Fools' Parade


1h 27m 1971
Fools' Parade

Brief Synopsis

When an ex-con tries to open a general store, a corrupt prison official and banker try to get in the way.

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Thriller
Western
Release Date
Jul 1971
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Penbar Productions, Inc.; Stanmore Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Moundsville, West Virgina, United States; Moundsville, West Virginia, United States; Moundsville, WV, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Fools' Parade by Davis Grubb (New York, 1969).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 27m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Synopsis

In 1935 Glory, West Virginia, convicts Mattie Appleyard, Lee Cottrill and young Johnny Jesus are freed from the penitentiary and escorted by brutish prison guard Dallas "Doc" Council to the local train station. There the three men plan to set out to the neighboring town of Stone Coal to jointly open a general store paid for by the twenty-five thousand dollars Mattie has earned over his forty years of hard labor. Unknown to the men, Council is in league with Glory banker Homer Grindstaff, who has been embezzling released prisoners' money for years. As the three men depart on the mostly empty train, Council promises a puzzled Johnny he will see him before sunup the next day. Onboard, conductor Willis Hubbard inexplicably advises Mattie to jump off the train. Mattie, who has a glass eye and professes to see the future with it, cautions Johnny to remain on the train as his eye has a vision of an ominous future. Traveling salesman and fellow passenger Roy K. Sizemore introduces himself to Mattie, revealing that he sells mining supplies, including dynamite, which is illegal to transport. Meanwhile, as night falls, Council meets two hired guns, Steve Mystic and Junior Kilfong, to intercept the train at Hannibal Junction. On the train, when Lee asks to look at Mattie's check for good luck, the men discover to their horror that the check can only be drawn from the bank of issuance in Glory. Overhearing the men's decision to return to Glory, Hubbard pulls the emergency brake on the train a few hundred yards from Hannibal Junction and admits that Council paid him to stop the train at the station in order to ambush Mattie. Alarmed, Mattie recalls Sizemore's sample bag and examining it, discovers fuses and dynamite, but is interrupted by the arrival of Junior. Announcing his intention to kill them, Junior advises the men to pray, prompting Mattie to stage an elaborate ritual that ends with him removing his glass eye, startling Junior and thereby allowing Mattie to knock him out. Mattie, Lee and Johnny jump from the train with the dynamite as Sizemore follows. Hindered by the dark and a driving rainstorm, Council and Mystic fire blindly at the fleeing figures, and the revived Junior inadvertently shoots Sizemore. As another train pulls in on the opposite track, Mattie and the others jump on board. Frustrated by the escape, Council examines the wounded Sizemore, then kills him, declaring he will blame it on Mattie. The next morning in Glory, while Council reports to Grindstaff, Mattie walks into the banker's office asking to cash his check. When Grindstaff balks, Mattie opens his jacket to show that he has twelve sticks of dynamite and various fuses attached to his body and indicates he has sixty more pounds in his suitcase. Outraged, Grindstaff cashes Mattie's check. Meeting Lee and Johnny at a diner, Mattie orders them to split up and rendezvous at a nearby bridge near the tracks where they can hop a freight train. With his bloodhound Joy, Mystic and Junior, Council begins tracking the men. Joy, who likes Johnny, eagerly tracks him to the bridge where he and Lee await Mattie, forcing the pair into the river. Wading to the opposite bank, Lee and Johnny meet Sonny Boy, who offers them a sixteen-year-old girl, Chanty Thorn. Lee, more interested in a drink, follows Sonny and Chanty to a river boat owned by faded prostitute Cleo. Meanwhile, Mattie meets Johnny and, hearing Council nearby, hastens to the houseboat to retrieve Lee. Mattie leaves the case of dynamite under Chanty's bed, and while Cleo stalls Council, the men escape in a small skiff. Council tells Cleo about Mattie's money, but, frustrated when he cannot find the men, departs. Guilty about leaving the defenseless Chanty behind, Johnny urges Mattie to return for the girl. When the men arrive back at the houseboat, however, Cleo demands Mattie leave her the money, believing it is in the case under the bed. Pushing the men off the boat and back out onto the shore, Cleo pulls the houseboat into the river. In a frenzy to open the case, Cleo shoots off the lock, triggering the dynamite and destroying the entire boat. Shocked, the men and Chanty hide in a nearby freight train car, which begins to move at dusk. Chanty confides her attraction to Johnny and the young couple fall asleep together. The next morning, however, the group awakens and realizes that the train car has only been moved to a side rail and they are still in Glory. At a nearby diner, a worried Hubbard sits drinking and a friend advises him to go to the police with his story about Council. A little later, Joy once more traces Johnny to the train car, but just as Council reaches the car, the train begins moving to another track. While driving home, Hubbard sees Mattie, Johnny, Lee and Chanty jump off the train. Coming to their rescue, Hubbard drives them outside of town, where he declares he can do no more for them. Mattie disagrees, however, and encourages him to tell the police everything he witnessed two nights previously. As Mattie and the others seek refuge in an abandoned farm house, Council spots Hubbard driving back to town and concludes the men are still nearby. Gathering Mystic, Junior and Joy, Council begins to search for Mattie. When Joy leads them to the farmhouse, Mystic and Junior excitedly anticipate their share of Mattie's money until Council callously shoots them. As Council nears the farm, Mattie declares he is tired of running, but will not resort to violence and urges the others to flee. Joy then bursts into the house, delighted to find Johnny, after which Council fires at the house, shattering a window and wounding Mattie. With only the dynamite to use as a weapon, Johnny lights one stick and hurls it out the window. To his horror, Joy bounds after the stick and fetches it back to the house. Mattie revives and hurls the stick out the window just as it explodes, killing Council. The next morning, the anxious citizens of Glory wait to hear if charges will be filed against Mattie as Grindstaff happily reclaims the money. Moments later, however, Grindstaff is placed under arrest due to Hubbard's statement. The citizens cheer when Mattie takes a new check to the bank to be cashed and he, Lee, Johnny, Chanty and Joy set off on a train for Stone Coal.

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Thriller
Western
Release Date
Jul 1971
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Penbar Productions, Inc.; Stanmore Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Moundsville, West Virgina, United States; Moundsville, West Virginia, United States; Moundsville, WV, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Fools' Parade by Davis Grubb (New York, 1969).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 27m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Articles

Fools' Parade


Hollywood has a long history of taming controversial subject matter. Second-generation John Ford associate Andrew V. McLaglen was a busy film producer and director of generally undistinguished action and adventure films. His 1971 Fool's Parade is adapted from a novel by Davis Grubb, the brilliant author of the celebrated 1955 The Night of the Hunter. Sharing a similar Depression-era setting, Fool's Parade touches on themes of social revolt and terrorism. The screenplay by James Lee Barrett reshapes the story into a folksy comedy-drama for star James Stewart. Filmed on author Grubb's home turf of West Virginia, McLaglen's film sees Stewart as Mattie Appleyard, a convict finishing a forty-year prison term. The old fellow is released with a check for his accumulated prison labor totaling $25,452.32. But a murderous fix has already been arranged: the check must be cashed at a particular bank, and its manager has a deal with the crooked lawman Doc Council (George Kennedy) to see that Appleyard never gets there. Also released is the endearing, addled Lee Cottrill (Strother Martin) and Johnny Jesus (Kurt Russell), a kid falsely accused of rape. The trio undertakes a colorful backwoods odyssey evading Kennedy's killers. They meet up with an unlucky traveling salesman (William Windom), and young Johnny forms a crush on a virgin prostitute (Katherine Cannon) held on a barge bordello by Cleo, a crafty madam (Anne Baxter).

In the effort to soften the story's social criticism, all the characters are given cute & quaint mannerisms and affectations. Star Stewart lays the folksy act on especially thick. From behind a scraggly mustache, Mattie Appleyard removes his glass eye, claiming that he can use it to foretell the future. Story complications veer from grim murder to cartoonish comedy, such as a cartoon-like gag in which a loyal bloodhound 'retrieves' a stick of dynamite, after it has been lit. The film retains only a hint of Davis Grubb's disturbing notions, such as the idea that a corrupt society forces the ex-convicts to re-enact the crimes that put them behind bars. But the key scene is wholly anarchistic: wrapping himself in dynamite, Stewart's Mattie scares the bank manager into cashing the check by rigging himself with a suicide bomb and threatening to blow up the bank building. It's an unexpected gambit in a year in which the Weather Underground was making real terror bombs. Yet Fool's Parade finds its way to a conventional happy ending. Grubb's bizarre characters become merely odd, or colorful, as with Strother Martin's cute old codger who likes to recite the inventory he hopes to sell in his imagined general store. Anne Baxter's saucy prostitute is furious that the Daughters of the American Revolution won't accept her as a member, with the argument that "We've been puttin' out for soldiers since 1776."

By Glenn Erickson
Fools' Parade

Fools' Parade

Hollywood has a long history of taming controversial subject matter. Second-generation John Ford associate Andrew V. McLaglen was a busy film producer and director of generally undistinguished action and adventure films. His 1971 Fool's Parade is adapted from a novel by Davis Grubb, the brilliant author of the celebrated 1955 The Night of the Hunter. Sharing a similar Depression-era setting, Fool's Parade touches on themes of social revolt and terrorism. The screenplay by James Lee Barrett reshapes the story into a folksy comedy-drama for star James Stewart. Filmed on author Grubb's home turf of West Virginia, McLaglen's film sees Stewart as Mattie Appleyard, a convict finishing a forty-year prison term. The old fellow is released with a check for his accumulated prison labor totaling $25,452.32. But a murderous fix has already been arranged: the check must be cashed at a particular bank, and its manager has a deal with the crooked lawman Doc Council (George Kennedy) to see that Appleyard never gets there. Also released is the endearing, addled Lee Cottrill (Strother Martin) and Johnny Jesus (Kurt Russell), a kid falsely accused of rape. The trio undertakes a colorful backwoods odyssey evading Kennedy's killers. They meet up with an unlucky traveling salesman (William Windom), and young Johnny forms a crush on a virgin prostitute (Katherine Cannon) held on a barge bordello by Cleo, a crafty madam (Anne Baxter). In the effort to soften the story's social criticism, all the characters are given cute & quaint mannerisms and affectations. Star Stewart lays the folksy act on especially thick. From behind a scraggly mustache, Mattie Appleyard removes his glass eye, claiming that he can use it to foretell the future. Story complications veer from grim murder to cartoonish comedy, such as a cartoon-like gag in which a loyal bloodhound 'retrieves' a stick of dynamite, after it has been lit. The film retains only a hint of Davis Grubb's disturbing notions, such as the idea that a corrupt society forces the ex-convicts to re-enact the crimes that put them behind bars. But the key scene is wholly anarchistic: wrapping himself in dynamite, Stewart's Mattie scares the bank manager into cashing the check by rigging himself with a suicide bomb and threatening to blow up the bank building. It's an unexpected gambit in a year in which the Weather Underground was making real terror bombs. Yet Fool's Parade finds its way to a conventional happy ending. Grubb's bizarre characters become merely odd, or colorful, as with Strother Martin's cute old codger who likes to recite the inventory he hopes to sell in his imagined general store. Anne Baxter's saucy prostitute is furious that the Daughters of the American Revolution won't accept her as a member, with the argument that "We've been puttin' out for soldiers since 1776." By Glenn Erickson

Quotes

God uses the good ones. The bad ones use God.
- Mattie Appleyard

Trivia

The imitation glass eye that 'Stewart, James' wore throughout the movie caused sufficient discomfort to force him to work for no more than twenty minutes at a time. Once it was in place, filming had to begin immediately in order to maximize productivity.

The locomotive used in this movie is none other than Southern Railway 4501, she was also used in the movie _October Sky (2001)_ and is owned by the Tennessee Valley Railroad.

Notes

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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1971

Released in United States 1971