Francis of Assisi (1961)

106 mins | Biography | 12 July 1961

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HISTORY

A news item in the 16 Jun 1959 DV announced that Artys Pictures, an independent production company established by brothers Plato A. Skouras, Charles P. Skouras, and Spyros P. Skouras, had optioned screen rights to Louis De Wohl’s 1958 novel about Saint Francis of Assisi, titled The Joyful Beggar. The film project was briefly known by that name before it was changed to Francis of Assisi, as stated in the 27 Jul 1960 Var. Eugene Vale was hired to adapt the script. He later collaborated with Jack Thomas, as indicated in an 8 Jan 1961 NYT article, which stated that British writer James Forsyth delivered the final polish.
       Singer Peggy Lee sought the role of “Clare Scefi” before Dolores Hart was cast; additionally, Robert Vaughn was tested for the title role of “Francis Bernardone,” as noted in the 2 Jun 1960 and 26 Jul 1960 issues of LAT. Filming was scheduled to take place entirely in Italy, where location shooting was set for the town of Assisi and surrounding areas in the Umbria region, and in Rome, where director Michael Curtiz hoped to shoot in Vatican City. The 6 May 1960 DV indicated that Curtiz would “confer with Vatican officials” to gain access.
       A production chart in the 18 Nov 1960 DV reported that principal photography began on 28 Oct 1960. Italian locations included the papal apartment at the Basilica of San Francesco, in Assisi, which stood in for the Lateran Palace of Rome. A 30 Nov 1960 Var article noted that valuable props “such as several 13th and 14th ... More Less

A news item in the 16 Jun 1959 DV announced that Artys Pictures, an independent production company established by brothers Plato A. Skouras, Charles P. Skouras, and Spyros P. Skouras, had optioned screen rights to Louis De Wohl’s 1958 novel about Saint Francis of Assisi, titled The Joyful Beggar. The film project was briefly known by that name before it was changed to Francis of Assisi, as stated in the 27 Jul 1960 Var. Eugene Vale was hired to adapt the script. He later collaborated with Jack Thomas, as indicated in an 8 Jan 1961 NYT article, which stated that British writer James Forsyth delivered the final polish.
       Singer Peggy Lee sought the role of “Clare Scefi” before Dolores Hart was cast; additionally, Robert Vaughn was tested for the title role of “Francis Bernardone,” as noted in the 2 Jun 1960 and 26 Jul 1960 issues of LAT. Filming was scheduled to take place entirely in Italy, where location shooting was set for the town of Assisi and surrounding areas in the Umbria region, and in Rome, where director Michael Curtiz hoped to shoot in Vatican City. The 6 May 1960 DV indicated that Curtiz would “confer with Vatican officials” to gain access.
       A production chart in the 18 Nov 1960 DV reported that principal photography began on 28 Oct 1960. Italian locations included the papal apartment at the Basilica of San Francesco, in Assisi, which stood in for the Lateran Palace of Rome. A 30 Nov 1960 Var article noted that valuable props “such as several 13th and 14th century crosses and a number of very rare antiphonary of the 15th century, bound in pigskin and with beautifully illuminated letters,” were loaned to the production by the monks at Basilica of San Francesco. Production moved to Rome by early Jan 1961. There, rain “washed out a big battle sequence,” according to the 3 Jan 1961 DV. Producer Plato E. Skouras made tentative plans to re-shoot the battle in Utah, although the only re-shoots mentioned in later sources took place in mid-Mar 1961 at Twentieth Century-Fox’s studio lot in Los Angeles, CA, as stated in the 16 Mar 1961 DV. Some additional European filming may have taken place in Spain.
       The 6 May 1960 DV listed Triton Corp. as the production company, but Perseus Productions was later credited along with Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. A budget of $2.8-$4 million was cited in various contemporary sources published around the time of filming; however, an article in the 17 May 1961 DV noted that Skouras had since denied reports of a $3 million budget, insisting that the film cost only $1.9 million. The 15 Feb 1961 Var identified Fred Hift as publicity coordinator. Previously, on 22 Sep 1960, a DV item claimed that Bradford Dillman would record vocals for two original songs with a “13th century flavor,” written by Ken Darby for the film. The 25 Jan 1961 Var later reported that Francis of Assisi’s soundtrack would be the first to feature Gregorian chant music.
       The completed picture made its world premiere on 12 Jul 1961 in San Francisco, CA. A benefit premiere in Los Angeles, CA, took place the following week, on 19 Jul 1961. On the eve of the event, DV speculated that it would raise $15,000 for its intended charity, a convalescent hospital run by the Sisters of the Poor in San Fernando Valley. Several months later, Skouras hosted the Italian premiere in Assisi on 4 Oct 1961, as stated in that day’s Var.
       Following tepid critical reception, ticket sales were underwhelming. A box-office earnings chart in the 10 Jan 1962 Var listed domestic film rentals of $920,000, to date, and projected that the eventual cumulative gross would be around $1.8 million. Skouras accused the Catholic church (in the U.S. and abroad) for failing to promote the film, according to a 31 Jan 1962 Var article. In the meantime, a 16 Aug 1961 Var brief noted that Cinemascope had released a short subject film called Hills of Assisi, which did not directly promote the film but featured its title song and narration by Bradford Dillman. The item postulated that the short would either work as a “‘subliminal’ trailer” for Francis of Assisi, or adversely trick patrons into thinking they had already seen the feature.
       Two years after the film was released, Dolores Hart, who played Clare Scefi (a.k.a. Saint Clare of Assisi), left acting to become a nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis monastery in Connecticut. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1959
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 May 1960
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Nov 1960
p. 6.
Daily Variety
3 Jan 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 May 1961
p. 11.
Daily Variety
17 May 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
24 May 1961
p. 7.
Daily Variety
12 Jul 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Jul 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
19 Jul 1961
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 1960
Section A, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jul 1960
p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
6 Nov 1960
Section B, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1961
Section I, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jul 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1961
p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1961
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jul 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1961
Section C, p. 7.
New York Times
16 Aug 1959.
---
New York Times
8 Jan 1961.
---
New York Times
29 Jul 1961.
---
Variety
26 Aug 1959
p. 15.
Variety
27 Jul 1960
p. 4.
Variety
30 Nov 1960
p. 2, 68.
Variety
25 Jan 1961
p. 4.
Variety
15 Feb 1961
p. 5.
Variety
5 Jul 1961
p. 4.
Variety
16 Aug 1961
p. 3.
Variety
20 Sep 1961
p. 4.
Variety
4 Oct 1961
p. 4.
Variety
13 Dec 1961
p. 13.
Variety
10 Jan 1962
p. 13, 59.
Variety
31 Jan 1962
p. 7, 71.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus comp & arr
Mus cond
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The Joyful Beggar by Louis De Wohl (Philadelphia, 1958).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Joyful Beggar
Release Date:
12 July 1961
Premiere Information:
San Francisco premiere: 12 July 1961
Chicago opening: 12 July 1961
Los Angeles premiere: 19 July 1961
New York opening: 28 July 1961
Production Date:
28 October 1960--January or early February 1961
re-shoots in mid March 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Perseus Productions
Copyright Date:
12 July 1961
Copyright Number:
LP20132
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
106
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Early in the 13th century, young Francis Bernardone, the pleasure-seeking son of an Assisi cloth merchant, becomes increasingly aware of the emptiness of his life. Hoping to find some meaning for his existence, he answers the call of Pope Innocent III and joins the army being formed to liberate Sicily for King Frederick. Accompanying him is Paolo de Vandria, an impoverished nobleman and a close friend. In battle Francis hears a voice commanding him to return home. When he does so, he is branded a coward and traitor and is thrown into prison. Following his release, the Lord's voice again speaks to Francis and orders him to rebuild a church that stands in ruins outside Assisi. Enlisting the aid of farmers and workmen, he reconstructs the church and then forms a religious order, which receives the approval and blessing of the pope. Paolo, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Francis' childhood friend, Clare, the beautiful daughter of the aristocratic Scefi family. But the young girl is so moved by Francis' preachings that she renounces the worldly life and becomes a nun. Blaming Francis for her decision, Paolo, filled with bitterness and hate, rides off to the Crusades. As the Franciscan Order grows, Francis answers a plea from the pope and journeys to the Holy Land, where the crusaders are battling the sultan's forces. By offering to walk through fire to prove the strength of his faith, Francis wins the sultan's respect. He is disgusted, however, by the plunder of the crusaders, led by Paolo. Returning home, Francis is further disheartened to discover that some of the Franciscan brothers have forsaken the vow of poverty. After upbraiding his fellow monks, ... +


Early in the 13th century, young Francis Bernardone, the pleasure-seeking son of an Assisi cloth merchant, becomes increasingly aware of the emptiness of his life. Hoping to find some meaning for his existence, he answers the call of Pope Innocent III and joins the army being formed to liberate Sicily for King Frederick. Accompanying him is Paolo de Vandria, an impoverished nobleman and a close friend. In battle Francis hears a voice commanding him to return home. When he does so, he is branded a coward and traitor and is thrown into prison. Following his release, the Lord's voice again speaks to Francis and orders him to rebuild a church that stands in ruins outside Assisi. Enlisting the aid of farmers and workmen, he reconstructs the church and then forms a religious order, which receives the approval and blessing of the pope. Paolo, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Francis' childhood friend, Clare, the beautiful daughter of the aristocratic Scefi family. But the young girl is so moved by Francis' preachings that she renounces the worldly life and becomes a nun. Blaming Francis for her decision, Paolo, filled with bitterness and hate, rides off to the Crusades. As the Franciscan Order grows, Francis answers a plea from the pope and journeys to the Holy Land, where the crusaders are battling the sultan's forces. By offering to walk through fire to prove the strength of his faith, Francis wins the sultan's respect. He is disgusted, however, by the plunder of the crusaders, led by Paolo. Returning home, Francis is further disheartened to discover that some of the Franciscan brothers have forsaken the vow of poverty. After upbraiding his fellow monks, Francis retreats to a cave. There he resigns himself to progressive blindness and is comforted by Clare. While praying on a hillside he receives the stigmata. On his deathbed Francis is visited by the repentant Paolo and mourned by a crowd of admirers. +

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

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