Cast & Crew
Vittorio De Sica
Hoping to establish a Russian sphere of influence in Rome, Soviet Premier Piotr Lylich Kamenev arranges for the release of political prisoner Kiril Lakota, an archbishop of the Russian Catholic Church who has been held in a Siberian prison camp for 20 years. Before he leaves for Rome, Lakota is briefed by Kamenev on the world situation, particularly the extreme famine in Red China which has brought the world to the brink of atomic war. After the briefing, Lakota is escorted to Rome by Father Telemond, an ailing Jesuit priest whose nonconformist philosophical writings on evolution are under examination by a Pontifical Commission. Upon arriving at the Rome airport, Lakota is interviewed by George Faber, an American television newscaster whose extramarital activities are threatening to destroy his marriage. Lakota is made a cardinal by the pope, who, like Kamenev, sees him as a bridge between East and West. A short time later, while Father Telemond is answering the charges of the Pontifical Commission headed by the staunchly conservative Cardinal Leone, the pope collapses and dies. Coincidental with the pope's death, the Chinese begin to mobilize along the Indian and Mongolian borders. The cardinals go into conclave to elect a new pope, and a deadlock in the consistory of the sacred college results in Lakota's being chosen pope against his will. The first non-Italian pope in 400 years, Lakota chooses the name of Pope Kiril I, in memory of the saint who carried the Gospel to Russia. Almost immediately, Premier Kamenev asks the new pope to mediate the Chinese crisis. That night, feeling a need to be with the people, Kiril dresses in plain priestly clothes, wanders through the streets of Rome, and accidentally encounters Faber's wife, Ruth, a physician. After he has helped her to understand that love is missing from her marriage, Kiril is brought back to the Vatican by his emissaries. He then travels to Outer Mongolia for a meeting with Kamenev and the Red Chinese leader, Chairman Peng. Following his pledge that he will try to find a solution to the famine in China, Kiril returns to Rome and asks Father Telemond to share his problems. Before the young Jesuit can offer advice, however, he is stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage and dies in Kiril's arms. Alone with the magnitude of his papal office, Kiril makes peace with his old enemy, Cardinal Leone, and then makes his decision. On the day of his coronation, as he stands on the balcony of St. Peter's Cathedral, Pope Kiril I removes the papal crown from his head and pledges all of the vast wealth of the Catholic Church "for the relief of our hungry brothers." If necessary, the Church will "strip itself down to poverty."
Vittorio De Sica
George W. Davis
Best Art Direction
The Shoes of the Fisherman
It certainly was an ambitious project (costing $9 million) from its extensive studio and location shooting in Italy to its high-powered international cast to its grand themes, taken from the best-selling novel by Morris West. Set in what was then the not-too-distant future (the 1980s), the story follows the rise of a Russian Catholic priest, Kiril Lakota, a political prisoner released from 20 years of hard labor in Siberia by the Soviet premier in order to give the USSR a foothold in the Vatican. Kiril is quickly elevated to cardinal by the Pope, with an eye to improving East-West relations in a time of crisis: the Chinese army is massing at its borders, ready to invade India and Mongolia as China faces a devastating famine. When the Pope dies, Kiril (a reluctant candidate) is elected by acclamation as the new Pope. On the eve of his coronation, he makes a momentous decision destined to change the Catholic Church and the world forever.
Although of Mexican-Irish heritage, Anthony Quinn had played a wide range of ethnic characters in his long career, so he was not considered too far-fetched as a Russian (which didn't stop some reviewers from making a joke on his most famous role by referring to his part in this picture as "Zorba the Pope"). American actor David Janssen had just completed a four-year run in the highly successful TV series The Fugitive. That show's finale, the highest-rated episode in TV history until J.R. Ewing was shot on Dallas, surely was a factor for producers seeking to boost the box office. Janssen was cast as an American reporter and given a romantic triangle subplot that many considered totally unnecessary to the picture. As Kiril's friend, a radical priest, Oskar Werner had an impressive resume that included such international hits as the Francois Truffaut films Jules and Jim (1962) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and his Oscar®-nominated role in Ship of Fools (1965), as well as a reputation as the premier Shakespearian actor in the German language. The cast was rounded out with a number of top British actors, including Laurence Olivier as the Soviet Premier and John Gielgud as the earlier Pope, and Italian actor-director Vittorio De Sica as a powerful Cardinal.
Erwin Hillier received praise for his spectacular cinematography of Rome. Much of the film was shot in that city's Cinecitta studios. The scenes of Kiril's election included newsreel footage of crowds in St. Peter's Square from the 1963 election of the real pontiff at that time, Pope Paul VI. Because commercial film productions were not allowed in the Vatican, a replica of the Sistine Chapel was built in California and shipped to Italy for interior shots.
The months prior to production had not been easy ones for Olivier. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer complicated by pneumonia and later appendicitis. While undergoing radiation therapy for the cancer, he received news that his ex-wife, Vivien Leigh, died in her London home. Against doctors' orders, Olivier checked himself out of the hospital to help with preparations for her funeral. After several months of treatment, Olivier's cancer was declared cured.
Although still not in the best health during shooting, Olivier was his old self whenever he found the opportunity to expound on acting for the cast. At night, Quinn, Werner, Olivier and others would gather in Rome's Excelsior Hotel, where the British star would give 10-to-15-minute performances of his greatest roles, often in different styles to show how a character could be changed by putting another shading on him. A relative of producer George Englund recalled Olivier as a brilliant mimic who could do Hamlet and Lear as performed by De Sica or Quinn. One night, Olivier and Werner got into a good-natured duel reciting Hamlet. Werner had played the role to great acclaim, and although he spoke the lines in his native German, everyone agreed he more than held his own against Olivier. But they were all astonished when Olivier countered by performing Werner's speeches in perfect German.
The Shoes of the Fisherman was somewhat prescient in its depiction of the election of the first non-Italian Pope in four centuries. Ten years later, a Polish cleric made history when he became Pope John Paul II.
Director: Michael Anderson
Producer: George Englund
Screenplay: James Kennaway, John Patrick, based on the novel by Morris L. West
Cinematography: Erwin Hillier
Editing: Ernest Walter
Art Direction: Edward Carfagno, George W. Davis
Original Music: Alex North
Cast: Anthony Quinn (Kiril Lakota), Laurence Olivier (Piotr Ilyich Kamenev), Oskar Werner (Father Telemond), David Janssen (George Faber), Vittorio De Sica (Cardinal Rinaldi), John Gielgud (the Elder Pope), Leo McKern (Cardinal Leone), Barbara Jefford (Dr. Ruth Faber), Frank Finlay (Igor Bounin), Burt Kwouk (Peng), Clive Revill (Vucovich).
C-161m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Rob Nixon
The Shoes of the Fisherman
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002
The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.
Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.
His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.
By Michael T. Toole
KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002
Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.
by Lang Thompson
DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002
Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.
by Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
Film blown up to 70mm for roadshow presentations; location scenes filmed in Rome.
Voted Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (McKern) of the Year by the 1968 National Board of Review.
Released in United States Fall November 14, 1968
Released in United States Fall November 14, 1968