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Nobody's Fool (1994 film)

Nobody's Fool is a 1994 American comedy-drama film based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Richard Russo. The film was written for the screen and directed by Robert Benton and stars Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Dylan Walsh, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gene Saks, Josef Sommer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Bosco. It was Paramount's final production under its Paramount Communications ownership (being sold to the original Viacom in July 1994) and Jessica Tandy's final produced film before her death on September 11, 1994.[3]

Nobody's Fool
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Benton
Produced byArlene Donovan
Scott Rudin
Written byRobert Benton
Based onNobody's Fool
by Richard Russo
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byJohn Bloom
Distributed byParamount Pictures
(USA & Canada)
Capella Films
Release date
  • December 23, 1994 (1994-12-23)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$39.5 million[2]


Donald "Sully" Sullivan (Newman) is a worn yet spry hustler living in the peaceful, snowy northern New York state village of North Bath. He free-lances in the construction business, usually with his dim-witted friend Rub (Vince) by his side. He is often at odds with Carl Roebuck (Willis), a local contractor, suing him at every opportunity for unpaid wages and disability. Sully's one-legged lawyer Wirf (Saks) is inept, and his lawsuits are repeatedly dismissed. As a way to irritate him, Sully flirts with Carl's wife Toby (Griffith) openly at every opportunity (which she enjoys). He is a regular at the Iron Horse Saloon, where he often has drinks and plays cards with Wirf, Carl, Rub, and the town sheriff.

A running joke is the repeated theft of Carl's snowblower. Sully steals it to get back at Carl for his latest failed lawsuit. Carl steals it back, placing it in the yard at his construction business guarded by his doberman pinscher guard dog. Sully, after drugging the dog, steals it a second time. Carl takes it back a final time, and leaves the dog, who is now skittish due to his drugging, at Sully's childhood home for him to find.

Sully is a tenant in the home of the elderly Miss Beryl (Tandy), whose banker son Clive (Sommer) strongly urges her to kick him out and sell the house. Family complications of his own develop for Sully with a visit from Peter (Walsh), his estranged son who is a jobless professor at odds with his wife. While he and Sully reconstruct their relationship, Sully begins a new one with young grandson Will (Alexander Goodwin). Peter’s sudden everyday presence does not sit well with Rub, but Sully tells him that although Peter is his son, Rub is still his best friend. Meanwhile, Clive is on the verge of a lucrative deal to build an amusement park in North Bath. However, the deal unexpectedly falls through when the promoter turns out to be a con man, and Clive quietly skips town in shame since he used his bank's resources to help finance the amusement park.

After being jailed for punching a police officer named Raymer (Hoffman) who has been persecuting him, Sully's luck seems to be all bad. But his son and grandson start to warm up to him, and his fortune takes a turn for the better when his horse racing trifecta ticket wins. Even the lovely Toby expresses a willingness to leave Carl, mostly due to his constant womanizing, and run away with Sully to Hawaii. Sully realizes he can’t leave his grandson and thanks Toby for considering him, just before she leaves for the airport. In the end, Sully is pretty much back where he began, boarding at Miss Beryl's. But now he is a little richer, both financially and in his soul, he's a new dog owner, and he has become the picture of contentment.



The setting for both the book and movie, the fictional[4] North Bath, New York, is based on the city of Ballston Spa, New York in Saratoga County, New York, just east of Gloversville, where Russo grew up.[5] The real Ballston Spa was overshadowed by neighboring Saratoga Springs, just as North Bath was eclipsed by the fictional Schuyler Springs. Nobody's Fool was filmed in the Hudson Valley City of Beacon, which was paid a $40,000 location fee for services and inconveniences. Production began in November 1993 and concluded in February 1994.[6]

Bruce Willis reportedly agreed to a substantial pay cut to appear in the film, accepting the SAG-AFTRA scale of $1,400 per week at a time when the actor was earning roughly $15 million for his action movies.[7]


Box officeEdit

Nobody's Fool was given a limited release on December 23, 1994, earning $92,838 in six theaters. The film was given a wide release on January 13, 1995, earning $7,142,691 over its opening weekend in 792 theaters.[8] The film ultimately grossed $39,491,975 in North America.[2]

Critical responseEdit

Nobody's Fool was well received by film critics. The film maintains a 91% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 54 critics. The site's consensus states: "It's solidly directed by Robert Benton and stacked with fine performances from an impressive cast, but above all, Nobody's Fool is a showcase for some of Paul Newman's best late-period work."[9] On Metacritic the film has a score of 86 out of 100 based on reviews from 28 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[10]

Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote:

Desson Howe of The Washington Post similarly remarked:

Paul Newman was particularly lauded by critics. Caryn James of The New York Times described the star's performance as "the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given".[13]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote:


Nobody's Fool was nominated for two Academy Awards and a Golden Globe Award, among other accolades.[15][16]

Award Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards Best Actor Paul Newman Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Robert Benton Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Robert Benton Nominated
Silver Bear for Best Actor Paul Newman[17] Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Paul Newman Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Best Actor Paul Newman Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor Paul Newman Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Paul Newman Nominated


  1. ^,5221726&hl=en
  2. ^ a b "Nobody's Fool". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  3. ^ Berger, Marilyn (September 12, 1994). "Jessica Tandy, a Patrician Star Of Theater and Film, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Russo, Richard (2016-05-09). "Richard Russo Returns To North Bath, NY, In 'Everybody's Fool'". Fresh Air (Interview). Interviewed by Terry Gross. Retrieved 2016-11-24. ... the characters they portrayed in 'Nobody's Fool' have been revived in Russo's new novel, 'Everybody's Fool.' It's set in the late-90s, 10 years after 'Nobody's Fool,' in the same fictional economically depressed working-class town in upstate New York.
  5. ^ Greenhouse, Steven (March 24, 2015). "Richard Russo, Pulitzer Winner, Tells Gloversville Library Thanks for the Memories". The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  6. ^ "Hollywood on the Hudson". The New York Times. January 16, 1994. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  7. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (January 29, 1995). "Yes, Virginia, That Was Bruce Willis". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Natale, Richard (January 17, 1995). "Holiday Spurs Record-Setting Movie Weekend". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  9. ^ "Nobody's Fool". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  10. ^ "Nobody's Fool". Metacritic.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Todd (December 11, 1994). "Review: 'Nobody's Fool'". Variety. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  12. ^ Howe, Desson (January 13, 1995). "'Nobody's Fool' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  13. ^ James, Caryn (December 23, 1994). "FILM REVIEW; Paul Newman in Blue-Collar Gear". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 13, 1995). "Nobody's Fool". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  15. ^ Eller, Claudia; King, Susan (February 15, 1995). "The 67th Academy Award Nominations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  16. ^ Willistein, Paul (January 15, 1995). "At 70, Paul Newman Is 'Nobody's Fool'". The Morning Call. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  17. ^ "Paul Newman Wins Award For Best Actor At Film Festival". Orlando Sentinel. February 21, 1995. Retrieved April 6, 2016.

External linksEdit