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The Shoes of the Fisherman

The Shoes of the Fisherman
Theatrical release poster by Howard Terpning
Directed by Michael Anderson
Produced by George Englund
Screenplay by John Patrick
James Kennaway
Based on The Shoes of the Fisherman 
by Morris West
Starring Laurence Olivier
Anthony Quinn
Oskar Werner
David Janssen
Vittorio De Sica
Leo McKern
John Gielgud
Music by Alex North
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Distributed by MGM
Release dates
  • November 14, 1968 (1968-11-14)
Running time
162 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.7 million[1]

The Shoes of the Fisherman is a 1968 American drama film based on the 1963 novel of the same name by the Australian novelist Morris West. Shot in Rome, the motion picture was directed by Michael Anderson and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Set during the height of the Cold War, The Shoes of the Fisherman opens as protagonist Kiril Pavlovich Lakota (Anthony Quinn), the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lviv (or Lvov as it is spelled in the movie adaptation), is unexpectedly set free after twenty years in a Siberian labour camp by his former jailer, Piotr Ilyich Kamenev (Laurence Olivier), now the premier of the Soviet Union.

He is sent to Rome, where the elderly fictional Pope (John Gielgud) creates him a Cardinal in the title of St. Athanasius. Lakota is reluctant, begging to be given "a simple mission with simple people," but the Pope insists that he kneel and receive the scarlet zucchetto that designates the rank of cardinal.

When the Pontiff suddenly collapses and dies, the process of a papal conclave begins, and Cardinal Lakota participates as one of the electors. During the sede vacante, two cardinals in particular, Cardinal Leone (Leo McKern) and Cardinal Rinaldi (Vittorio De Sica) are shown to be papabili (candidates). After seven deadlocked ballots, Lakota is unexpectedly elected Pope as a compromise candidate (suggested by Cardinal Rinaldi) by acclamation after the cardinals, unable to decide between the leading candidates, interview him and are impressed by his ideas and his humility. Lakota takes the name of Pope Kiril. Meanwhile, the world is on the brink of nuclear war due to a Chinese-Soviet feud made worse by a famine caused by trade restrictions brought against China by the United States.

The evening after his election, Pope Kiril, with the help of his personal aide Gelasio (David Janssen). Later, the Pope returns to the Soviet Union to meet privately with Kamenev and Chairman Peng (Burt Kwouk) of China to discuss the ongoing crisis.

Pope Kiril realises that if the troubles in China continue, the cost could be a war that could ultimately rip the world apart. At his papal coronation, Kiril removes his tiara (in a gesture of humility) and pledges to sell the Church's property to help the Chinese, much to the delight of the crowds in St. Peter's Square below.

A major secondary plot in the film (and the novel) is the Pope's relationship with a controversial theologian and scientist, Father Telemond (Oskar Werner). The Pope becomes Telemond's close personal friend, but to his deep regret, in his official capacity, he must allow the Holy Office to censure Telemond for his heterodox views. To the Pope's deep grief, Father Telemond dies.



Film rights were bought by MGM in 1964. They assigned it to producer

External links

  1. ^ Metro-Goldwyn Omits Dividend; O' Brien Resigns: Board Cites Possible Loss Of Up to $19 Million in The Current Fiscal Year Bronfman Named Chairman Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file) [New York, N.Y] May 27, 1969: 2.
  2. ^ M-G-M buys novel by west. (1964, Jun 16). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. ^ Scheuer, P. K. (1964, Sep 18). Broadway's mania: Set films to music. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. ^ Special to The New,York Times. (1968, Feb 22). ANTHONY ASQUITH, FILMMAKER, DIES. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. ^ Dugas, D. L. (1968, Feb 19). Tradition guarded in film on pope. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times [London, England] September 27, 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed April 5, 2014
  7. ^ "The Shoes of the Fisherman".  


Edward Carfagno for Best Art Direction.[7]

The film was the sixth most popular movie at the Australian box office in 1969.[6]


The papal tiara used for the coronation scene in the film is modeled after Pope Paul VI's own papal tiara.

Englund asked for technical advice from the Vatican but received no permission to film there so places like the Sistine Chapel had to be recreated.[5]

Anthony Quinn was announced as star relatively early. The original director was to be British director Anthony Asquith, but he became ill in November 1967 (and eventually died a few months later) and was replaced by Michael Anderson.[4]

[3] for the studio.Dark of the Sun (Englund was also making [2]

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