Director Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal was the HFPA members’ choice to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama and Best Supporting Actor for John Huston. There were other notable films that year - Ralph Nelson’s Lilies of the Field and Elia Kazan's America, America in the drama section, while Tom Jones won as best comedy over Irma La Douce. And yet this religious drama with no notable actors – with the exception of Romy Schneider and Huston, the famous director who moonlighted as an actor throughout his flamboyant career – touched a nerve and gathered consensus.
The Cardinal had six Golden Globe nominations (including Best Director for Preminger – Kazan won – and Schneider for Best Actress – Leslie Caron got the Globe) and won two Globes during a raucous celebration at the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove on March 11, 1964. The movie was also nominated for Best Film Promoting International Understanding, a special award the HFPA was very proud of in that Cold War period, and was later discontinued. (Lilies of the Field was the winner of the Award that year).
Based on Henry Morton Robinson's novel, The Cardinal tells about a young Catholic priest from Boston, Stephen Fermoyle (played by Tom Tryon) who is faced with bigotry, Nazism, and his own personal conflicts as he rises to the office of cardinal. After his theological studies in Rome, Fermoyle returns to Boston and is later sent to Austria, where he finds himself personally involved in the church's dealings with the Third Reich. A curious side story about the film: the Vatican financed part of it, and the Vatican liaison was young Joseph Ratzinger, who in 2005 became Pope Benedict XVI.
The Cardinal was filmed in Massachusetts, Vienna (Austria), Rome (Santa Maria Sopra Minerva), and at the Abbazia of Casamari, in Frosinone, a small town south of Rome. Huston played the role of Cardinal Glennon of Boston, loosely based on the Archbishop of Boston at the time, William O'Connell. Preminger said that his colleague Huston was cooperative in every way and Huston said he successfully resisted the impulse to call his own shots on his performance, remembering this was not his film. They were friends and toasted together at the Golden Globes ceremony. “The moral value truly reflects the era depicted in the film, and I only wish that a return to those values is possible today,” said Huston accepting his award, his second Globe after the one he won for The Treasure of Sierra Madre (for Best Director).