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The Cardinal (1963)

Approved | | Drama, History, War | 12 December 1963 (USA)
A young Catholic priest from Boston confronts bigotry, Naziism, and his own personal conflicts as he rises to the office of cardinal.



(screenplay), (novel)

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Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Cameron Prud'Homme ...
Loring Smith ...
James Hickman ...
Berenice Gahm ...
Jose Duvall ...
Ramon Gongaro (as Jose Duval)
Peter MacLean ...
Bobby (as Robert {Morse} and His Adora-Belles)


Stephen Fermoyle has grown up in Boston at the turn of the twentieth century knowing that his destiny lies with the Catholic priesthood. Finally finishing his studies in Rome, he returns to America full of certitude and ambition to one day join the College of Cardinals. But his road to that office is a long one, paved with crises. In Boston, he must decide whether to save the life of his sister or her unborn child, conceived out of wedlock. In Austria, he confronts the question of whether to remain with the priesthood or abandon his oath so that he can be with the woman he loves. In Georgia, he contends with Rome's indifference in the face of racial bigotry. And in Austria, he finds himself personally involved in the church's dealings with the Third Reich. Written by Shannon Patrick Sullivan <shannon@mun.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A motion picture that spans two decades of conflict and drama as it tells the story of a young American and his rise to prince of the church.


Drama | History | War


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| |

Release Date:

12 December 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El cardenal  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Vatican bankrolled some of the film, and the Vatican liaison was a young Joseph Ratzinger, who in 2005 became the 265th Catholic Pope as Benedict XVI. See more »


As Father Stephen Fermoyle (Tom Tryon) crosses the street to enter a Boston pawn shop (approximately 00:52), the shadows of an arc light and grip stand are seen on the pavement during a sweeping pan. See more »


Cardinal Glennon: We've never had a priest working with the Mafia before. But I suppose you made some interesting contacts in Rome.
Stephen Fermoyle: I had no choice, Your Eminence. I had to work my way through the seminary by selling opium in St. Peter's Square.
Cardinal Glennon: You're not afraid of me.
Stephen Fermoyle: No.
Cardinal Glennon: Why not? Most people are.
Stephen Fermoyle: I think it's because you remind me of my father. He was known as "Den the Down Shouter," but I soon learned his roar was the only fierce thing about him.
Cardinal Glennon: He's a lucky man to have a son who's not afraid of him.
See more »


Featured in Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker (1991) See more »


Jubilate Alleluia
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as Mozart): Wilma Lipp and The Wiener Jeunesse Chor
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User Reviews

Ooooooooooh !!! That soundtrack.
9 November 2004 | by (Ile-de-France / Paris Region, France) – See all my reviews

I don't care if anyone believes this but I was actually "attracted" to this film via its incredible, grandiose and very emotional soundtrack which I heard on a Frank Chacksfield Cd ! I thought, with an incredible score like that, the film just cannot be bad ! Might sound stupid, but there it is ! So I found this on a DVD from the USA - very nicely presented in colorful red packaging together with a bonus DVD about the life of O Preminger !

In fact, I did enjoy the film quite a lot ! Excellent picture quality and reasonable sound. Being a Roman Catholic, and always educated in catholic schools, jesuits and De La Salle Brothers, having often attended Holy Mass, I felt, on watching this film to be on familiar ground, so to speak. I thought the film illustrated well certain contradictions within the church, notably of course with regards to "racism" and the "Nazis" in the World War II where its rôle seemed to have been ambiguous to say the least.

I am one of those people who believed that the doctrines of religion have been fixed by God for eternity - you must either accept them as they are or reject them - no one said it would be easy, for this reason I believe that you can not and must not modify religious doctrine to suit the fashion at a given moment in time. If you cannot accept the church's position on one or other point, then you are perfectly free to refuse the Church, the time of the Inquisition is long past, but you certainly should not try to change the doctrine of the Church to suit your own particular views. Only God can do that ! For this reason I agree with the reaction of Fermoyle confronted with various "crucial" situations .... abortion, inter-faith marriage, racism, Nazism etc etc. Sometimes unpopular stances have to be taken and it is good to see Fermoyle have the courage of his convictions even if we do see at times that he is no more than a human being who has doubts about what he is doing and his own weaknesses.

The film is a series of very intense episodes, each one being good to watch but the linking together of them not very smooth, just as you're getting involved in one of these, begorrah ! You're whisked onto the next one without knowing really how the one before resolved itself.

I had never heard of the actor Tom Tryon ! He was not bad but I think the part could have been played better by certain other more well known actors. Tryon had a good, powerful and imposing physique but in some scenes he appears rather emotionless or should I say not emotional enough.

The film is pretty long, there's an intermission which allows the spectator to take a breather,and I found the second part a bit more interesting and intense than the first. That said, the film doubtlessly needs several viewings to be fully appreciated. There are other intense moments, where Fermoyle has to choose between permitting the life of his sister or that of her child-to-be but not both of them, an extremely painful decision for anyone to have to make, also his priest friend who is dying of multiple sclerosis. I was reading the other comments about this film and one of them was limited to the episode of ROmy Schneider's husband who had been sitting at table one minute, hears the Gestapo comes, and in one-and-a-half shakes of a duck's tail, has precipitated himself out of the window to his death on the street below ! It's true that you don't see it coming and remain flabbergasted because it all takes place so quickly. Funny, though that that particular episode should have marked the commentator to such a point that it was the only detail of the film that he/she wrote about !

Another extremely emotional scene is when Fermoyle journeys to Georgia USA at the request of a black priest whose church has been burned down by KKK extremists. He takes a very strong stand against this and pays for it by being whipped by the KKK. A few hours later, one of those who has participated in the whipping ( the harmonica player ) comes back and helps him up ! Although Fermoyle realizes that he was one of the evil-doers, he just gives him a pat on the back and walks off with him. It's a difficult and very uncomfortable scene to bear. I could not forgive a man who had done that to me !

The scene in Vienna where the church singers are bothered by a band of marauding Nazis is extremely intense violent and uncomfortable for the spectator ... the way those Nazis just smash their way into the church building ...... Fermoyle manages to escape via a secret passage to the church crypt .

suddenly it just fades away and we jump forward in time. It was a little frustrating as that was the end of the film. I was surprised to see Romy Schneider in this film, I have seen her often in French and German films but did not know she had starred in American ones. She was very beautiful but her rôle was pretty limited. Perhaps a little more passion between her and Fermoyle would have added some spice to the story ......... never mind !

To conclude then, a fairly long film with intense moments. I'm absolutely not sure whether today many people would like it as unfortunately religion seems to be declining in Western society. But to those people who are religious or have an association with religion or concerned about its development, it is sure to have a certain interest and relevance.

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