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The Runner Stumbles (1979)

Father Rivard is a priest in a small, economically depressed coal mining town. Working on what he thinks is a "controversial" work, he lives with the brutal lives of his poor parishioners, ... See full summary »





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Cast overview, first billed only:
Father Brian Rivard
Sister Rita
Mrs. Shandig
Monsignor Nicholson
Erna Webber
Toby Felker
John Procaccino ...
James (as Billy J. Jacoby)
Marguerite Morrissey ...
Sister Immaculata (as Sister Marguerite Morrissey)
Zoaunne LeRoy ...
Sister Martha
Don Riley ...
Maurice Prindle
Ted D'Arms ...
Kendall Kay Munsey ...
Louise Donnelly


Father Rivard is a priest in a small, economically depressed coal mining town. Working on what he thinks is a "controversial" work, he lives with the brutal lives of his poor parishioners, the old, unfriendly nuns in the nearby convent, and his own self doubts. When Rita, an energetic and bright young Sister, arrives at the parish, he finds someone he can talk to, someone with whom he has much in common. This sets into motion a series of events that leads to Sister Rita's death - and the indictment of Father Rivard in that act. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mailo.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In the spring - he knew he was in love. In the winter of the same year - he was on trial for her murder. See more »




PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

21 February 1980 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

A Queda  »

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Did You Know?


This movie and its source play were based on an actual court case during the early 20th century in which a priest was put on trial for murdering a nun. See more »


My Rumble Seat Gal
Music by Ernest Gold
Lyrics by Jan K. Gold (as Jeanette Keller)
See more »

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User Reviews

Dick Van Dyke's serious role
1 January 2011 | by (Portland, Oregon, USA) – See all my reviews

Dick Van Dyke is best known as the comedy writer who trips over an ottoman, and Stanley Kramer is best known as the director of movies like "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", so a collaboration of the two men could seemingly only be the zaniest comedy. As it turns out, the result is nothing of the sort. "The Runner Stumbles" is a very serious movie. Van Dyke plays a priest charged with murdering a nun (Kathleen Quinlan) with whom he was having an affair.

The movie is apparently based on a true story. While the love affair and subsequent trial are the main focus, the movie also seems to be dealing with - if subtly - discrimination towards Catholics in the United States in the early 20th century. The children who attend school in the church feel as if they live happy lives with the nuns and priest, but the trial allows the townspeople to be as hostile as they want towards the priest (and by extension, Catholics in general). The movie is sort of like Kramer's "Inherit the Wind" in that regard.

So anyway, "The Runner Stumbles" isn't any kind of masterpiece, but still a good look at discrimination, and the collapse of innocence that the church undergoes. A fine end for Stanley Kramer's career, and certainly good roles for Van Dyke and Quinlan. Also starring Maureen Stapleton, Tammy Grimes, Beau Bridges and Ray Bolger (the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz").

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