powered by AFI
The film's billing sheet, contained in copyright records, includes the following acknowledgment: "With appreciation to Theodore Maynard for use of quotations from his book 'Too Small a World; A Biography of Mother Cabrini.'" Maynard's book was published in Milwaukee in 1945. According to reviews, the film, described as a "semi-documentary," opens and closes with newsreel footage showing Cabrini's canonization by Pope Pius XII in Vatican City. Available descriptions of the picture's narrative are sketchy. A synopsis contained in copyright records states that the story is "told largely by way of artful flashback method, posed against the background of a typical, present-day American family." According to modern biographical sources, Cabrini, who was born in the Lombardy region of Italy in 1850, became a nun in 1877. During the 1880s, she opened seven orphanages in northern Italy as part of her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart order. In 1889, Cabrini and a small group of sisters went to New York City and began working among poor Italian immigrants there. As noted above, she then expanded her efforts around the country and established bases in Chile and Argentina, founding more than sixty convents under her Sacred Heart order. In 1909, Cabrini became a naturalized American citizen. She was beatified in 1938 and canonized in 1946; her feast day is celebrated on 13 November. Many of the institutions she established are still in existence today. As noted in a Hollywood Reporter news item, two of the beneficiaries of Mother Cabrini's miracles, including a private in the U.S. Army, were still alive at the time this film was made.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, in 1944, both PRC Productions and Bing Crosby Productions had "Mother Cabrini" projects in the works. PRC's film, titled Mother Cabrini, was to be produced by Leon Fromkess and Martin Mooney and directed by Edgar Ulmer, however that film was never made. In September 1944, Bing Crosby Productions announced that it was dropping its Mother Cabrini project. PRC's version was apparently also dropped before shooting began. The New York Times review of Citizen Saint notes that William Harrigan, who plays "Father Vail" in the picture, narrates part of the story. It is not known if Rev. E. V. Dailey's and Rev. Cletus McCarthy's narration credits are for writing and/or speaking. According to the New York Times review, the cast of the film, which was shot at RKO's Harlem studios, was comprised primarily of New York-based actors. The New York Times review also noted that producer Clyde Elliott also distributed the Italian-made film The Life and Miracles of Blessed Mother Cabrini. The January 28, 1948 Los Angeles premiere of Citizen Saint benefitted the Villa Cabrini Blood Bank of Burbank, according to Los Angeles Examiner. The film was reviewed twice by The Exhibitor, once in May 1947 and again in June 1948. According to the June 1948 review, three minutes were added to the running time after some "changes and editing" were made to the film.