I’m a Fool gets off to a somewhat promising, somewhat precarious start. Eddie Albert is an onscreen narrator–precarious–talking about his younger days–his younger self played by James Dean–promising. Dean is leaving his small-town for the booming metropolis of Sandusky, Ohio, where he hopes to find a good job and a better future.
The (television) play makes a big deal about whether Dean will be a staying in touch with mom Eve March and sister Gloria Castillo but it turns out not to matter at all. Pretty much nothing turns out to matter at all.
Immediately upon arriving in Sandusky, Dean heads to the track. Albert’s narration makes it kind of sound like Dean’s going to bet the money Castillo gave him to eat because she was worried.
Nope. He wants a job there because he loves horses. Only he doesn’t know anything about horses and appears to be afraid of them. Luckily, nightwatchman and general track employee Roy Glenn befriends Dean and gets him a job. They become good friends until Dean one day encounters young Natalie Wood and decides he wants to be a fancy dude not a racetrack employee.
So Dean leaves the racetrack, abandoning Glenn, and gets a better job and fancy clothes and tries being a dude. Glenn’s not sore at him, even gives him a tip on a race, which Dean passes along to Wood and her friends. They’re from out of town, which makes no sense since Dean and Glenn passed them at their house. There’s also no fallout from Dean passing on Glenn’s tip, even though the narration makes a big deal of it.
Arnold Schulman’s script for I’m a Fool isn’t good, but Albert’s performance as the narrator is worse. Melodramatic self-flagellation gets tiring fast, especially since none of Albert’s foreshadowing ever amounts to anything.
Dean does okay, especially in the first half; then Albert gets too obnoxious. Wood barely makes an impression.
The most impressive thing is actually Don Medford’s direction. Even though I’m a Fool is on a sound stage with pop-up sets and forced perspective angles to suggest depth, Medford moves the cast around it ably. Great lighting too.
Shame Albert’s there sitting on a stool ruining the whole thing. Well, everything Schulman and, presumably, source author Sherwood Anderson aren’t ruining.