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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 ...
Cornelius J. Deegan
James Hickman ...
Father Lyons
Berenice Gahm ...
Mrs. Rampell
Jose Duvall ...
Ramon Gongaro (as Jose Duval)
Peter MacLean ...
Father Callahan
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?


This was the first 70mm "blow-up" to be released in the US. See more »


When the blood is flowing from the statue's heart and Father Fermoyle addresses the worshiping crowd, the length of the flow on the statue is inconsistent between cuts going from nearly all the way down the statue to being shown at midway down the statue and returning to be all the way down the statue. See more »


Monsignor Monaghan: For Heavens sake, get them out of the church...!
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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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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Episodic View of Catholicism in the Early 20th Century
23 December 2004 | by See all my reviews

Based on an early 1950's bestseller, producer/director Otto Preminger's lush religious spectacle pits a Catholic priest from Boston against many of the controversies that dogged the Church during the first half of the 20th century. As the young priest rises in rank to Monsignor, Bishop, and eventually Cardinal, he must tackle abortion, inter-faith marriage, racial discrimination, Nazism, and self-doubts about his own religious calling before the nearly three-hour film reaches the closing credits. Despite its episodic nature, "The Cardinal" is an entertaining film, generally well acted, and filmed by master cinematographer Leon Shamroy against some of the most beautiful landscapes and interiors that Rome and Vienna can offer. The Jerome Moross score enhances the beauty of the visuals and provides an appropriate mood that is haunting and liturgical in tone. While Tom Tryon as the Cardinal, Stephen Fermoyle, does his best, a stronger actor with greater screen presence might have anchored the film and given it greater stability. Tryon at times appears colorless and unconvincing as a man who could rise so quickly and to such heights in the Italian-dominated Church bureaucracy. The film's acting honors instead go expectedly to such veterans as John Huston, Raf Vallone, and Burgess Meredith. Also, the film has dated somewhat as the conflicts depicted between events and Church dogma have been for the most part left in the past, abortion excepted. Perhaps a sequel is in order with Cardinal, or maybe Pope by now, Stephen Fermoyle faced with pedophile priests, gay marriage, and a Church that has lost many of its followers over the decades. But, despite the diminished relevance, "The Cardinal" remains a comforting old fashioned view of the Roman Catholic Church during a period when the mass was said in Latin, the celibacy of a priest was unquestioned, fish was eaten on Fridays, the sacraments were taken seriously, and a poor son of Irish immigrants could rise from Boston curate to Cardinal without showing any more signs of aging than a light dusting of powder on his full head of thick hair.

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