Thursday, October 30, 2008

You Otto See It: The Cardinal (1963)

Otto Preminger's 3 hour epic, The Cardinal (1963), tells the story of the Catholic church during the 1st half of the 20th century through the journey of one priest as he travels down the path to become a Cardinal. And what better way to tell such a humongous story than through the life of one man. That sort of tight focus makes it easier for this grand story to be taken ine in. And this film goes down smooth and easy. It deals with heavy topics such as premarital sex, abortion, racism, anti-semitism & fascism (Nazis) and the dealings between church & state. However, you don't feel the weight of them as you would expect. They are very serious subjects and are dealt with as so in the story, but the film's style, story and characters all have an approachable quality that make those 3 hours fly by.

I was very impressed by Tom Tryon as Father StephenFermoyle. He had a serenity and natural gravity that lent itself well to the role of a priest. Yet you also knew his character cared very much for what he did through the facial expressions that seemed truly genuine. I heard that Otto Preminger gave Tom Tryon a very difficult time during this film. This role was to be Tryon's breakout performance to make him a major star. Unfortunately, it didn't happen as this film went on to tank at the box office. It however did get 6 Oscar Nominations and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama in 1964. Tryon did some more acting roles but found that his writing career was more fruitful. And in the end, that career led to more successful films in the adaptations of his works.

I suggest you do two things. First is watch The Cardinal. You definitely Otto see it, especially if you have an interest in religion like I do or even if you enjoy a good story (and some Burgess Meredith). Second, go out and buy a copy of The Other, Tryon's novel which has just been reissued this month by Millipede Press (in paperback, hardcover and leatherbound editions).


  1. Hi Raquelle,

    I just put this film on the top of my netflix queue. Looking forward to seeing it. It's amazing to me how many of these films I did not know about. But through your blog and others like it I am finding out them. I remember growing up the Catholic newspaper would rate the films on whether they were suitable for viewing according to them. I wonder what their thoughts were about this one. I enjoy your blog. Thanks.

  2. As big a Preminger fan that I am, I haven't seen 'The Cardinal'! Your post has inspired me! BTW, the film's Jerome ('The Big Country') Moross score is highly regarded by film music junkies.

    Interesting story about Tom Tryon, who would later work for Preminger again, in 1965's 'In Harm's Way'. Preminger treated Tryon like a punching bag, verbally abusing him and questioning Tryon's sexuality. The only cast members Otto didn't torment were Kirk Douglas (who told him to perform a physical impossibility on himself) and John Wayne. No one (except John Ford) messed with The Duke.

    Great Otto quote from 'John Wayne: American' biography: "I am the one without hair who bosses the ones with hair."

  3. Hey John! Wow! To the top of your Netflix queue? That's awesome. Please let me know what you think of the film when you see it. I'm excited to hear what you think.

    Pacwarbuff - Yes I read about the strife between Tryon and Preminger. I'm sure my friend Kevin will talk extensively about Preminger's hostile relationship with his actors during his lecture.

  4. I'm not sure I've even heard of this one! Good job, Raquelle. :)

    "The only cast members Otto didn't torment were Kirk Douglas (who told him to perform a physical impossibility on himself) and John Wayne."

    Hmm. That's surprising. I think he and Dana Andrews were friendly. And Gene Tierney spoke kindly of him in her autobiography.

    I wonder if he was known for tormenting his actresses too...

  5. One thing I keep hearing about Preminger regarding his treatment of actors is that he usually went after the ones who were unsure of themselves and who didn't project confidence. The actors he left alone were the ones who stood up to him.

    I think the actress he disliked the most was Faye Dunaway in his 1967 epic "Hurry Sundown". The feeling was mutual. I wish I could find that movie!

    He also treated Jean Seberg kind of cruelly, too, on the sets of "Saint Joan" and "Bonjour Tristesse".

    Actors that Preminger enjoyed working with were Frank Sinatra, Patricia Neal, Dorothy Dandridge (gee, I wonder why) and, of course, Dana Andrews.


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