According to a legend of the ninth century, a nun called Joan disguised herself as a monk to escape the ravishing attentions of the Saxon marauders. She hung on to her mannish habits, was elected Pope and presided over her flock with compassion and intelligence.
Her deception was discovered when walking in the streets of Rome, she gave birth to a baby. The angry crowd tore Joan limb from limb.
In Pope Joan, producer Kurt Unger and director Michael Anderson took obvious care not to offend the Vatican by a sensational treatment of the tall tale of lust and Church intrigue.
Liv Ullmann is splendid and dignified as Joan, but far more believable are Maximilian Schell as her jolly monk boyfriend; Franco Nero as a crafty emperor detecting the girl-Pope’s sex, and Trevor Howard as the very ripe and muscular pope who Joan succeeds.
The film was made at Bray Studios in the UK.
Joan as a child
Lord of Manor
Olivia de Havilland
Pope Leo IV