The Cardinal (1963)

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



(screenplay), (novel), 1 more credit »
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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:
Bill Hayes ...
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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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 Special Edition DVD features the documentary Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker (1991). 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.
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They Haven't Got the Girls in the U.S.A.
Lyrics by Al Stillman (as Al Stillman)
Music by Jerome Moross (uncredited)
Performed by Robert Morse (uncredited)
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User Reviews

This film had a lot of impact among Catholics in 1963.
17 June 2003 | by (Laytonsville, Maryland) – See all my reviews

The Cardinal is a historically significant film because of what was happening in the Roman Catholic Church at the time it premiered -- the Second Vatican Council. Called by Pope John XXVIII to bring about reforms in the Church, many of the issues touched upon in the film -- the liturgy, the role of lay persons and women in the Church, rights of the mother vs. the child, mixed marriage, ecumenism -- were being hotly debated by the bishops in Rome. The film added to that debate among ordinary Catholics.

I was a student at a Catholic high school in 1963. To many of us who hoped to see significant and even radical changes toward a more modern Church, the Cardinal dramatized many of the problems that we believed needed correcting. The Second Vatican Council didn't go as far as some of us would like, and the Church hasn't seen much reform since, but when I see the Cardinal today, I'm reminded how much more confining Church doctrine was before the Council did its work.

By the way, in response to the comment that no one could have done all the things that the Cardinal was portrayed as doing in the film, my understanding is that the story is based on the life of Cardinal Spellman of New York. The details are changed, but in fact Cardinal Spellman was from Boston and did undertake many of the same roles in his career, including working as a Vatican diplomat from 1925-1932.

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