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Pope Movies

Anthony Quinn The Shoes of the Fisherman pope moviesPope Movies (image: Anthony Quinn in 'The Shoes of the Fisherman')

[See previous post: “Pope Francis Movie in the Works?“] Now, do we need another Pope Movie? Well, actually there haven't been that many. Most notable among the Pope Movies of decades past are Michael Anderson's widely lambasted The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), with Anthony Quinn as what one pundit called “Zorba the Pope,” and Nanni Moretti's widely acclaimed comedy-drama We Have a Pope, with Michel Piccoli as a cardinal who reluctantly is elected chief of the Catholic Church.

Here are a few more: Rex Harrison hammed it up as Pope Julius II to Charlton Heston's equally risible Michelangelo in Carol Reed's The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965); Liv Ullmann played the title role in Michael Anderson's critically massacred Pope Joan (1972), about the alleged medieval female pope; and Finlay Currie reverentially incarnated the official first pope, St. Peter, in Mervyn LeRoy's dreary (and immensely successful) Quo Vadis (1951). (Needless to say, Quo Vadis belongs to the non-reverential villains: Peter Ustinov's Nero and Patricia Laffan's Poppaea.)

Also worth mentioning is another poorly received pope movie directed by Michael Anderson, The Jeweller's Shop (1989). Starring Burt Lancaster, the film isn't about a pope, but it was based on a play written by (a future) one, Karol Wojtyla a.k.a. Pope John Paul II. More interesting, however, is a radically different kind of “pope movie,” Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part III, which features beautifully robed Vatican dwellers, stylish mafiosi (among them Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, and Talia Shire), and a murdered pope reminiscent of John Paul I. (See also: “God on the Set of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.”)

St. Francis of Assisi movies

Though never a pope, St. Francis – the inspiration for Pope Francis' “pope name” – has been the subject of a handful of movies, among them Roberto Rossellini's free-flowing The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), with Nazario Gerardi as Francesco; Michael Curtiz's ponderous Francis of Assisi (1961), with Bradford Dillman in the title role and future Mother Superior Dolores Hart (the subject of the Oscar-nominated short God Is the Bigger Elvis) as St. Clare; and Franco Zeffirelli's flower power-ish Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972), with Graham Faulkner as Francis and Clash of the Titans' Judi Bowker as Clare.

So, could Friend of the Poor: The Pope Francis Story be next in line?

“I believe that the Holy Spirit will love [Friend of the Poor: The Pope Francis Story] and will help us to accomplish our mission,” Christian Peschken says. But not taking any chances, the National Catholic Register tells us the producer is “praying for the success of this movie with the help of St. Gabriel the Archangel, the patron saint of communication workers.”

Anthony Quinn in The Shoes of the Fisherman photo: MGM.

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