The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)

155 mins | Drama | 14 November 1968

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HISTORY

The 15 Jun 1964 DV and 16 Jun 1964 NYT announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (M-G-M) bought the film rights to Morris L. West’s 1963 “religious novel,” The Shoes of the Fisherman. George Englund, who had a three-picture producer-director deal with the studio, flew to West’s home in Sydney, Australia, to complete the details (30 Apr 1964 DV), and write the screenplay with him. The 30 Jun 1964 LAT noted that Englund and Morris were in Rome, Italy, “conferring with top Vatican officials to secure permission to film West’s novel…in the fabled city-state.” Three months later, Englund returned to the Vatican “to observe the Ecumenical Council in action,” according to the 18 Sep 1964 LAT. The following month, he signed John Patrick to write the final screenplay, the 6 Oct 1964 DV reported.
       M-G-M and George Englund changed their relationship, replacing his studio staff status with a contract that made him an independent production entity called George Englund Enterprises, Inc., the 18 Dec 1964 DV reported. Englund was simultaneously working on three other M-G-M films besides The Shoes of the Fisherman.
       Englund hired James Poe “to do the final polish” of the script, and the two flew to London, England; Paris, France; and Rome for ten days, according to the 15 Oct 1965 DV and 16 Oct 1965 LAT. Meanwhile, M-G-M cameramen used fifteen cameras to film the Vatican’s 1965 Ecumenical Council, which, as the 20 Oct 1965 LAT described it, was “closest in ritual to the coronation of a pope.” Poe later complained to the ... More Less

The 15 Jun 1964 DV and 16 Jun 1964 NYT announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (M-G-M) bought the film rights to Morris L. West’s 1963 “religious novel,” The Shoes of the Fisherman. George Englund, who had a three-picture producer-director deal with the studio, flew to West’s home in Sydney, Australia, to complete the details (30 Apr 1964 DV), and write the screenplay with him. The 30 Jun 1964 LAT noted that Englund and Morris were in Rome, Italy, “conferring with top Vatican officials to secure permission to film West’s novel…in the fabled city-state.” Three months later, Englund returned to the Vatican “to observe the Ecumenical Council in action,” according to the 18 Sep 1964 LAT. The following month, he signed John Patrick to write the final screenplay, the 6 Oct 1964 DV reported.
       M-G-M and George Englund changed their relationship, replacing his studio staff status with a contract that made him an independent production entity called George Englund Enterprises, Inc., the 18 Dec 1964 DV reported. Englund was simultaneously working on three other M-G-M films besides The Shoes of the Fisherman.
       Englund hired James Poe “to do the final polish” of the script, and the two flew to London, England; Paris, France; and Rome for ten days, according to the 15 Oct 1965 DV and 16 Oct 1965 LAT. Meanwhile, M-G-M cameramen used fifteen cameras to film the Vatican’s 1965 Ecumenical Council, which, as the 20 Oct 1965 LAT described it, was “closest in ritual to the coronation of a pope.” Poe later complained to the 22 Nov 1965 LAT that the Ecumenical Council was “raising havoc” with his screenplay and “destroying all the conflicts” in the novel, requiring him to come up with new ones. When Poe returned to Hollywood, CA, after five months, he reported to the 16 Mar 1966 DV that portions of The Shoes of the Fisherman had already been filmed, in long shots, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, including the opening and closing of the Ecumenical Council, attended by cardinals and thousands of bishops, priests, and nuns. There were even “shots of Pope Paul VI,” which would later be matched by the actor cast as the Pope. No principal photography starting date had yet been scheduled.
       The 19 Apr 1967 Var reported that Morris L. West had completed the final screenplay approved by the studio. Neither he nor James Poe were credited as screenwriters in the final film.
       The 3 Jul 1967 DV broke the news that M-G-M was delighted that Lee Marvin had expressed interest in playing the Pope, but after the studio sent him a script in Hawaii, Marvin turned it down. Other actors considered for roles but not hired were Sally Ann Howes and Martin Landau, according to the 8 Mar 1968 and 2 Apr 1968 editions of DV. Englund gave up his plans to direct and hired Anthony Asquith instead, but Asquith became ill and died, and Michael Anderson replaced him, the 29 Nov 1967 Var noted.
       The 1 Nov 1967 Var reported that scenic artists at M-G-M Studios in Culver City, CA, were in the midst of a three-month project recreating the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Upon completion, the set would be shipped to Cinecitta Studios in Rome, where shooting would take place. A later article in the 19 Feb 1968 LAT described how the chapel, because of its familiarity to people all over the world, had to be reproduced “down to the last inch,” including the elevated floor and green carpeting that were installed exclusively during the elections of new popes. At Cinecitta Studios, Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment,” the fresco covering the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, was reproduced over a period of seven months by projecting a photograph of the original onto a canvas so that artists could trace and paint it.
       Principal photography began 2 Jan 1968 at Cinecitta, the 5 Jan 1968 DV announced. On the set, George Englund explained to the 17 Jan 1968 Var that the three-year delay since he first bought the rights to The Shoes of the Fisherman required an update of the original story. “So much has happened in the Catholic Church since the book was published five years ago that a good portion of the futuristic vision [Morris L. West] originally created suddenly read like yesterday’s news,” he explained. Pope John XXIII and his successor, the newly elected Pope Paul VI, had “brought the Vatican into active participation in settling the world’s problems.” Englund said that key scenes would be filmed in the Vatican, and that the coronation of the Pope inside the Sistine Chapel would be filmed on Cinecitta’s Stage 5. Englund had assured the Vatican that “nothing objectionable to Catholic religion and dogma will be on the screen.” Laurence Olivier was scheduled to complete all his scenes during the first two weeks of the four-month shoot, in order to free him for other commitments. The film was budgeted at $8-$8.5 million.
       Because Anthony Quinn appeared in almost every scene, an eye infection that forced him to leave the set on 3 Feb 1968 suspended production for nearly a week, the 14 Feb 1968 Var reported. Englund shot the final scene, which would have to be edited together with the original footage of the 1965 Ecumenical Council, during Easter Week in mid Apr 1968, on a huge replica of St. Peter’s Basilica’s balcony looming “majestically above the floor of Cinecitta’s Stage 15,” as the 5 May 1968 LAT described it. Because of major changes in the script, the ending would be different than in West’s novel, and the media was asked to keep it secret until the film was released. West himself told the newspaper that “structurally speaking,” the script was “tighter, more direct” than his novel. Englund told the 18 Apr 1968 DV he expected to wrap filming in early May 1968.
       The Shoes of the Fisherman premiered and opened as a 70mm “road show movie” in both New York City and Los Angeles, CA, on 14 Nov 1968. As the 15 Nov 1968 DV described the presentation: “first part runs nearly 84 minutes, including a four-minute overture; second part runs over 78 minutes, including another brief overture of a minute, and a two-minute recessional: grand total is 162 minutes.” Critics were generally unkind. The 20 Nov 1968 Var ran a compendium of bad reviews, including the 15 Nov 1968 NYT’s complaint that for those who had not read the novel, “the first two hours are unintelligible.”
       The American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) nominated The Shoes of the Fisherman for two Academy Awards: Music (Original Score-for a motion picture [not a musical])—Alex North; Art Direction—George W. Davis and Edward Carfagno. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 May 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
6 Oct 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Dec 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
15 Oct 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1968
p. 25.
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Apr 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1968
p. 6.
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1968
p. 3, 26.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jun 1964
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1964
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
16 Oct 1965
p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1965
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
22 Nov 1965
Section D, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
19 Feb 1968
Section C, p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
22 Feb 1968
p. 32.
Los Angeles Times
5 May 1968
Section Q, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
15 Nov 1968
Section F, p. 21.
New York Times
16 Jun 1964
p. 48.
New York Times
15 Nov 1968
p. 42.
Variety
19 Apr 1967
p. 65.
Variety
1 Nov 1967
p. 4.
Variety
29 Nov 1967
p. 16.
Variety
17 Jan 1968
p. 5, 18.
Variety
14 Feb 1968
p. 23.
Variety
20 Nov 1968
p. 24.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A George Englund Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
Rec supv
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prop supv
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
Dial coach
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris L. West (New York, 1963).
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 November 1968
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles openings: 14 Nov 1968
Production Date:
2 Jan--14 Apr 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 November 1968
Copyright Number:
LP36296
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
155
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

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 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 ... +


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 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." +

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

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