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The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order, with the final cast member in the opening credits listed as "and Anne Baxter." Although the cast credits refer to George Kennedy's character as "Doc Council," "Mattie Appleyard" refers to him as "Captain," and he is called "Council" by others in the film, except "Cleo," who calls him "Dallas." An August 1968 Variety item stated that producer-director George Englund acquired Davis Grubb's novel, Fools' Parade for $300,000 and was in negotiations with several major studios. An item from October 1968 indicated that Englund had reached an agreement with M-G-M to produce the film. Daily Variety listed the purchase price for the novel as $250,000 while Variety listed the price as $175,000. An April 1970 Publishers Weekly item noted that M-G-M had dropped the project, for which Horton Foote had written a script.
Hollywood Reporter announced in June 1970 that director Andrew McLaglen, writer James Lee Barrett and Columbia would be jointly producing Fools' Parade. Barrett made an appearance in the small role of "Sonny Boy." The film was shot on location in Moundsville, WV, according to contemporary sources.
According to modern biographies on James Stewart, the actor had difficulties with the contact lens used to simulate Mattie's glass eye. Due to the irritation Stewart suffered from the lens, it was only possible to shoot for about twenty minutes with the lens in place. Fools' Parade marked the last leading feature film role for Stewart.