`C.H.' Reporter AFILM which has altraded the most enthusiastic praise from Catholic film critic circles in the U.S. is on its way to Britain. It is the life story of St. Francis of Assisi, and it is to have its world premiere on Wednesday in Dublin, San Francisco, New York and Assisi.
"The Sign", U.S. National Catholic magazine, has hailed it as "an inspirational movie which also carries considerable dramatic voltage . . a film for Catholic audiences to support. not only for its undeniable value as an inspirational piece and as an answer to those who would flood the screen with trash . . .•
"It is a provocative and exciting story and at times it is also a motion picture of high attainment. It offers a dazzling array of scenes in which pageantry of the 13th-century Courts, the violence of Crusade battles. and the solemnity of the religious observances are equally compelling . . . We recommend it most enthusiastically."
It is based on the late Louis de Wohl's "The Joyful Beggar". It was filmed in and around the Umbrian town where Francis was born. and it covers the years of his vigorous youth. his experiences in the Crusades. and his return home. half blind, to become a recipient of the stigmata.
The Vatican gave permission
to the film producers and actors to go into the cloisters of Franciscan monasteries and directed friars to co-operate with the film makers (20th Century-Fox).
One difficulty arose before filming, and it was Vatican authorities who settled it: In Assisi are two basilicas. one belonging to the Conventual Franciscans. the other to the Friars Minor, The Conventual Franciscans wear a black habit. The Friars Minor wear brown. Which colour would St. Francis wear in the film, asked the directors?
The Vatican replied that St. Francis and his friars should wear grey habits. because grey was the original Franciscan colour, and Franciscans were originally known as Grey Friars.
With this problem settled, the film's director, Michael Curtiz, searched for the right setting, and then settled on Assisi itself. The whole city became enthusiastic and agreed to give their town hall a new medieval look.
Franciscan archives were thrown open so that authentic research could complete the film script. Historical and art treasures were put at the disposal of the film-makers.
Bradford Hillman was selected for the role of St. Francis, and according to Catholic film critics in the U.S. who have seen previews of the completed film, he has excelled himself.
Says "The Sign": "His interpretation is honest and affecting. He convincingly portrays Francis both as a man of action and a tower of spiritual strength who was to become such a tremendous influence in the Church and in the world.
"He is matched by the performance of Dolores Hart as St. Clare, who manages to give the role a blend of spirituality and force without sacrificing either."
The fact that this film (in colour, for the wide screen) will be seen in cinemas throughout the country, and not confined to parish halls or "special" cinemas, makes it all the more valuable.