The Runner Stumbles (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Runner Stumbles (1979)

The Runner Stumbles




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Director Stanley Kramer ended his career with this absorbing drama, adapted from the play by Milan Stitt and based on a real-life event from 1927. Dick Van Dyke stars as Father Rivard, an intellectual priest in a small, impoverished mining town in the state of Washington. A lonely man with low self-esteem, Rivard is depressed by the arduous and dreary lives of his flock, until the arrival of Sister Rita (Kathleen Quinlan), a bright, spirited young nun who joins his parish to teach at its school. Rita appreciates Rivard on a level that few others in the community can, and soon the priest falls in love with her. But when Sister Rita is murdered, Rivard's infatuation is revealed and the love-struck priest is put on trial. Only Rivard's housekeeper, Mrs. Shandig (Maureen Stapleton), knows the truth about Sister Rita's death. Kramer broke up the staginess of his source material by structuring The Runner Stumbles (1979) into three acts that unfold not sequentially but simultaneously, revealing Rivard's developing relationship with Rita, his prison stint, and his murder trial all at the same time.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama
Directed By: ,
Written By: Milan Stitt
On DVD: Dec 13, 1990
20th Century Fox Film Corporation


Dick Van Dyke
as Father Rivard
Kathleen Quinlan
as Sister Rita
Maureen Stapleton
as Mrs. Shandig
Ray Bolger
as Monsignor Nicholson
Allen Nause
as Prosecutor
Sister Marguerite Mo...
as Sister Immaculata
Zoaunne Le Roy
as Sister Martha
Zoaunne LeRoy
as Sister Martha
Don Riley
as Maurice
Ted D'Arms
as Sheriff
Jim Doyle
as Matt Webber
Bill Dore
as Judge
Jock Dove
as Dr. McNabb
Larry Buck
as Fire Chief
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Runner Stumbles

Critic Reviews for The Runner Stumbles

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (4)

Throughout, the film is paced by fine performances, especially Van Dyke as Father Rivard, Quinlan as Sister Rita and Maureen Stapleton as Van Dyke's housekeeper.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
Top Critic

Deadly earnestness over Van Dyke's tortured celibacy becomes risible long before the Perry Mason conclusion and a final scene of indescribable bathos.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Mr. Van Dyke's performance, though extremely sympathetic, is hard to assess. He worries and suffers, but the film finds nothing vital in his ordeal.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

In its relentlessly old-fashioned way, The Runner Stumbles has a sort of dramatic persistence: It's not great, but it's there.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

A compelling and memorable drama, via Stanley Kramer.

Full Review… | August 27, 2010
Film Snobbery

The main problem with the film is that inherent to most play adaptations: it's too talky and static, with most of the responsibility for story development left to explanatory dialog.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
TV Guide's Movie Guide

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