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HISTORY

Author Jack-Alain Léger is credited onscreen as “Jack Alain Leger,” and actress Geneviève Bujold as “Genevieve Bujold.”
       Contemporary sources referred to the film as Monsignore and Monsigneur; however, it was released in the U.S. as Monsignor.
       The 3 Nov 1975 Publishers Weekly announced that producer David Niven, Jr., paid a six-figure sum for film rights to Jack-Alain Léger’s 1976 novel, Monsignore. According to an 18 Aug 1981 LAT article, the novel was a best-seller in Europe, but was yet to be published in the U.S; a 3 Mar 1977 HR article claimed that Niven purchased the property based on a fifteen-page synopsis. Although the 6 Jan 1977 DV reported that Léger would adapt his work for the screenplay, LAT stated that producer Frank Yablans was unsatisfied with the English translation of the primary text and decided instead to build an original screenplay around the novel’s story. Upon approving the script, Léger reportedly agreed to delay U.S. publication of Monsignore until 1982, so that it could be edited to resemble the story portrayed onscreen. Yablans also had the script reviewed by the Vatican and the Italian government, although their consent was not necessary to initiate production.
       The 3 Mar 1977 HR stated that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation budgeted the film at $8 million, but did not expect to begin principal photography until spring or summer 1978. However, on 2 Jan 1979, DV announced that filming was expected to take place May 1979. A 13 Jun 1979 Var item reported that Yablans was ... More Less

Author Jack-Alain Léger is credited onscreen as “Jack Alain Leger,” and actress Geneviève Bujold as “Genevieve Bujold.”
       Contemporary sources referred to the film as Monsignore and Monsigneur; however, it was released in the U.S. as Monsignor.
       The 3 Nov 1975 Publishers Weekly announced that producer David Niven, Jr., paid a six-figure sum for film rights to Jack-Alain Léger’s 1976 novel, Monsignore. According to an 18 Aug 1981 LAT article, the novel was a best-seller in Europe, but was yet to be published in the U.S; a 3 Mar 1977 HR article claimed that Niven purchased the property based on a fifteen-page synopsis. Although the 6 Jan 1977 DV reported that Léger would adapt his work for the screenplay, LAT stated that producer Frank Yablans was unsatisfied with the English translation of the primary text and decided instead to build an original screenplay around the novel’s story. Upon approving the script, Léger reportedly agreed to delay U.S. publication of Monsignore until 1982, so that it could be edited to resemble the story portrayed onscreen. Yablans also had the script reviewed by the Vatican and the Italian government, although their consent was not necessary to initiate production.
       The 3 Mar 1977 HR stated that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation budgeted the film at $8 million, but did not expect to begin principal photography until spring or summer 1978. However, on 2 Jan 1979, DV announced that filming was expected to take place May 1979. A 13 Jun 1979 Var item reported that Yablans was currently in Rome, Italy, finalizing the script, and would soon begin casting. A 15 Oct 1979 DV brief suggested that the film’s original director, Martin Ritt, was in FL collaborating on a separate project with his friend, Abraham Polonsky. Shortly after, the 12 Nov 1979 Village Voice announced that Polonsky had recently completed a rewrite of the Monsignor script by Wendell Mayes, with whom Polonsky shares screenwriting credit. The item indicated that edits were made to appease Fox’s concerns that the story, featuring a priest with “quite an active sex life,” would offend the Roman Catholic Church. The 15 Oct 1979 DV indicated that filming would take place Mar 1980 in Rome, while the 4 Dec 1979 DV named the primary location as Caprarola, Italy, forty miles outside of Rome. At this time, Vittorio Gassman was also added to the cast as one of the Cardinals, but he does not appear onscreen.
       However, the 25 Jan 1980 DV reported that Fox stalled production on the project to work on its $12-13 million budget while Ritt and Yablans fought against executives’ reluctance to release a film featuring both the Vatican and the Mafia. The 18 Aug 1981 LAT also suggested that studio management changes postponed production, and the 20 Feb 1980 Var claimed that filming had been pushed to fall 1980.
       The 18 Aug 1981 LAT stated that, in the meantime, Yablans produced and co-wrote North Dallas Forty (1979, see entry) and Mommie Dearest (1981, see entry). The 26 Aug 1981 Var reported that Mommie Dearest director and co-writer Frank Perry was hired as Monsignor’s new director and accompanied Yablans to Italy for pre-production. Never intending on shooting in the Vatican, the filmmakers selected the comparable interiors of Caprarola’s government-owned Villa Farnese, where principal photography was expected to take place for ten weeks beginning 25 Sep 1981. A separate Var item published the same day reported that filmmakers were expected to arrive in Rome in late Sep 1981, filming from late Oct 1981 through Jan 1982. The 16 Sep 1981 Var scheduled principal photography for 19 Oct 1981, before the 30 Oct 1981 HR reported the actual start date of 26 Oct 1981.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files indicated that Christopher Reeve prepared for the role by studying with a Paulist priest at a retreat in NJ and the Archdiocese of NY in New York City.
       The 27 Jan 1982 Var production charts noted that filming had concluded 22 Jan 1982 at Centro Dear Studios in Rome; according to the 26 Jan 1982 DV, production had completed ahead of schedule and $400,000 under its projected budget.
       Although Monsignor was originally expected to open wide in Dec 1982, a 25 Jun 1982 DV article announced that Fox deemed the film’s subject matter “inappropriate” for the Christmas season, and moved the release date to 2 Feb 1983. However, the 26 Aug 1982 HR claimed that the film was to be moved back from 4 Feb 1983 to 22 Oct 1982 due to a lack of major studio releases in the fall 1982 season.
       A 26 Oct 1982 HR article named the picture in a $25 million financing deal between Fox and SLM Entertainment Ltd., III, which would be evenly applied to the combined production and distribution costs of Monsignor, Kiss Me Goodbye (1982, see entry), and The Verdict (1982, see entry). The total production budget was estimated to have been about $37 million, with an additional $37 million for marketing and exhibition.
       According to the 27 Feb 1985 Var, Fox’s 1982 auditing reports revealed that the studio had redistributed nearly $300,000 of box office earnings from The Verdict to the “disappointing” totals for Monsignor in order to acquire a more favorable Home Box Office (HBO) licensing fee for Monsignor. The article claimed that this was likely achieved with the assistance of a theater exhibition chain that agreed to overpay Monsignor receipts while comparably reducing those for The Verdict. The $300,000, however, had since been restored to The Verict’s collective gross. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
2 Jan 1979.
---
Daily Variety
15 Oct 1979.
---
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1979.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1980.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1982.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 1982
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1982
p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
18 Aug 1981
Section VI, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
22 Oct 1982
p. 1.
New York Times
22 Oct 1982
p. 8.
Publishers Weekly
3 Nov 1975.
---
Variety
13 Jun 1979.
---
Variety
20 Feb 1980.
---
Variety
26 Aug 1981.
---
Variety
16 Sep 1981.
---
Variety
27 Jan 1982.
---
Variety
27 Oct 1982
p. 14.
Variety
27 Feb 1985
p. 3, 35.
Village Voice
12 Nov 1979.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Frank Yablans Presentation
A Frank Perry Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr, Italy
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Still photog
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst to prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Costumer
Costumer
Ward supplied by
Jewelry by
MUSIC
Mus
Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra
Choral master
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd mixer
Sd boom man
Sd maintenance
Dial rec ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Scoring mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst unit prod mgr
Casting
Casting
Italian casting
New York casting
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Prod controller
Prod auditor
Loc mgr
Asst to Mr. Yablans
Secy to Mr. Yablans
Prod secy
Prod secy
Rome service co.
New York service co.
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Monsignore by Jack Alain Leger (Paris, 1976).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Monsignore
Monsigneur
Release Date:
22 October 1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 October 1982
Production Date:
26 October 1981--22 January 1982 in Caprarola, Italy
Rome, Italy
and New York City
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
25 October 1982
Copyright Number:
PA152640
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Moviecam
Lenses
Lenses by Technovision
Duration(in mins):
121
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25927
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In an American Catholic church, John Flaherty is ordained a priest and is included among a group of young men who will soon depart to serve as Army chaplains in Europe during WWII. In his first act as a priest, Flaherty officiates a Catholic marriage ceremony for his childhood friend, Lodo Varese, and dances with the maid of honor. Sometime later, in the war-torn Italian countryside, Flaherty crawls toward dying soldier, Musso, and blesses his soul for passage into heaven. After the man dies, Flaherty shakily grabs a gun and shoots at an incoming line of enemy soldiers. Later, he is informed that he has been summoned to Vatican City in Rome, Italy. There, he meets Bishop Walkman, the liaison officer between the Vatican and the U.S. Army, who cites Flaherty’s college education in accounting and hires him to work as the Vatican’s financial advisor. Walkman advises the young priest to use his charming personality to his advantage, but to keep his head down and follow orders. The next day, Flaherty meets with Cardinal Secretary Santoni, Santoni, who holds out his hand for Flaherty to kiss his ring. Flaherty shakes his hand instead, explaining that he is unworthy because he sinned while committing murder on the battlefield. Impressed with the young man, Santoni extends his hand again, and this time, Flaherty kisses the jeweled finger. Three months later, Flaherty has his own office and Bishop Walkman instructs him to stay at Vatican after the war ends. When a cleric announces that Varese has arrived at the Vatican, Flaherty embraces his friend, relieved to find him returned from the battlefield alive. Varese drives him to an army storeroom containing piles ... +


In an American Catholic church, John Flaherty is ordained a priest and is included among a group of young men who will soon depart to serve as Army chaplains in Europe during WWII. In his first act as a priest, Flaherty officiates a Catholic marriage ceremony for his childhood friend, Lodo Varese, and dances with the maid of honor. Sometime later, in the war-torn Italian countryside, Flaherty crawls toward dying soldier, Musso, and blesses his soul for passage into heaven. After the man dies, Flaherty shakily grabs a gun and shoots at an incoming line of enemy soldiers. Later, he is informed that he has been summoned to Vatican City in Rome, Italy. There, he meets Bishop Walkman, the liaison officer between the Vatican and the U.S. Army, who cites Flaherty’s college education in accounting and hires him to work as the Vatican’s financial advisor. Walkman advises the young priest to use his charming personality to his advantage, but to keep his head down and follow orders. The next day, Flaherty meets with Cardinal Secretary Santoni, Santoni, who holds out his hand for Flaherty to kiss his ring. Flaherty shakes his hand instead, explaining that he is unworthy because he sinned while committing murder on the battlefield. Impressed with the young man, Santoni extends his hand again, and this time, Flaherty kisses the jeweled finger. Three months later, Flaherty has his own office and Bishop Walkman instructs him to stay at Vatican after the war ends. When a cleric announces that Varese has arrived at the Vatican, Flaherty embraces his friend, relieved to find him returned from the battlefield alive. Varese drives him to an army storeroom containing piles of supplies, many from the Vatican commissary, and explains that he sells them in black market dealings with the Mafia. Later, Flaherty convinces Santoni to ease the Vatican’s debt by cheaply purchasing the Vatican’s supplies from American commissaries and then selling them for profit. He claims that the donations will help the church while diverting money from Italy’s criminals. Although Santoni worries that the arrangement could hurt the Church’s image, Flaherty offers to take full responsibility, and Santoni grants him complete control of the commissary. After Santoni adorns Flaherty with a pectoral cross, Flaherty bounds out of the office and runs into Cardinal Vinci, who congratulates the priest on his achievements but reminds him of the “power of choice.” In the supply room, Varese warns his friend that the Mafioso, Don Appolini, is a dangerous man. Together, they travel to Appolini’s home in Sicily, where Flaherty proposes to sell him the Vatican’s unused American cigarettes. The Mafia boss, however, refuses to get involved in a scheme that steals from the church. After mass that afternoon, Appolini reconsiders the deal and offers to split the profits, with Varese heading the operation. Removing the crucifix pins from his army uniform, Flaherty urges Appolini to call him “Finnigan” for all business dealings, and receives a briefcase containing $50,000. On the rainy drive back from Appolini’s house, the two friends pick up a French nun and her students. Flaherty takes a liking to a postulant named Clara, and tells her his name is “Lieutenant Finnigan.” Once in Rome, he returns to the Vatican and presents Santoni with the cash. The following week, Flaherty, dressed in his military outfit, finds Clara wandering in the ruins of the Roman Forum, and arranges to meet with her in an ecclesiastical bookstore later that day. Meanwhile, a priest claims to have seen Flaherty consorting with Varese in the black market, and reports him to Vinci and Santoni. Santoni agrees to “promote” the cleric, putting him in a post that will keep him from investigating further. That evening, Flaherty brings Clara to the bedroom attached to Varese’s supply room. Swallowing a glass of champagne, Flaherty kisses her; before they make love, she admits that she has been a postulant for two years because the sisters doubt her commitment. Later, Flaherty confesses his carnal sins to a cardinal, revealing his priesthood and his romantic feelings for Clara. Over dinner with Appolini, Flaherty proposes to use Appolini’s Swiss bank account to open legitimate businesses that will covertly support the Vatican’s finances after the war. One afternoon, on a rooftop terrace, Clara and Flaherty confess their love for one another, but Clara suspects that Flaherty is keeping his true identity hidden. While participating in a ceremony for the Pope, Clara catches sight of Flaherty in his clerical robes and they lock eyes across the chapel. After Flaherty is appointed as monsignor, she scorns him for his deception and proclaims she will never forgive him. Varese and the heartbroken Flaherty drunkenly cavort with prostitutes when Appolini barges in and instructs Varese to clean up his act. Feeling as if he has lost his way, Flaherty gives his necklace to Father Francisco, but Francisco insists that God will never lose faith in him. Many years later, Flaherty eventually becomes a cardinal. Varese conducts a multi-million dollar business deal that puts him under investigation by various international banks; the cardinals of the Church convene with the Pope to inform him that Varese has absconded $40 million in cash and lost $600 million of the Church’s money. Revealing that they have been secretly monitoring Flaherty’s corrupt business dealings for the past six months, the clergy decide to remove him from the papal committee. Flaherty meets with the Pope privately, requesting time to devise a plan that will save the Vatican’s finances and reputation before leaving the Vatican. He meets with the terminally ill Appolini, who agrees to front the Church with enough money to cover their debts, but claims that Varese fled to New York City. Appolini swears on the cross that he will allow Varese to live, and Flaherty flies to the U.S. to find his friend. In an apartment, Varese admits that he stole the money because he was tired of helping Appolini become rich, while receiving no share of the profits himself. To keep him from being arrested by the government and causing further scandal for the Vatican, Flaherty forces Varese to promise to seek refuge in a New York City monastery; however, after Flaherty leaves, Varese books a seat on a flight. On his way out of the apartment, Appolini arrives with three mobsters and kills him. After many months working in a quiet Italian monastery, Flaherty returns to the Vatican and is offered a position by Father Francisco, who draws him into an embrace. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.