glass eye. The other best moment features Anne Baxter as an ambitious and very patriotic aged prostitute. The humor and irony is what makes this movie so special. Never miss it if you catch it on TV or video! (and it's also a chance to see a very young Kurt Russell in a non-Disney movie).
I was 10 years old when Fools Parade was filmed in my hometown of
Moundsville, West Virginia, and I remember vividly all of the
excitement we felt as we observed the actors at work in various
locations. Kurt Russell couldn't go anywhere without a crowd of adoring
young females screaming for his attention. I made it to the front of
the crowd just once as he was ushered into a limo that would drive him
to the days shoot. As I stood on the other side of the car window, my
10 year old face twisted with the emotional devastation of just missing
the chance to touch him, he looked directly at me and flashed a
brilliant, "I'm sorry" smile that made my day! Jimmy Stewart was very
friendly and often took time to converse with the locals. My mother
remembers a having conversation with him in which he demonstrated his
use of the glass eye. To answer an earlier question - I believe the
glass eye was called, "Tye".
Fools Parade was the second Davis Grubb novel to be filmed in Moundsville (Davis Grubb's hometown), the first being, Night of the Hunter. Both novels (and movies) explore the hypocritical, mindless nature of the "herd mentality" that can be so easily manipulated by rotten leaders & officials - especially through the use of religion and labeling. Those who see through it end up being society's outcasts, while those who follow it (in mindless hopes of acceptance and salvation) foolishly cut off their own noses to spite their faces. It's a scenario that plays out again and again in human history and is especially relevant today. A thoughtful viewer will easily see how these themes of labeling, discrimination, and fear of rejection have played out in forming the personal values of each character and boxing them into specific life circumstances - from the pathetically self-serving, desperately patriotic Cleo, to the train attendant with the tormented conscience who must choose between doing the right thing or keeping his job (and being able to feed his family during the depression).
I don't know why this movie is not easily accessible, but I have heard that it has something to do with legalities involving the Ann Baxter estate. It has, however, played on late night TV occasionally and I have a low quality video recording from quite a few years ago.. I hope it will eventually come out on DVD.
It has been since the early 70's and as a young teenager since I have seen this movie, but will always remember it and be in my heart also. You see I was born in W. Virgina at the location this movie was filmed (at least parts of it). Without taking from a great movie and great stars in it (Jimmy can do no wrong),I enjoyed seeing the different and familiar locations and knowledge of what they were then and to what they are presently, you would be surprised. The prison during the filming was in full use then, but now it is closed with tours in it. The railroad station is there still but with houses and trailers around it and a huge bridge crossing the Ohio river almost over top of it now A very good movie, funny and great acting, this movie is on my mind very often and wish I someday can get a copy of this, it would be in my top 5 for sure
My Dad grew up in WV and took my brother and I to see this movie at the
theater when it came out in 1971. It was a great film! I have waited
for 35 years to see it again, with no luck.
The beginning of the movie was set and filmed in Moundsville, WV in the early 30s. Jimmy Stewart played a character with a glass eye, who had served some 30 or 40 years in prison and was headed to the WV capitol to cash his check for funds owed to him for his prison labors. The conflict in the movie is the evil warden type, played by George Kennedy, who is out to kill Stewart and his two buddies, one of which is played by Strother Martin. The Strother Martin character wants to open up his own grocery store with the help of the Jimmy Stewart character.
This is a wonderful film, somewhat similar in style to The Film Flam Man, and of the same vintage. I would love to get a copy of it, or see it again on TCM or another channel.
Could anyone guess why this movie has never been made available since its original release? I would sure like to know...
I haven't seen this movie for at least fifteen years, but have never forgotten it...if it were released on video I'd probably buy several copies for friends, because it is such a good story to start with, and so well-done as a movie. James Stewart, George Kennedy, and Kurt Russell give memorable performances, and there is never that sense that you sometimes get with movies that it doesn't matter whether you watch it or not, you know how it will turn out...not with this one! George Kennedy is excellent as the villain, and the whole reversal of roles (the ex-con as the good guy, and the Sunday School teacher/prison official as the bad guy) make the movie one to remember. I highly recommend it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was Stewart's most compelling role when I saw it as an 11 year old
boy. The idea that an old released convict explosives expert could have
a glass eye and $25000 that George Kennedy (Doc Council) wanted to
steal from him was a simple setup but really caught my attention.
Stewart was the kind of old man any young kid would want to hang out with, and I identified with Kurt Russell, his young sidekick who had served in prison with Stewart. Russell was a naive devotee of Stewart and he aspired to join Stewart in an honest, simple career, opening an general store.
George Kennedy and his evil gang was the only thing standing in the way of Stewart going straight, and we see Kennedy in his best villain role as an unshaven, foul, redneck who wore a dirty white suit and hat and canvas Keds. God, I hated him good in this film and will never forget it.
Spoiler- The biggest thrill of the film was when Stewart quotes from the Bible that God would "pluck out the eye" of a man who offended him, in order to freak out a guy who was brandishing a gun on Stewart. As Stewart finishes the quote, he plucks out his eye and holds it out in the face of the enemy, who then becomes vulnerable to be disarmed.
It is a shame this film is impossible to see nowadays, not yet on DVD.
If you've found your way to these comments then know that you've found
in me a true fan of this film. I got here in an attempt to find a
source for buying this film. Alas, it was not to be! The 1971 movie
features great dramatic performances by James Stewart, Strother Martin,
George Kennedy and Kurt Russell. It's a pretty fair example of a road
movie that features, I believe, West Virginia as a backdrop in the mid
1930's. It's great entertainment, fun, exciting and suspenseful, too.
Hopefully it will be available someday. I believe it could be productively marketed as a rather important DVD release considering the cast and over all quality of the movie.
So it's now 13 months after I've originally posted and the question is, When is this movie going to be released on video/DVD?
I too have been waiting for my chance to see this little gem again. I took a date to see this movie in the theater in 1971. I was in high school at the time and happy to be going on a date. Half way through the movie, just as I got the nerve to put my arm around my date and get comfortable, a severe storm rolled through the area, knocking out power to the theater and surrounding area. We hung around for a while until it was determined that the power wasn't coming back on any time soon. The theater operator gave everyone a "rain check". We went back the next night to finish the movie, so I got two dates out of one movie, a guys dream! I loved the movie with its humor, great story line, and great actors looking like they were having fun. It's a mystery to me as to why it is so hard to find this movie anywhere. I looked it up in Leonard Maltin's book and he calls it a "bomb". I haven't liked him since.
In this superb but little known 1971 film starring Jimmy Stewart,Kurt Russell playing ex-convicts trying to cash a check in a corrupt town that won't let them.Based on the book "Fools Parade" by Davis Grubb whose other book"Night of the Hunter" was also made into a movie 1955-starring Robert Mitchum,Shelley Winters and both movies filmed in West Virginia.Unfortunately like so many other great movies"Fools Parade"has never been released on vhs/dvd in the US which hopefully will change someday.
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