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GOING MY WAY(director: Leo McCarey; screenwriters: Frank Butler/Frank Cavett/story by Leo McCarey; cinematographer: Lionel Lindon; editor: LeRoy Stone; music: Robert Emmett Dolan/Jimmy Van Heusen; cast: Bing Crosby (Father Chuck O’Malley), Barry Fitzgerald (Father Fitzgibbon), Rise Stevens (Genevieve Linden), Frank McHugh (Father Timothy O’Dowd), Gene Lockhart (Ted Haines, Sr.), William Frawley (Max), Eily Malyon (Mrs. Carmody), James Brown (Ted Haines Jr.), Anita Bolster (Mrs. Quimp), Stanley Clements (Tony Scaponi), Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (Herman), Adeline Reynolds (Mother Fitzgibbon), The Robert Mitchell Boy Choir; Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Leo McCarey; Paramount Pictures; 1944)
“Feel-good religious drama wasn’t going my way, but it’s hard to resist such good-hearted schmaltz.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Leo McCarey’ (“The Bells of St. Mary”/”Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!”/”Duck Soup”) feel-good religious drama wasn’t going my way, but it’s hard to resist such good-hearted schmaltz. The corny crowd pleaser was the top-grossing film of the year and won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Barry Fitzgerald) and Best Actor (Bing Crosby, as the happy-go-lucky priest). It pushes its sentimentality to the max, as it shoots for a simple-minded warm and humanistic musical/drama which reaches those who want to believe Hollywood’s view of an idealized church is as real as Santa Claus is for the kiddies.

Crosby sings the delightful Academy Award winning number “Swingin’ On a Star” while accompanied by The Robert Mitchell Boy Choir, and with opera costar Rise Stevens he sings “Ave Maria.” On his own, Crosby sings “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral,” “The Day After Forever,” “Silent Night,” and the title tune.

Father Chuck O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is a young, affable, intelligent, modern and easy-going priest who arrives from his St. Louis hometown to serve as curate for the elderly curmudgeon Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), an obstinate old-fashioned priest who presided over the financially failing St. Dominic’s Church, a Roman Catholic Church located in a Manhattan slum, for the last 45 years. We soon learn that Father O’Malley was really sent to straighten out the church’s financial problems and ease Father Fitzgibbon out without hurting his feelings. Through his music, gift of gab, connections with those in the musical industry and winning personality, Father O’Malley saves the church from ruin as he deals with such assorted problems as the following: winning over the crusty Father Fitzgibbon; dealing with Ted Haines, Sr. (Gene Lockhart) whose bank loaned the church money and holds its mortgage, and now Ted wishes to give the church the boot and put up in its place a parking lot; gives eighteen-year-old runaway singer Carol James (Jean Heather) a few bucks to tide her over until she finds work and when Carol moves into the neighborhood she romances Ted’s earnest young son (James Brown), as O’Malley keeps things kosher until they wed; helps old-biddy parishioner Hattie Quimp (Anita Bolster) from being evicted; forms a church choir to get the troublemaker gang of boys off the street; hooks up with his old flame, now a famous opera singer (Rise Stevens), to get his choir to sing in the opera house; and the likable priest finds a way to keep Father Fitzgibbon on, as he collects enough money to restore the burned down church.

It’s just as hard to trash such gentle hokum as it is to fall for it.

Crosby reprised his Father O’Malley role in a sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”