Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal is a long motion picture but for most of the way it is superlative drama, emotionally stirring, intellectually stimulating and scenically magnificent.
Like the Henry Morton Robinson novel that it lives up to more in spirit than plot-wise, it is a skillful, fascinating blend of fact and fiction. The story concerns the development of a Rome-educated American priest who has aspirations of clerical high office. However, he experiences shattering doubt of his ability to be a good priest and, indeed, if he ever had a true ‘call’, having from his earliest memory been destined, according to his parents, for the priesthood.
Without faulting scenarist Robert Dozier, The Cardinal is Preminger’s picture for it moves on such a vast canvas – Rome, Boston and environs, New York (dockside scene only), Georgia, Vienna and back to Rome – with all the richly pictorial ritual of the ordination of a priest, the consecration of a Bishop, later a Cardinal, and the vast public excitement in St Peter’s Square for the election of a Pope.
Preminger also selected his cast wisely. Tom Tryon, who has the title role, plays it very well indeed, although there are shadings to the character which do not surface as might be desired. Romy Schneider is captivating as the Viennese girl who cannot disguise her feelings toward Tryon. Carol Lynley is effective as his troubled sister and also in a subsequent role as the latter’s illegitimate daughter.
There are, however, two who steal the picture as far as acting goes. They are John Huston and Raf Vallone. Both play the roles of cardinals on distinctive, captivating levels.
1963: Nominations: Best Director, Supp. Actor (John Huston), Color Cinematography, Color Costume Design, Color Art Direction, Editing