Davis Grubb’s 1969 novel Fools’ Parade and the subsequent movie tell the story of three released convicts trying to make a new start with $25,452.36 from prison savings, if they could only cash the check. There are a host of murderous bad guys lined up to prevent them from doing that, in a yarn where the lines between good and evil are crystal clear. What follows is a heroic tall-tale chase on rail, on river, and by car down Grubb’s native Ohio Valley, complete with multiple dynamite explosions.
The novel was adapted for the screen by James Lee Barrett, author of the screenplay for Shenandoah, and directed by Andrew V. McLaglen for Columbia Pictures. The 1971 film starred Jimmy Stewart as the legendary coal-shooter Mattie Appleyard (a character modeled after West Virginia storyteller Riley Wilson and the convict Holly Griffith), George Kennedy as the evil prison guard Doc Council, Strother Martin as Billy Lee Cottrill, and Kurt Russell as Johnny Jesus. Anne Baxter, William Windom, and Wheeling native Morgan Paull also played in the film, which was shot on location in Moundsville, West Virginia. Not much had to be changed for the 1935 setting: the West Virginia Penitentiary served as ‘‘Glory Prison,’’ and the Marshall County Courthouse and the vacant Marshall County Bank building also served as realistic sets.
Filming began September 21, 1970, and concluded one month later when Davis Grubb himself came to Moundsville for the ‘‘Glory Days Dinner’’ accompanied by his Lhasa Apso dog Rowdy Charlie, making the $750 round trip from New York City in a Yellow Cab. In June 1971, the film premiered at the Court Theater in Wheeling.
This Article was written by Thomas Douglass
Grubb, Davis. Fools' Parade. New York: World Pub. Co., 1969.
Bunting, Camilla. When Hollywood Came to Moundsville: Filming Davis Grubb's Fools' Parade. Goldenseal, (Summer 1995).
Welch, Jack. "Davis Grubb: A Vision of Appalachia." Ph.D. diss., Carnegie Mellon University, 1980.