The Cardinal


(out of 5)

Otto Preminger exposed the complicated morality of American politics in 1962’s Advise And Consent, then bit off an even bigger piece to chew the following year with this sobering look at the world of organized religion.  is excellent as a Catholic priest from New York who rises to the ranks of Cardinal through many hard trials. He lives in Massachusetts at a severely poor parish with an ailing elder priest (), then helps fight for civil rights in Georgia with , then later speaks out against Nazism to the deaf ears of a bishop who believes that the party is a good thing for Austria and learns the truth the hard way. What makes Tryon’s life toward success such a challenge, however, is what keeps this episodic drama from getting too far out of control: Tryon is fighting at every step to find a balance between his duty and his humanity, paying the price for applying the cold hard laws of the Catholic church without tempering his decisions against his emotional needs. Rather than being a scandalous expose of the church and its corruptions, Preminger wisely makes it a story about human conflict, yet still focuses much criticism on the excesses of the ecclesiastical institution enough to satisfy members looking for that.  appears as the film’s biggest threat, a love interest who adds the strongest tinges of soap opera to the plot but never fully pushes it into melodrama, while the rest of the entire cast is terrific: , ,  (in her last film role before her very untimely death), and a scene stealing John Huston as Tryon’s hot-blooded, big-mouthed mentor (Huston received his only Academy Award nomination for acting for some very memorable work here). The costumes and sets are gorgeous, and it’s another dramatic triumph, if a sometimes uneven one, for Preminger.

Otto Preminger Films

USA, 1963

Directed by

Screenplay by , based on the novel by 

Cinematography by 

Produced by Otto Preminger

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Academy Awards 1963

Golden Globe Awards 1963


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