Robbie Robertson not only stars in Carny, but was also the co-writer and producer of the movie. I understand he wasn't happy with the movie when it was finished, because he said that the movie didn't follow the script. Hard to imagine the script could have been even better, since Carny provides us with such a great story as it is. But it must have really soured him on acting, since he didn't appear in another acting role until 1995 with Jack Nicholson in "The Crossing Guard". Too bad since Robbie really nailed his part in Carny.
Robbie Robertson and Gary Busey are two pals who run the "Dunk The Bozo" booth and Robbie also handles other jobs around the midway. Gary Busey meets Jody Foster and convinces her to leave home and travel with him. This creates some tension between the two pals, but she eventually finds out that there is no coming between these two. Jody eventually becomes a "carny" herself, after she helps save the carnival from getting shut down in the twist ending to the movie.
The actual carnival in Carny was a lot like the Fairs that I remember from my youth, with the rides, the games, the sideshows, and of course the girlie shows. Adding to the realism of Carny was having the carnies give each other secret signs (signs that the audience really wasn't even let in on completely) plus the obvious use of a real carnival with real carnies and sideshow people. Adding to all of these good elements was a supporting cast that included Fred Ward, Meg Foster, Elisha Cook Jr., Kenneth McMillan, Tim Thomerson, and Craig Wasson.
But the one thing that you will remember long after watching Carny is Gary Busey's performance as Frankie The Dunk Tank Bozo. He really became The Bozo, the same way he was able to become Buddy Holly two years earlier in "The Buddy Holly Story". This is definitely the "Bozo" that I remember from my youth. The dunk tank was always set off a little from the main midway and the Bozo said anything he could to get under the skin of the ball throwers. Guess some of this wouldn't go over in today's politically correct society.
Carny has been out of print, but you can currently buy it from TCM from their Vault Collection (please note it's cheaper from TCM than Amazon). Also be aware that there is another movie title "Carny" starring Lou Diamond Phillips that has NOTHING to do with this movie.