Francis of Assisi (1961): Curtiz’s CinemaScope Historical Epic, Starring Bradford Dillman

Michael Curtiz directed Francis of Assisi, a DeLuxe CinemaScope epic, based on the novel The Joyful Beggar by Louis de Wohl.

Our Grade: C (*1/2 out of *****)

Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi FilmPoster.jpeg

Despite on location shooting (in Italy) and polished production values, the film was a box office failure.

Cast against type, Bradford Dillman plays one of his few sympathetic lead roles (he usually played a villainous character onscreen).

Francis Bernardone (Bradford Dillman) is the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, who gives up his materialistic life to dedicate himself to God.

Clare (Dolores Hart) is a young aristocratic woman who is so taken with St. Francis that she leaves her family and becomes a nun.

By this time (1212 A.D.), St. Francis has a well-established reputation for his vows of poverty.

The movie depicts miracles (such as the appearance of the stigmata on Francis’s hands and feet) and other aspects of his life, up to and his death on October 3, 1226. The funeral befitted a man loved by man and beast alike, and ended with the birds he loved doing a flyby.

The scenario is earnest, lacking dramatic conflicts (or any drama), despite the potentially exciting events the story is based on.

Curtiz’s direction is uncharacteristic static, with mise-en-scene that consists of tableaux that are not particularly vivant.

Curio Note:

Two years after the movie’s release, Dolores Hart, then 24, became a Roman Catholic nun at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut.

 

Cast

Bradford Dillman as Francis Bernardone of Assisi
Dolores Hart as Clare
Stuart Whitman as Count Paolo of Vandria
Cecil Kellaway as Cardinal Hugolino
Eduard Franz as Pietro Bernardone
Athene Seyler as Aunt Buona
Finlay Currie as The Pope
Mervyn Johns as Brother Juniper
Russell Napier as Brother Elias
John Welsh as Canon Cattanei
Harold Goldblatt as Bernard
Edith Sharpe as Donna Pica
Jack Lambert as Scefi
Oliver Johnston as Father Livoni
Malcolm Keen as Bishop Guido

Credits:

Directed by Michael Curtiz

Produced by Plato A. Skouras

Screenplay by Eugene Vale, James Forsyth, Jack W. Thomas, based on the novel “The Joyful Beggar” by Louis De Wohl 

Music by Mario Nascimbene

Cinematography: Piero Portalupi

Edited by Louis R. Loeffler
Production company: Perseus Productions
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film
Release date: July 12, 1961

Running time: 105 Minutes