Francis of Assisi (1961) Poster

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Some Interesting Reflections Weakened By Its Veneration Of Its Subject
sddavis6325 March 2010
This recreates a lot of the legends about Francis of Assisi - one of the best known of the Roman Catholic saints, who is also admired and much quoted by Protestants. There's no doubt that the movie also recreates some of the historical facts about his life - his disagreement with his father over the course his life should take, his visit to the Holy Land and encounter with the sultan and his struggle to gain recognition of his new order from the Pope. This also takes both the legends and the reality to unnecessary extremes at times - such as Francis' encounter with the cheetahs in the Sahara as he was seeking out the sultan. Throughout the whole movie, Francis is portrayed in a too pious light; his humanity (I mean by this his flesh and blood reality, as opposed to his kindness) seemed lost in the mix. This is not especially surprising when you consider that the movie is based on a hagiography (a biography of a saint) written by by the Catholic author Ludwig von Wohl, whose own commission from Pope Pius XII was to "write about the history and mission of the Church in the world." Clearly the Catholic Church wants its saints portrayed in the best light possible, and so a certain sense of veneration for Francis in a movie based on von Wohl's work is inevitable.

Setting that aside (and even Protestants admire Francis, so I have no major criticism) what I most enjoyed here was the continual reflection in the movie on the state of the church and the Christian faith and Christians; the constant temptation (to which we all give in) to compromise the standards of Christ in favour of the standards of the world. The movie continually comes back to that theme; one could even say it revolves around it, as the primary battle Francis fights is to keep his order true to his "rule" - which was essentially the teachings of Christ that His own followers should renounce worldly possessions. Considering the repeated inability of Christians and the church to truly live up to the standards of Christ, the most meaningful words here were probably put on Francis' lips (although I'm unclear whether he actually spoke them): "if men were more perfect, we would need less compassion." So true.

This is at times interesting - but it's still significantly weakened in my view by its veneration of Francis rather than its objective portrayal of his life.
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A Good Introduction, but needs following up.
Philip Tan-Gatue21 June 2004
This is the film that introduced me to St. Francis of Assisi (alongside marvel comics' 1982 adaptation of his life). While several historical inaccuracies are present (Francis is referred to as "Father Francis" once, yet St. Francis was never ordained priest in real life, for example), this is a good film to show to people if your purpose is to introduce them to the saint.

Unfortunately, the film does come out like a Disney film, with all the colors and dialogue. Hardly present at all is the tension between Francis and his father Pietro. Omitted is the very important event when St. Francis returns ALL his property and clothes to his father and declares, "no longer shall i call you my father, but I shall only say, our Father who art in heaven." - a beautifully done scene in Brother Sun, Sister Moon ten years later. On the good side, it focuses on the supernatural - miracles, God speaking to Francis. This is good because other films tend to make us forget that this is the life of a SAINT, after all.

All in all, a great movie. There should be more films like this to change others' lives.
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A St. Francis story with historical proportion worth seeing
wjmcpeak18 May 2006
Contrary to scant reviews of this movie as rather mediocre, several interesting aspects make it worth a viewing. Perhaps aside, there is the amazing parallel of movie-to-reality of lovely Dolores Hart, who plays the noble woman Clare. Clare forsook marriage to an earnest noble (Stuart Whitman) and followed Francis (Bradford Dillman), founding the Poor Clares order of nuns. Hart was on the verge of marriage in 1963, when she decided to become a nun. The acting is good enough to keep one interested. And seeing some of the last appearances of old guard like Finlay Currie, Cecil Kellaway, and irascible director Michael Curtiz (who directed many of Errol Flynn's swashbuckler movies and other Warner Bros. fare in Hollywood hey days) sufficiently tempts the serious movie buff. The movie itself has the look—lots of color but also the lingering epic Hollywood scale--of historical yarns of the late 40s on through the 50s. Like the better efforts of this genre, the life of Francis progresses with a competent script—particularly in Francis's struggles against the establishment church. Thus it is historically preferable to Zeffirelli's minimalist Brother Sun, Sister Moon which frames Francis and Clare as more akin to 60s hippies than inhabitants of the 13th century—with a plot that meanders like a music video—and Donovan's music to prove it (Zeffirelli also wanted the Beatles to appear in the movie!). This reviewer is perhaps tainted with some nostalgic bias, since as a small boy I saw the Southern California premiere of Francis of Assisi (in Downey—southeast LA county suburb--of all places!) that included a live appearance and short commentary on stage by Stuart Whitman, who in his rough out style played Francis's friend-turned-antagonist (having been jilted by Clare) Count Paolo of Vandria. Years later at Universal I worked with Whitman, who, crusty as ever, recalled memories of the movie shoot as a tolerably pleasant experience.
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Not such a very deep friar.
Poseidon-312 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The road to movie dullness is paved with good intentions. The captivating story of a 12th century man who embraced Jesus' teachings of poverty and aid to the poor and the sick is given a reverent, but sometimes tiresome treatment here. It also manages to either skip or gloss over several of the more striking facts of the real story! Dillman is the wealthy son of a successful merchant who begins to hear a voice in his head, urging him to forsake his worldly possessions and rebuild the church. When he also forsakes his commission in the military, he is placed under arrest in a dungeon! Eventually, through the intervention of his female friend Hart, he is released by his former comrade in arms Whitman. He then begs in the street for stones and begins to build a church, eventually amassing 10 followers who help him with his work. They travel on foot to Rome where eventually they receive the Pope's blessing and before long, Dillman has hundreds and hundreds of devotees following his practices. Hart even becomes a nun as a result of his example. One of his travels takes him to the desert where he comes face-to-face with Sultan Armendariz who almost causes him to undergo a trial by fire. As he ages, he loses most of his vision and begins to deteriorate, but not before founding an order that lived on and lives on today. Dillman does pretty well as the title character, offering up the type of beatific arrogance that not everyone can master. It's a role not completely dissimilar from that of Tom Tryon's in "The Cardinal" and one could see the men switching roles with relative ease. Hart, who later became a devoted and successful nun in real life, gives a solid performance. She is to be credited, especially in 1961, for completely eliminating any beautifying makeup during her scenes in a habit. Whitman, who was dabbling in cloak and sword films during this era, is handsome, but out of place. His accent is so contemporary (along with his hair) and his character (fictional) is too coincidentally tied to Dillman's in several ways for him to be all that believable. He does, however, have one decent scene near the end. An impressive assortment of esteemed veterans round out the cast. Kellaway plays a cardinal interested in Dillman's work, Franz is Dillman's difficult-to-please father, Currie plays a downright ancient Pope (as can be the case!) and Armendariz has a decent cameo as the Sultan. The film is luxurious in many respects, with striking costumes, splendid scenery, detailed settings and so on, but too many things keep it from realizing epic status. For one thing, the story is trotted out in an almost comic book or Disney fashion. It's very episodic and some of the episodes are a tad too cutesy, such as when Dillman blesses all the neighborhood animals. Then there's the uproarious moment when Dillman enters a leper colony and listens to this howler of a piece of dialogue: "I don't want your peace. I wanna get rid of my stink!" Dillman should have gotten a nomination just for keeping a straight face through that one. Oh, and don't miss the unfortunately staged scene in which Johns, as a sweet, simple-minded follower of Dillman, comes to fetch him and as he's in profile, an extra in the background is flexing his arm right at John's crotch level, providing an hysterical, unintentional sight gag! The film opens with shots of frescoes while the impressive ooh and ahh music soars. Unfortunately, almost every single scene opens with a variation on the same nine-note melody until it becomes not only predictable, but almost laughable. All Hollywood films change the details to make a film more entertaining or to broaden it's appeal, but the introduction of a standard (and predictable) love triangle between Dillman, Hart and Whitman was a mistake (not to mention possibly in poor taste!) Fascinating tidbits from the Saint's real life don't make the cut, such as when he was shipwrecked on the Dalmatian coast or when the Crusaders in Damietta wanted to slay him as a heretic and the Sultan saved his life. The stigmata is barely suggested. Also, oddly, the man was known to avoid walking sticks and sandals, yet the film shows him with both and even has Hart gifting (!) him a new pair of sandals! It's not a bad film, it's just a bit hampered by too many concessions and conventions, possibly by a director who was too set in his ways.
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Very nice spiritual film
partho_de120 October 2008
I was looking for a movie on the life of St. Francis and not sure what to expect from this. It turned out to be a very well produced movie. There was lovely continuity right through. The emotions were very finely portrayed by the director. This is a deeply spiritual movie which focuses on the bright side and leaves one with a feeling of well being. It covers a wide span of the life of St Francis. Together with movies such as 'Flowers of St Francis'(this focuses on the lives of the St Francis brotherhood) and Marcelino, we get a wonderful idea about St Francis and the monks of his order. Dolores Hart acted the part of Sister Claire very well. Full marks to Michal Curtiz for such an excellent production. 10 on 10!
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Lavish production in support of an idealized and sentimentalized religious epic
bandw24 January 2006
The production values for this movie are very high. The period costumes are some of the best ever and the filming is beautiful. Even the horses are elegantly clad and the battle scene with the horses on the bridge is impressive.

However, all of this effort does not cover up problems. Many biographies of Francis are captivating, but the story, as presented here, is quite unbelievable and never involving. After Francis' conversion we see him pulling a cart through the streets asking for stones to rebuild a church (it just so happens that everyone along the way happens to have a few spare stones readily available). With a few followers we see Francis working with some crude structures at the church site and then, magically, we see Francis and his followers in an elaborate cathedral with large pillars and intricate stone work that would have taken sophisticated engineering to build. And Francis never encounters anything but beautiful sunny days.

Francis goes on a mission to the Holy Land and we see him wandering alone in the desert with a small pouch of water. Two Arabs are seen in this arid place who unleash vicious leopards upon Francis, but he tames them and gives them water. There is a "my God is bigger than your God" scene between Francis and the sultan that is quite depressing - how little progress we have make in 800 years.

Bradford Dillman does his best with the script he is given and has a couple of good scenes toward the end, but the acting by Dolores Hart and Stuart Whitman is pretty amateurish.

The main problem I have with this movie is that it did not show me what it was about this man that accounted for his accomplishments. He must have been inspiring and charismatic, but what we get here is a very passive reader of scripture. I understand the appeal of a Martin Luther King, but I do not understand the appeal of St. Francis from what I see in this movie.

The most enjoyable part of the movie for me were the photos of the Frescoes of Giotto in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi that played under the opening credits.
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Too Hollywood
DeeDee-1013 April 2000
Having seen Brother Sun Sister Moon, and Francisco, this 1961 version of the story of St. Francis pales next to the other two.

It looked like something from Disney: all primary colored costumes, healthy looking, rosy-cheeked Middle Ages citizens of Assisi, smiling as if they hadn't a care in the world. What were the producers thinking?! There was a little more history in this version though, including Francis' visit to Jerusalem, and his meeting with the Sulton. While the story was certainly comprehensive than Brother Sun Sister Moon, I prefer the latter even with Donovan's soundtrack, which I'm getting used to since I bought the video! Bradford Dillman did a fair job, but Dolores Hart with her teased, helmet-head sprayed hair looked very out of place, sad to say. A lean Stuart Whitman as Paolo played a major part and helped carry the film. I was tempted to not watch the whole thing, but I gave in. If you are a St. Francis admirer you'll watch it and learn a few more things about this remarkable man.
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Religious movie about St Francis proceed in simplicity and Hollywood style by veteran Michael Curtiz
ma-cortes15 April 2017
This is an enjoyable adaptation about Saint Francis (1182-1226) by Michael Curtiz who directed Casablanca . Set in 13th century and depicting various episodes about his existence . Follows the pleasure-loving Francis Bernardone (Bradford Dillman) , he is the son of a rich and well-established cloth merchant (Edward Franz) in Assisi , as he abandons his family through his religious awakening , to dedicate himself to God and carrying out the founding of the Franciscan order of monks . By this time (1212 A.D.), St. Francis leaves his lush life and he occupies to help unfortunates , hapless and poor people . Later on , Clare (Dolores Hart) , a young aristocratic woman who as a devoted disciple is so taken with St. Francis , and she then leaves her family , takes his vows of poverty and becomes a nun . The movie goes on to note miracles and other aspects of his life , as his stance in Rome , visiting Pope Inocencio III (Finlay Currie) , his journey to the Crusades where he meets The Sultan (Pedro Armendariz) , and including his death on October 3, 1226.

This Hollywood version titled ¨Francis of Assisi¨ (60) by Michael Curtiz with Stuart Withman and Dolores Hart is an agreeable portrayal on known Saint well played by Bradford Dillman and secondary intervention by prestigious actors as Eduard Franz , Finlay Currie , Mervyn Johns , Jack Lambert and special mention for the always likable Cecil Kallaway . The story of a lusty , fighting young adventurer who gives up all his worldly goods and exchanged his sword for a cross , including his preaching , praying , and subsequent miracles as the appearance of the stigmata on Francis's hands and feet . Rather than shooting on stage , they shot on locations and some non professional actors . As Producers thank the Italian government , church authorities and people of Assisi , Perugia , Bevagna, Rome and Oristano, the Franciscan orders , Conventuals and Friar minor , The Benedictines of Assisi and the superintendency of fine arts of Umbria for their generous cooperation . Evocative and colorful Cinematography by Piero Portalupi . The Frescoes of Giotto were photographed at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Religious musical score plenty of spiritual chores composed and arranged by Mario Nascimbene and conducted by Franco Ferrara . The picture is original and imaginatively directed by Michael Curtiz . An acceptable film-making for sympathy , simple way and religious sense .

The film retrieves partially deeds about his life . The real events are the followings : Francis was son of a wealthy merchant . He suffers starvation , famine , and is taken prisoner during war among Italian cities , Perugia , Venice and Assis . Francis founds the Franciscan Order of monks , approved by Pope Innocence III (1210) and receiving his blessing . He's followed by St Clare as devote disciple , founding the Clarisan order of nuns (1212) . Francesco imposes a rigid rules of life and his thoughts were included in ¨Singing to brother sun or the Creatures¨ where he praises the poverty , joy and nature love and ¨The flowers of St. Francis¨ .

Other versions about the most famous Saint are : Francesco, Giullare Di Dio (1950) by Roberto Rossellini who was one of a group of pioneering film makers of the neo-realist era , starred by Aldo Fabrizi , ; two rendition by Liliana Cavani , starred by Lou Castel and ¨Francesco¨ (1989) with Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter . And Franco Zeffireli version (1973) titled ¨Brother sun, Brither moon¨ with Alec Guinness, Judi Bowker and William Faulkner
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Francis of Assisi needs a shot of joyful playfulness
locksley6923 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Francis of Assisi at the age of 11, when it came out in 1961 at the old Stanley Warner Beverly Hills theatre. The film was given the red carpet treatment and a bunch of us Catholics went to see it.

Unhappily this film is nowhere near as good a biopic of a saint as, say, "Song of Bernadette" is. Zefferelli certainly had a lot more fun with Francis in "Brother Sun, Sister Moon."

The film is one of those "international all star casts", 2nd rate epics popular the late 1950s-early '60s made by European production companies but released Stateside by one of the name studios, Fox in this case. The American actors either unknown at the time (Dillman)or of lesser rank status (Hart, Whitman) were shipped to the Continent to make European films more acceptable to US audiences. The rest of the cast was mostly unfamiliar to US filmgoers then, unless they caught British imports at the more offbeat theatres in town.

Michael Curtiz, so effective at Warners with "Captain Blood," "Adv of Robin Hood," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and "Casablanca" among so many other classics, drops the ball here. He must have been tired by this time, having directed movies for some 40 years. The actors are given by-the-book direction. A few scenes remind one of how great a film Curtiz had been able to make in the 1930s-40s.

Bradford Dillman does his best with what he's given but the screenplay, closely following Louis de Wohl's novel, "The Joyful Beggar," comes across pretty unexcitingly. The film is more outline than biography, going from one episode to another, interested in the standard (fictional)romantic triangle, as s sop to attract Protestants, one surmises, and never gets down to really giving a dynamic cinematic portrait of Francis.

De Wohl wrote a long series of novelized saints' biographies in the 1950s that were popular among Catholics of the era. He died rather unexpectedly in 1961. They are of a type, sometimes a touch titillating, but in the end quite inoffensive. They were deemed fine reading for Catholic youth in the 1950s; they are still good for children to introduce them to the saints. Just as an aside, it's fun to know that De Wohl was employed by the US military in WWII to write pseudo-Nostradamus quatrains denigrating Hitler, dropped by Allied planes over Germany to offset Hitler's claims that Nostradamus had predicted Der Fuhrer's success.

Pedro Armendariz has a great role as the Sultan, and is the most believable actor in this show altho Dolores Hart is very affecting as Clare, especially at her leave-taking of Francis at the film's conclusion. The scene in which Francis ministers to Moslem prisoners after a Crusader victory is Dillman's most effective, Francis being exposed to the brutality of war, shuddering at the horrors committed by Christians in the name of Christ.

Francis was revered even in his own time as "Father Francis" by his friars even tho he was only ordained a deacon. "Father" is a title given founders of religious orders by their spiritual "children" even today. The title has nothing to do with ordination. Indeed, Francis did not want to be ordained at all but Pope Innocent explained that, to be allowed to preach in church, a man had to be ordained at least a deacon. Only then did Francis accept the formality so he could preach in churches.

On the other hand Francis was an administrative failure. This is why Brother Elias, his successor as Master General of the order is shown to be - accurately - pretty coldblooded in doing his job.

Brother Juniper, always muddling up things in the "Flowers of St Francis" had a simplicity that was beloved by Francis. another reason for Juniper to be in the movie - there was a popular daily 1-panel daily newspaper cartoon at mid-20th century detailing a present-day Franciscan "Brother Juniper" getting into comic situations. This was a simpler time when few citizens gave a 2nd thought to seeing a Catholic friar as a cartoon character. Today the Leftists wd surely be crying foul. How dare Catholics be funny where they can see it! Finley Curry as a (Scottish???) Innocent III is much too old. And I doubt that popes, even then, conducted daily affairs dressed in Mass vestments and wearing the tiara, just to let everyone know who was pope. Cecil Kellaway plays Cardinal Ugolino, the sponsor and "protector" of the Franciscans. He wd later become Pope Gregory IX and spar with St Clare who fought him to a standstill, winning the right for her and the Franciscan nuns to keep Francis' demand that his followers own nothing.

Sorry to say, the imposition of the Stigmata is one of the lamest special effects in film. It does nothing to convey the utter spirituality of the event, and Mario Nascimbene's score leaves a lot to be desired. He did a lot better in other foreign films but he was nowhere near Korngold or Steiner in backing up Curtiz' direction as they had at Warners 25 years earlier.

"Francis of Assisi" is an inoffensive 1950s wannabe epic, almost a precursor of those "sword and sandal" movies made in Italy that were to follow during the early '60s - the "Son of Hercules" films and others.

This one could have been - and should have been - a lot better.
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Can You Say "Uninspired"?
madcardinal9 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As dry as dust, "Francis of Assisi" feels more like an academic exercise than a heartfelt exploration into the life of a man who was called by God. I watched this with my Catholic mother-in-law and she said it was like a film the nuns at her old Catholic school took her class to see, which even the nuns became bored with. Pedestrian, plodding, uninspired, paint-by-numbers, and going through the motions. To try to make up for this, the soundtrack is bombastic and vacuous. If you want to watch a film about this interesting and influential man, I suggest you watch "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" instead. That film is a little dated, but vastly superior to "Francis of Assisi." It conveys genuine emotion, and you get the feeling you're watching the life of a flesh-and-blood person. The four stars are for the authentic setting of Assisi and the surrounding territory.
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Pretty atrocious
T Y10 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Francis of Assisi is the usual, late fifties production. It's presented in 'scope, which is very nice. And it's shot on location in Italy, which is also nice. But we continually jump between location exteriors to tight quasi-exteriors and interiors with the unnaturally even, stage-bound lighting of the time. And the tone is hopelessly square, to meet the mindless, conformist hordes of the '50s without asking anything of them. 1961 is a great place to start marking the collapse of the Hollywood studio and star systems. Here an unlikely second banana (Bradford Dillman) is forced on viewers as a very poor leading man. If you ever wonder why unknowns are not asked to helm epics, Dillman is your answer.

I can accept that a saint's behavior might seem artificial, but the whole cast here is so cardboard it's like watching robots. And a convention in which morally good people are distinguishable by their continual, vacant smiles indicates the shallowness of the film. Can life possibly be this flat for anyone? It's bursting with phony good cheer and "official story" blandness. With enunciation replacing acting. None of the leads even attempts an accent, y'know, because a saint in Italy is pretty much indistinguishable from Joe Sixpack in Indiana. ...storybook costumes, blonde fair-skinned 'Italian' maidens? Blecch. It's the embodiment of shabby, unworldly 1961 values, that would soon be left behind. Jack Warner must have had this movie in mind when he concocted his disastrous production of Camelot.
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zetes16 February 2009
Fairly uninteresting, but not particularly offensive. This is the most complete, most straightforward Francis of Assissi movie out of the four I've recently watched (including The Flowers of St. Francis (Rossellini), Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Zeffirelli) & Francesco (Cavani)). Somewhere in the middle of the film, I brought up the Wikipedia page about the saint, and it read pretty much like the script of this movie. The production is quite nice, but one would think the tale of a man who chose to live his life in poverty wouldn't concentrate so much on sets and costumes. Bradford Dillman is forgettable as Francis. Stuart Whitman plays his rival for Clare's love (of course, Clare's love for Francis is purely religious). The addition of this love triangle is perfectly representative of old Hollywood's frequent ridiculousness. The only person who really rises to the occasion is Dolores Hart as Clare. She's quite good. Two years after this film was made, she actually became a nun. She's a member of AMPAS and is the only nun who votes for the Oscars.
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Deep Spiritual Film
whpratt116 November 2008
Over the years I have heard many people talk about Francis of Assisi and how he loved all animals which our Creator made for our enjoyment and pleasure. I was surprised to see that the producer of this film also produced the Classic Film, "Casablanca" and if you would like to know more about this Saint, this is the film for you. It was not very long ago when I ran into a few neighbors who were bringing their pets to the church to be blessed on Francis of Assisi Day.

This film shows that Francis started out as any ordinary young man and even was in love with a pretty young gal, Clare, (Dolores Hart). Francis also used swords in a war battle, but he is always troubled by voices telling him what he is suppose to do with his life and when he leaves the military, he is called a coward, deserter and it upsets his entire family. This film is very well produced and the acting by Bradford Dilman and Dolores Hart was outstanding. Enjoy.
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Just Saw It for the 2nd Time, After 52 Years
thirteenprime27 April 2013
When I was in fourth grade in Catholic school, the nuns trooped us over to the local theater one sunny afternoon in the fall of 1961 to see this film. I remembered nothing about it, except for a vague notion that it had bored my sandals off. When I saw that Fox Movie Channel had it On Demand, I gave it another try, just to see. (I don't think I've ever had such an enormous gap between viewings of a film.)

And it's not bad at all. The first half-hour or so, unfortunately, is not good. It looks tacky and cheap, like a '60s TV-movie. There's a ludicrous battle scene early on, but this marks the point after which the film starts to get better. The Italian locations are beautiful. The film is overly reverential and was made for a general audience fifty years ago, so we don't really get to see how much of a party animal Francis was before his conversion. Bradford Dillman pulls off the near-impossible job of making this plaster saint interesting. The incredibly lovely Dolores Hart plays Clare, the noblewoman who becomes the first Franciscan nun (and Dolores actually did enter the convent the year after this film, and is still there today, and remains as lovely as ever). There is a subtlety in the relationship between Francis and Clare that often works, but occasionally you get the feeling that the two are behaving in such a restrained way that they might actually be 13th-century Vulcans. Of course, the director here, Michael Curtiz, is responsible for the most romantic movie of all time, Casablanca. Whatever is there between Francis and Clare is left subtle enough for us to appreciate while not peeving the more conservative members of the audience. Stuart Whitman, the nobleman who loves Clare and serves as the third member of this non-triangle, seems miscast here. Stu was never really the nobleman type.

Interestingly, the film takes a dim view of the Crusades, as it shows Christian forces raping and pillaging their way to the Holy Land. There's a scene with Francis meeting the leader of the enemy Saracens that shows their Sultan in a much more civilized light. The film also states that Francis felt his mission from God was to save the Church from its own materialism and heresy, pretty much along the lines of what Martin Luther would try to do two and a half centuries later. I'm not sure the nuns of 1961 really understood what was going on here.

My non-Catholic wife says that Francis has always been well thought of outside the Catholic religion, mainly because he loved animals and is generally felt to have been kind and modest. Not too many reputations have survived eight centuries of questioning and doubt intact. I really didn't expect to like this film, or to get all the way through it, but I was happily surprised to find that I rather enjoyed it.
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He Gave Up the Sword For Sandals
bebop63-118 June 2011
If one is only expecting to know the more important aspects of the life of this great saint who wanted to emulate the life of Jesus Christ and established the 3 vows of monastic life - obedience, poverty and chastity, then this the film for you. Otherwise, I found it, like various other reviewers, too obviously Hollywoodish especially in production. Everyone, even the poor hoi polloi, go around clad in gaudy apparel that would make Edith Head's award-winning costumes look like rags in comparison. Also missing are the crucial aspects of the life of this beloved saint, for instance, where he publicly renounces his inheritance and worldly goods in general, and exchanges his fine clothes for a simple cassock. The abrupt change of scene where he tells his father that he has no desire to follow him in the mercantile business, and then we see him next hauling a cart through the streets asking for stones (to rebuild the church) would seem nonsensical and confusing to those unfamiliar with his life story.

Also the timeline appears to be too short for comfort - Francis doesn't appear to have aged that much in between the time he founded the Franciscan order till his death, granting that he was only in his 40s when he passed away.

It would also have been helpful, if purely optional, had some of the more familiar stories surrounding the life of Francis were included, as these are well-known in the religious world, such as his close association with animals (the preaching to the birds scene would have been good) and the fact that he first established the Nativity scene so associated with Christmas celebrations.

All in all, this film could be considered as a "Not bad, but could have been made better..." sort of production.
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FRANCIS OF ASSISI (Michael Curtiz, 1961) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI8 April 2007
I had seen bits and pieces of this one some 22 years ago on Italian TV, while I was convalescing from an operation! Again, this is a highly popular filmic subject: there are at least 6 versions, half of which I've watched, including Roberto Rossellini's sublime THE FLOWERS OF ST. FRANCIS (1950).

Bradford Dillman gives a sensitive portrayal of the beloved saint, and the supporting cast is equally well chosen: Dolores Hart and Stuart Whitman complete a fictional romantic triangle; Finlay Currie and Cecil Kellaway play high church officials; Pedro Armendariz is a sympathetic Arab ruler; while Mervyn Johns appears as Francis' most loyal disciple.

The initial display of pageantry - with which director Curtiz is clearly more at home, being an expert in the field - is a welcome counterpoint to the mostly turgid solemnity of the film's second half. Generally workmanlike rather than inspired, it does have the occasional moving passage (I also happen to share the character's affection for animals); besides, the film is buoyed by a fine Mario Nascimbene score and the advantage of location shooting.

No worse or better than many contemporaneous religious epics, the film is still worthier of consideration than Leslie Halliwell's two-word dismissal ("tedious biopic") would suggest...
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The Hollywood varnished version of St. Francis
clanciai12 February 2016
This film becomes interesting towards the end when Francis goes to Egypt to meet the sultan, and while he is away his order is completely adjusted to worldly demands. None of the other St. Francis films have dared to bring up this problem. Francis is depicted as the incorrigible idealist who is betrayed by the necessity of pragmatism and political realists.

Stuart Whitman is perfect as always, he is always an interesting ornament to any film he acts in, while Bradford Dillman makes more of a type than a character. Old Finlay Currie is excellent as the pope, and so is Dolores Hart as Sister Clare, but none of these can match any of the Italian actors in the Italian films, since this film completely misses the Italian mentality and is all Hollywood. This was Michael Curtiz' last film but one, (his last became "Comancheros", better although more muddled,) and his professionalism gives standard polish to the whole film, but it hardly becomes more than a filmed legend, like glossy sugared saintly illustrations spiced with typical Hollywood sentimentality on top of it. Sorry, the true St. Francis is nowhere to be found in this film.

The only convincing character of some Franciscan credibility is brother Juniper played by Mervyn Johns. He has understood something of the Franciscan mentality, while all the rest is Hollywood, not at its worst but definitely at its most conventional.
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Inspirational story of fulfilling God's plan for a saintly individual's life.
mark.waltz21 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
On occasion, Hollywood turns out a picture of simplicity, faith and hope that the cynical critics either look on as preachy or pretentious. Some lives of the saints seem almost too impossible to achieve, let alone believe. Certain lives become legendary, because of how the person seemed to be blessed with the ability to rise above earthly temptations and lead them in becoming some of the most beloved historical figures of all time.

Such was the life of Francis of Assisi, the 13th Century monk who founded the Franciscan order. He wasn't always so saintly; In fact, this film shows his sudden transformation from a fun loving young man heading off to war, and returning as a deserter transformed by divine inspiration. This, of course, creates conflict both with the church and his social circle, but Francis utilizes his guidance from the Lord into fulfilling his destiny.

A sweet and simple tale, this is elaborately filmed and well acted, with Bradford Dillman in the title role, Dolores Hart as a young girl who follows in his footsteps and becomes a nun (which Hart would do later in real life), and Stuart Whitman as Dillman's old friend who was in love with Hart and blames Francis for leading Hart to her vow of poverty and chastity.

It should be noted that 20th Century Fox had been filming inspirational stories for decade, most notably "The Song of Bernadette" and "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain", as well as Biblical epics such as "The Robe" and "David and Bathsheba". This one is presented with such innocent and simple joy that it seems almost effortless, and to cynics, probably too sanctimonious. The tale of Francis of Assisi was filmed again only a decade later as "Brother Son, Sister Moon", where certain critics described Francis being presented as a flower child from a past era.
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The Joyful Beggar
wes-connors18 May 2013
In early 13th century Italy, bird-watching Bradford Dillman (as Francis Bernardone) decides to enlist. He is recognized as a disciple of Jesus Christ by a beggar, but Mr. Dillman isn't fully aware of his godliness, yet. We know it from the opening. The son of a merchant, Dillman befriends fellow soldier Stuart Whitman (as Paolo). They become so close Dillman gives his extra women to Mr. Whitman. Outside of the barrooms, both become rivals for more virginal blonde Dolores Hart (as Clare)...

The men go off to war, but Dillman deserts when the voice of God tells him, "Put away the sword." Dillman is shunned by his community and imprisoned while he waits for God to give him additional directions… Poor Dillman. Not that is performance is award-worthy, but, at least he's reverential and ready for action. Dillman also ages believably, in both appearance and manner. However, it's not enough to pull producer Plato Skouras' epic last film together...

Nearing retirement, director Michael Curtiz is clearly slowing down. Whitman seems to be in the wrong century. Before she loses her long blonde hair, Ms. Hart appears to be in the wrong country. Nobody else is on screen long enough to contribute much. The famous subject is given a silly story treatment. Assisi blesses animals, for example, by greeting them. A nursing pig is greeted, "Good morning, sister pig." But right before that, Dillman says, "Good morning, brother cow." And, that's no bull.

**** Francis of Assisi (7/12/61) Michael Curtiz ~ Bradford Dillman, Dolores Hart, Stuart Whitman, Cecil Kellaway
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A very reverent rendition of the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
Deusvolt9 December 2004
Bradford Dillman is very sympathetic as St. Francis of Assisi and this is a pleasant surprise after seeing him as a vicious cold blooded killer in Compulsion. We are also familiar with him as a trodden down fall guy in Circle of Deception.

Stuart Whitman fresh from The Story of Ruth where he won his lady love as Boaz loses out in this one when Claire (later to be canonized Saint) decides to follow the example of Francis and become a nun.

This film version of the life of St. Francis has long been a staple Beta videocasette and later VHS at most Catholic bookstores. There should be a videodisc by now.
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Not a hit, but still well done
apelo23 February 2001
I saw this movie when it first came out. I have since seen "Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Francesco. Certainly the latter two are more artistic. But I think that they were a bit obscure with some details and sequences. If you knew the story you could follow it. If you had no idea who Francis was you would wonder what brought about his transformation from "playboy" to mendicant friar. I have been looking for the video of "Francis of Assisi" with Bradford Dillman. Could anyone help me find it. I've tried most video stores, the internet but can't find it. Thank you.
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More Francis than Francesco
Marcin Kukuczka5 October 2008
"A gift from your heart

Love for those who have no love,

Peace for those who have no peace,

PAX ET BONUM" (the words of a beggar that lead Francis' heart to conversion)

Encountering many biopics of saint Francis of Assisi, nobody should skip the one by the famous director of CASABLANCA Michael Curtiz titled FRANCIS OF ASSISI. What surprised me in this film was the way the movie begins: credits composed within the images of Giotto frescoes, a work of art in the Assisi Basilica which have depicted the life of the saint for many generations. And one can begin to expect something of a great job. But, as I went on watching the movie, I noticed the fact there is something missing in it. Since FRANCIS OF ASSISI is purely a biopic, it seems to be the question "Is it possible to show the rich life of the Poverello in 105 minutes?;" but, moreover, one can deduce that all goes so fast as if the producers packed biographical facts one after another... Yet... would be very unjust to treat this film from today's perspective. We have to realize that the film was made by Americans at a certain point in movie history when colossal epics were being made and occurred blockbusters at the box office. Producers concentrated much more on high camp production than on the message a film would convey. However, if we get closer to the gist of whose life the biopic is about, we realize that Saint Francis, the poorest of the poor, deserves something different than that.

When watching FRANCIS OF ASSISI by Michael Curtiz, we do not find Francis "politically incorrect" with the social and ecclesiastical system of the time, we do not find him reject his possessions, we do not find him totally filled with the spirit of the Gospel nor so much a radical follower of Jesus Crucified. It does not mean that there is no spirit in the movie; it does mean, however, that there is hardly any "Franciscan spirit" That is, with some exceptions, combined with biographical aspects highlighted. Bernardo Quintavalle is an old man who offers financial help in rebuilding the church of Porziuncola; Francis' farewell to his parents is rather filled with "compromise" than the radical "no" to wealth and the "loveless toys we fill our days with" as it was nicely put in the screenplay of Zeffirelli's production (1972). Clare is rather a calm lady of aristocracy than a youthful girl in love with the example of the friars. As a matter of fact, Clare was much younger than Francis and could not visit aristocratic banquets merely as a child. Other errors could be enumerated but that is, I think, not the gist here.

To be more objective with the movie, I would like to concentrate on these "exceptions" contain foremost single moments. First, it is surely the scene I quoted at the beginning when we see Francis leaving the tavern and, symbolically, his life of earthly pleasures and wandering the streets of Assisi. There, he notices a procession with the Cross of our Lord and while gazing at Crucified Jesus, a beggar tells him the words I mentioned at the beginning... pretty powerful scene! I liked the idea of focusing on PAX ET BONUM message, the key one for Franciscans. Unfortunately, it is little developed in the content later on. Another strong moment of the movie is the execution of stigmata saint Francis received from the Lord in September 1224. Although some people may have doubts as for the depiction of suffering, generally the scene is worth a look as a more "traditional" interpretation than the one by Liliana Cavani in 1989 movie. Finally, it is important to mention the fact that FRANCIS OF ASSISI is the only film, so far, which shows Francis' memorable visit at the sultan's and does it in a pretty convincing manner (mind you: by "convincing" I do not mean stunning).

As far as performances are concerned, one can say there is much to be desired, particularly when concerning casting certain people. Dolores Hart is not bad as Clare, but as I have already said, rather a calm lady than an enthusiastic young female saint. Her personal biography later made this role, perhaps, more authentic as she became a nun. Bradford Dillman lacks the "godly madness" in the main role. All he portrays is just a seemingly unconvincing conversion from an easy going young man to a pious man of God. Finlay Currie, the mainstay of the genre, is not bad as Pope Innocent III but I do not think that he does equally good a job as in his other portrayals. Francis' parents (Eduard Franz and Athene Seyler) are far too old for the roles and, therefore, Pietro Bernardone appears to be too enigmatic.

All in all, what could I say in a nutshell about the film? More FRANCIS than FRANCESCO, more an Anglo-Saxon man of reasonable faith than the Umbrian Poverello of emotional belief. Perhaps, it is sad to say but FRANCIS OF ASSISI is the least convincing film about the saint so far among the several biopics. However, I would never call it a "failure" failure at least for the sake of message and final moment.

The scene of Clare's tribute and Francis' funeral leaves a visual effect in the viewer. PAX ET BONUM written in the red sky of setting sun just above the body of the poorest among the poor and birds chirping last farewell to their heartfelt preacher seem to link heavens with earth in the tedious spiritual pilgrimage of human hearts...
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