Otto Preminger's Cardinal
- Stephan’s ideological convictions bring him into direct conflict with Life when his affectionate sister falls in love with a Jew and Stephan insists she can only marry him if the boy agrees to convert to Catholicism. The boy at first consents and then perceiving the hypocrisy (one-sided blindness) in the priest’s views, he refuses.
- His sister sleeps with her lover and then confesses to Stephan, who condemns her as a sinner (it was he that led her to sin) and makes her promise never to give up the boy, which she does.
- His sister runs away and takes to a low life with dancers, eventually gets pregnant and is hospitalized when the pregnancy runs into trouble. Stephan is faced with the choice of saving his sister by killing the baby or letting his sister die. His faith forces him to sacrifice his sister. Again life presents the contradiction to his narrow beliefs and he is forced by his convictions to condemn his sister to death.
- He takes leave from the church to become a teacher in Austria and reconsider his vows to the priesthood without violating them. There he meets and falls in love with one of his students, Augusta, and is nearly ready to renounce his vows, but finally decides to go back to the church. This is the second woman who loves him on whom he turns his back because of his beliefs.
- A black priest from South Carolina comes to the Vatican reporting that his parish church was burned by KKK but his American bishop and cardinal refuse to seek redress. Stephan goes to America and visits the town to support the priest’s decision to file a legal complaint. That night both he and the priest are captured and whipped by KKK. Here is the irony that a man who rejected a Jew now finds his people rejected by the Protestants and persecuted and he has to suffer like a martyr to stand up for it. The priest wins his case, the first time in the South a black man’s testimony is sufficient to find white men guilty, even though punishment is light.
- Stephan becomes a bishop. Nazis invade and take over Austria. The Austrian cardinal, believing Hitler’s promises, offers him public endorsement and support. Stephan is sent by Vatican to counsel the Cardinal, who refuses to listen until Hitler directly countermands all his earlier promises.
- In Austria, Stephan meets his former love Augusta, now married to a man who is secretly part Jewish and afraid of being seized by the Nazis. While Stephan is dining with them, the Gestapo comes to arrest the man and he jumps out of the window committing suicide rather than be caught. Stephan’s goodwill again brings tragedy to the life of Augusta.
- The disillusioned Cardinal is now faced with raving mobs of Nazi youth who break into the church and destroy sacred property while police look on. Stephan is forced to escape back to Italy. His presence in Austria coincides with catastrophe for the church.
- Everywhere Stephan goes, everything he tries to do leads to violence and suffering for himself and others. His Catholic faith is mental dogma out of balance with life and his own emotions. When he insists on his mental conception of right or god’s will, it always ends in disaster.
Back to Films for review