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The Runner Stumbles

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Title: The Runner Stumbles  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Nun, Roslyn, Washington, Ray Bolger, Stanley Kramer, Beau Bridges, Kathleen Quinlan, Cooley High School, Helen Hayes Theatre, Milan Stitt, List of 20th Century Fox films
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The Runner Stumbles

The Runner Stumbles
File:Runner Stumbles poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Written by Milan Stitt
Starring Dick Van Dyke
Kathleen Quinlan
Music by Ernest Gold
Cinematography László Kovács
Editing by Pembroke J. Herring
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox
Country United States USA
Language English

The Runner Stumbles is a 1979 film directed and produced by Stanley Kramer, based on the Broadway play by Milan Stitt. The film stars Dick Van Dyke, Kathleen Quinlan, Maureen Stapleton, Tammy Grimes, Beau Bridges and Ray Bolger.


The film is set in 1911 at a Roman Catholic parish in the rural town of Solon, Michigan. Sister Rita (Quinlan), a young nun, arrives at the parish to help run the church school. When the parish’s two elderly nuns contract tuberculosis, Sister Rita is forced to move into the rectory that is home to Father Rivard (Van Dyke), the parish priest. The close proximity between the two begins to set off gossip and suspicions, to the point that a monsignor from the diocese (Bolger) comes to give Father Rivard a talking-to. The gossip turns out to be correct, as the priest and the nun confess their love for each other. However, their declaration of emotion leads to tragedy.[1]


The Runner Stumbles opened to mixed to negative reviews. Janet Maslin, writing in The New York Times, complained: “The movie's ethics hazy, and its attention to religion so perfunctory, that it almost seems as if this were a story about something else that had been transferred, as an afterthought, to a Church setting...Mr. Kramer treats the film's religious questions as afterthoughts, and too often achieves a dispirited, noncommittal tone.”[2]

Roger Ebert, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, considered the film to be “a little silly,” but added that “in its relentlessly old-fashioned way, "The Runner Stumbles" has a sort of dramatic persistence: It's not great, but it's there.”[3] Variety criticized the film for being “presented in such a way that, at times, it appears like the best of the old-fashioned 1940s tear jerkers complete with overly lush sound track.”[4]

The Runner Stumbles was not commercially successful, and it turned out to be Kramer's last film. It had a brief VHS video release, but to date it has not been released on DVD.

UK premiere (theatre)

On 21 October 2009, the play The Runner Stumbles made its UK Premiere at The Crescent Theatre in Birmingham. It was the first time the play had been performed outside of the United States. The play was presented by the Birmingham School of Acting Theatre Company and directed by Lise Olson with music by Andy Ingamells, lighting by Jo Dawson, sound by Charlie Horne and design by David Crisp. The play ran at The Crescent Theatre in the Ron Barber Studio until 24 October 2009.

The original UK cast:

  • Father Rivard: Philip Duguid-Mcquillan
  • Sister Rita: Jenny Palmer
  • Mrs Shandig: Katie Salt
  • Toby: Oliver Arnett
  • Monsignor: Kevin Varty
  • Prosecutor/Amos: Adrian Banks
  • Erna/Louise: Joy Mcdermott

Filming locations

The film was shot in the United States in Ellensburg, Washington (campus backdrop) and Roslyn, Washington, USA[5] (where The Brick bar is shown as "The Bearded Nail").[6]


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Rotten Tomatoes
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