The Cardinal

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For other uses, see The Cardinal (disambiguation).
The Cardinal
The cardinal.jpg
Promotional poster by Saul Bass
Directed by Otto Preminger
Produced by Martin C. Schute
Screenplay by Robert Dozier
Ring Lardner, Jr. (uncredited)
Based on The Cardinal
Starring Tom Tryon
Romy Schneider
Carol Lynley
Music by Jerome Moross
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Edited by Louis R. Loeffler
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • December 12, 1963 (1963-12-12)
Running time
175 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $11,170,588[1]

The Cardinal is a 1963 American drama film which was produced independently and directed by Otto Preminger, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. The screenplay was written by Robert Dozier, based on the novel of the same name (1950) by Henry Morton Robinson.

Its cast featured Tom Tryon, Romy Schneider and John Huston, and it was nominated for six Academy Awards.

The film was shot on location in Boston, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and in Rome and Vienna. The music score was written by Jerome Moross. The Cardinal featured the final appearance by veteran film star Dorothy Gish as well as the last big-screen performance of Maggie McNamara.

Robinson's novel was based on the life of Cardinal Francis Spellman, who was then Archbishop of New York. The Vatican's liaison officer for the film was Joseph Ratzinger,[2] later to become Pope Benedict XVI. The story touches on various social issues such as interfaith marriage, sex outside of marriage, abortion, racial bigotry, the rise of fascism and war.


A newly ordained Irish Catholic priest, Stephen Fermoyle (Tom Tryon) returns home to Boston in 1917. He discovers that his parents are upset about daughter Mona (Carol Lynley) having become engaged to marry a Jewish boy, Benny Rampell (John Saxon). Mona seeks Stephen's counsel as a priest.

Concerned about the young priest's ambition, the archbishop assigns Stephen to an out-of-the-way parish, where it is hoped he will learn humility. There he meets the wise Cardinal Glennon (John Huston), observing the unpretentious way he lives his life and treats his parishioners, and how he administers last rites to a dying priest (Burgess Meredith).

A pregnant Mona learns that her life is in serious danger because of the position of the fetus. One must be sacrificed and the excruciating decision is left up to Stephen, who abides by the teachings of his faith and saves the child.

He is transferred to Europe and made a bishop, but is unsure how committed he is to a life in the clergy and travels to Vienna, Austria, taking a two-year sabbatical. There he meets and enters into a romantic relationship with a young woman, Annemarie (Romy Schneider).

Stephen's vocation calls him back to Rome and the church. The Vatican returns him to the United States on a mission, to assist a black priest, Father Willis (Ossie Davis) in the American South who is opposed by the Ku Klux Klan. After successfully handling that assignment, Stephen is sent back to Austria to persuade a cardinal there not to cooperate with the Nazis, with a threat of a world war looming over all. He and the cardinal ultimately must flee for their lives.

On the eve of World War II, a ceremony is held in which Stephen formally becomes a cardinal, pledging to dedicate the rest of his life to his work.



Box office performance[edit]

The Cardinal was the 18th highest grossing film of the year. It grossed $11,170,588 in the United States,[1] earning $5.46 million in domestic rentals.[3]


The film won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama, marking the last time (as of 2014) a film won that category without later being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.[N 1] Preminger was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director; John Huston was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. Huston's role as Cardinal Glennon was his official debut as an actor although he had previously played bit roles in several films including his own The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Other Academy Awards nominations were for Best Cinematography (Leon Shamroy), Best Art Direction (Lyle R. Wheeler and set decorator Gene Callahan), Best Costume Design (Donald Brooks), and Best Film Editing (Louis R. Loeffler).[4]

  1. ^ The only other films to have done this are East of Eden (1955) and Spartacus (1960).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for The Cardinal. The Numbers. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  2. ^ The Cardinal review by Frank Miller, Turner Classic Movies
  3. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is theatrical rentals accruing to distributors, not total gross.
  4. ^ The Cardinal at AllMovie

External links[edit]