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Youthful Father Chuck O'Malley led a colorful life of sports, song, and romance before joining the Roman Catholic clergy, but his level gaze and twinkling eyes make it clear that he knows he made the right choice. After joining a parish, O'Malley's worldly knowledge helps him connect with a gang of kids looking for direction and handle the business details of the church-building fund, winning over his aging, conventional superior, Father Fitzgibbon. Written by
A fairly old-fashioned film even when first released, Going My Way is probably a tough sell these days compared to other 'feel good' movies of its time. It's a little too long, a little too sweet, a little too casual, and has more than a little too much music. Then again, it also has Bing Crosby; and a Crosby picture without music is like a fish-tank without fish.
Bing plays a young, progressive priest assigned to the parish of an aging, stubborn, much older priest (Barry Fitzgerald) who desperately needs help in dealing with his church and congregation, and is too proud to ask for it. At first the old priest distrusts the younger one and regards him as too 'modern' in his outlook. In time the two men come to get along famously, but with a few bumps in the road along the way. The movie is a comedy and a sermon, a musical and a drama. It is at times painfully and at other times hilariously realistic. When it sticks to its central story it's just fine. But it zooms off in dozen different directions and at times seems to lose its way. In the end everything comes together neatly, but it takes an awful long time for the movie to get there.
Going My Way is literally the opposite of film noir. It is bright and sunny, and aggressively optimistic in tone. Yet it is set in the slums of New York in a parish surrounded by poverty and crime. Director Leo McCarey does not minimize the negative aspects of the parish community; if anything he emphasizes them,--in order to offer a cure, or rather cures: faith, hope and charity. The movie's sensibility can be summed up in the face and demeanor of its star, Bing Crosby, who manages to be smart, open, breezy, charming, sly and decent all at the same time. One can't help but be reminded, after seeing this film, that life's problems, heavy and complex as they are, can be addressed in other ways and in other vocabularies than those of social scientists and existential philosophers, and that simplifying matters, cutting them down to their essentials is perhaps as important as verbalizing them. Most people do not read the great books or discuss the great ideas, and for most of us complexity is a burden, simplicity a virtue. Without resorting to any theory or idea, Going My Way makes this point quite nicely, and offers some pleasant songs in the bargain.
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