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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
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.
It's an easily underrated movie, particularly because it flatly refuses to
do most of the things that people expect movies to do today; there's a
defiant unwillingness to slip into easy melodrama (though I often like
melodrama), or to spend too much time on comedy, etc. The movie won't
pigeonhole itself, and I think this leads to its secret - at heart, it
really intends to be about what it's like to be a priest. You CAN'T
pigeonhole yourself in that role, because you can't possibly know what's
coming up, or really keep perfect track of all the different threads of a
community at the same time. You have to take things as they come, and this
movie really does that all the way through.
And there's also a sense of the wistfulness that comes from giving up that "plot-driven" style of living - in the scenes where Crosby visits his old girlfriend, there's a tangible awareness on both sides that they don't really know what happened to the "plot" of their relationship - they just took things as they came, and it really turned out OK for both of them. Most of the movie's separate narrative threads are left off, and returned to, almost at random - and the main focus on the relationships between the characters is what ends up shining through as intended.
A lot of the film is spent on scenes that seem kind of inconsequential at the time (like most of everyday life), but they invariably lead to a payoff later in the film. There's a shot of Gene Lockhart watching his son leave - a silent shot that just holds on a medium shot of the father, watching his expression for about 10 seconds - that I found absolutely sublime in its effectiveness. To me, that single shot justifies the half dozen scenes that led to it. Ultimately, the movie is almost happy to laugh at the audience for being so eager to expect more of a story. As one character aptly says,"Schmaltz is in this year"; the people behind this movie KNOW that a lot of people will want to dismiss it, but won't let them off the hook so easily. It's looks deceptively simple to make a film this easygoing and yet moving. (Capra tried it later in his career, sometimes with Crosby, and yet he couldn't pull it off.)
The Oscar win is OK, though I think Double Indemnity should have won, and I also like The Miracle of Morgan's Creek a lot more as well (THE SPOTS!!!); but Going My Way belonged in the top 5 that year, along with Laura and I'm-not-sure-what-else. (Gaslight, maybe?) And I'll note that I do like the "sequel," The Bells of St. Mary's (actually written first), a little better, too.
But as I wrote in the summary, this one really sneaks up on you; the last scenes prove much more moving than you expect, and the ending of the film - while initially seeming abrupt - leaves you suddenly saying, "Of course - it's perfect." Just moving on.......
9 of 10
P.S. Is it really set in New York? That's never said, and there's so much talk of St. Louis that I think that more accurate a guess. The "Metropolitan Opera House" is mentioned, but that's a generic-sounding name. Honestly, I think they went to great effort to make it as unrooted in a single locale as possible.
In `Going My Way,' director Leo McCarey taps into one of the basic tenets
of human nature, that being the fact that even the most selfless individual
has wants and needs that often go unrecognized or unexpressed. It's a
matter of understanding the human condition, being sensitive to what drives
our fellow man and responding to it. A young woman of eighteen leaves home
because of a conflict with her parents, yet has nowhere to go; a man with a
touch of `Scrooge' in him, who runs a Savings & Loan has trouble setting his
priorities; a gang of street-wise kids need some direction; an elderly
priest after forty-five years has allowed his parish to slip into financial
straits. All circumstances that are affecting in their innate humanity, and
it's into this that McCarey taps directly with his story, and it's the
reason for the success of his film. Simply put, it has heart-- and it makes
Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald) has been at St. Dominic's in New York since it was built, but the financially strapped parish is in arrears on the mortgage payment, and Mr. Ted Haines Sr. (Gene Lockhart), of the S&L that holds the note, would like nothing better than to be able to foreclose on the church, because then he could raze the building and turn it into a parking lot. Meanwhile, the Bishop has sent a young priest, Father Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby) to St. Dominic's to look into the situation, and very quickly the good Father finds that he has his hands more than full.
Sent to take charge without `taking charge,' in deference to Father Fitzgibbon's tenure, Father O'Malley has his work cut out just trying to save the church; but that's not all he has to contend with. Found alone on the street by a local policeman, a girl named Carol James (Jean Heather) is brought to St. Dominic's, and Father O'Malley realizes that without some help, she's headed for nothing but trouble. He also encounters a lad named Tony Scaponi (Stanley Clements), the leader of the gang that has been terrorizing the neighborhood, and turning that situation around becomes a priority on Father O'Malley's `to-do' list. Then there is Mr. Haines Sr. to deal with. But most especially in need of all (though he doesn't realize it himself) is Father Fitzgibbon, and this, too, Father O'Malley recognizes. Now it's just a matter of addressing all of these needs at once; and as Father O'Malley finds out, it's no easy task.
There's something of the Angel, Dudley (played by Cary Grant in `The Bishop's Wife'), in Father O'Malley, as he is not only sensitive to the needs of those he encounters, but knows how to resolve their conflicts in a way that suits the best interests of all concerned. His solutions may be those of a perfect, pie-in-the-sky world and not necessarily a reflection of reality, but it works because it captures the spirit of what this movie is all about: caring and lending a helping hand to those who need it. The solutions may be unrealistic and overly simplified, but the feelings and emotions of the characters are very real, and McCarey's ability to capture that essence of humanity is what earned this film the Oscar for Best Movie of 1944 (McCarey received Oscars, as well, for Best Director and Original Story).
As Father O'Malley, Bing Crosby gives one of his best performances, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. But as good as he is in this part, the award is something of a surprise; the Father O'Malley Crosby presents has the patience of a Saint and insight to match, and his mild mannered approach to the character makes his portrayal the kind that are usually overlooked and under-appreciated because of the apparent facility of the delivery. And Crosby does make it look easy-- which also makes it very real, striking a chord as perfect as the solutions to the problems he solves along the way. It's interesting to note that when Crosby recreated the role a year later in `The Bells of St. Mary's,' though he slipped back into the character readily enough, it didn't seem to have that same depth or impact as in this one, but more of a `been there, done that' feel. Then again, this story and the characters with which he is surrounded here are much richer and have much more definition than those of the sequel, and this film is much more emotionally involving.
Barry Fitzgerald received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Father Fitzgibbon, and well deserved it was. Father O'Malley may be the anchor of this film, but Father Fitzgibbon is it's soul. And the final scene-- unexpected and extremely moving-- leaves no doubt about it. That scene, in fact, so powerful in it's simplicity, veritably sums up the sentiment of the entire movie. It's a triumph for Fitzgerald, as well as McCarey, but the one who really comes out the winner is the viewer.
The supporting cast includes Frank McHugh (Father Timothy), William Frawley (Max), James Brown (Ted Haines, Jr.), Rise Stevens (Genevieve Linden), Eily Malyon (Mrs. Carmody), Carl `Alfalfa' Switzer (Herman) and Adeline De Walt Reynolds (Mrs. Molly Fitzgibbon). A heart-felt and uplifting discourse on the brighter side of the human condition, `Going My Way' reflects the good there is to be found in humanity if we but take the time to seek it out. An entertaining, feel-good film, this is what the magic of the movies is all about. I rate this one 9/10.
Bing Crosby plays a young priest with progressive methods who is assigned to
a dwindling parish. He finds himself faced with many wonderful characters,
especially the grumpy old Irish master of the church (Barry Fitzgerald) who
doesn't see "eye to eye" with the new guy. The interplay between Crosby and
Fitzgerald is delightfully funny.
This best picture winner of 1944 at the Oscars is one of the all-time greatest movies. Crosby was as warm and benevolent an actor as he was a singer as his performance in "Going My Way" proves.
The film shows eventually that it is necessary in life to learn to accept everyone around you, regardless of faults and flaws of character, and to help your fellow people find their strengths and develop them in order to serve humanity. But, believe me, this film is anything but pedantic; issues such as these do not drive the film but arise from situations (often light-hearted) that arise naturally in the story.
An example of this is that there were some "juvenille delinquents" that the Crosby character rounded up, not to pass judgement or scorn but to organise them into doing something constructive that made them enjoy life and give up theft as a means of dealing with boredom - he turned them into a choir. Sounds a bit like "Sister Act"? I'm sure "Going My Way" had some influence on this more recent effort, but it is much superior in many ways. It reminded me also of Michael Landon's "Highway to Heaven" series (without the supernatural components).
If you are looking for an old classic with lots of spirit and warmth (such as around Christmas time) for your whole family to gather around and watch by the fire, I recommend "Going My Way". It is a must-see. (10 out of 10).
This kind of picture would normally just be a pleasant, upbeat movie
worthwhile for casual viewing, but "Going My Way" is made more
memorable by Barry Fitzgerald, who co-stars with Bing Crosby. There's
nothing wrong with Crosby, since he is his usual self, low-key and
amiable, and he has a few chances to sing as well. But Fitzgerald and
his character are what adds the depth to an otherwise fairly simple
Crosby is rather well-cast as a young priest, since his benevolent persona seems to fit rather well in the role. As his older, more inflexible colleague, Fitzgerald delivers one of his many fine supporting performances, and in this case he has much more room than usual to develop his character as the movie proceeds. He makes the rather crabby old priest both interesting and endearing, and the character provides a valuable balance to Crosby's straightforward, well-meaning character.
The story is worthwhile, and though it is simple, the interplay between the two priests makes the rest of it work much better than it would have on its own. The somewhat episodic plot generally works well, and it provides many good moments, in addition to having some worthwhile thoughts to communicate.
Leo McCarey's sentimental 1944 film, "Going My Way" is a positive film
that dealt with the problems of the inner city back when the term
hadn't been coined. St. Dominic's Church is an oasis in the middle of
the area that has seen better days. We realize how deeply in trouble
the parish is from the start as Mr. Haines is trying to give Father
Fitzgibbon an idea of how much he owes the bank and the fact the church
will disappear soon.
When Father Chuck O'Malley arrives at St. Dominic to try to save it from its uncertain future, Father Fitzgibbon doesn't have a clue the younger man is going to be over him in all matters of importance. Yet, Father O'Malley never steps over the older priest's shoes to make his rank felt.
This film was shot after the more successful, and better made "The Bells of St. Mary's", but it was released earlier than the other film, probably to capitalize on Bing Crosby's popularity. The film, in fact, is a showcase for Mr. Crosby, who was a likable actor and singer. He has good opportunities in the movie.
As good as Mr. Crosby was in the film, Barry Fitzgerald steals the movie with his Father Fitzgibbon. Mr. Fitzgerald's crusty priest was one of the best creations of his long career. Frank McHugh, another excellent character actor of the era is seen as Father O'Dowd. Gene Lockhart also has a small role as the money man, Mr. Haines. Rise Stevens, the soprano is seen and heard in the film singing in her inimitable style.
The film is a classic that should be seen during the holidays, as it brings cheer and hope to everyone lucky enough to catch a screening of it during Christmas.
It's always been strange for a movie buff like me to see how things
change over the decades. In the 1940s and 1950s, Catholic priests were
the good guys and likable actors like Pat O'Brien, Spencer Tracy and
even Bing Crosby made them even more attractive. Since the '60s,
Hollywood went in the opposite direction and made them villains more
than anything else.
Frankly, I never found a nun who looked like Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn, or a priest who could sing like Bing Crosby, but, what the hell, er heck....better to see a positive cleric image than a negative, I believe.
The first hour of this movie was very good and the film might have wound up a favorite of mine but the second half petered out quickly and never regained steam, except for a nice ending. The films bogs down with a romance that has nothing to do with the story. The music also lost its appeal to me when Crosby's fine voice was finished for the film, replaced by the operatic high notes of Rise Stevens.
Overall, the film has a number of nice, touching moments and Crosby is very likable but the story goes on too long and is not one I would watch a second time.
If you are looking for something thoughtful, dramatic, or even
controversial, go somewhere else. But if it's a light-hearted comedy
you're after, then pull up a chair and check out "Going My Way".
Bing Crosby stars as Father Charles "Chuck" O'Malley, a newly-ordained priest assigned to take over St. Dominic's, a New York City church with a mortgage currently run by veteran priest Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). Both Crosby and Fitzgerald give good performances in this movie, as attested by the fact they each won an Oscar (and Barry Fitzgerald was nominated TWICE, for Actor and Supporting Actor, a move that necessitated a rule change at the Academy). If you ask me, between the two of them, I would go with Barry Fitzgerald. His portrayal of the crusty, yet kind-hearted Father Fitzgibbon was a role he was born to do, and it shows.
This movie also features the talents of soprano Risë Stevens, who plays Jenny Linden, an old friend of Father O'Malley's, in town performing at the Metropolitan Opera House as Carmen. Though her acting is somewhat wooden (it was only her second role), she shines all three times she sings. Which leads me to the title of the movie itself.
"Going My Way" is not a story about the Catholic Church, nor is it about old friends reuniting, or even about two young lovers (James Brown and Jean Heather). It's about a song. That's right. A song, written by Father O'Malley, and upon which its success determines the very future of St. Dominic's. Like I said, this is light comedy; nothing too serious is happening here.
At the time of this movie's release in 1944, World War II was at its crescendo. The newsreels and the papers were full of reports of the war. Some war veterans had made their way back home after getting wounded in battle. Major offenses like Operation: Overlord (D-Day) had succeeded, but at tremendous cost. At a time when the world was at its grimmest, this was the perfect escape. The only reference to the war in the entire movie occurs when landlord Ted Haines Sr. (Gene Lockhart) discovers his son, Ted Jr. (Brown) quit his job and eloped with a young singer named Carol James (Heather). Just when he thinks his son has lost all sense of reality, he turns around and sees Ted Jr. in an Army Air Corps uniform. Only then, Ted Sr. realizes his son hasn't gone mad; he is off to join the war.
If you are a fan of the "Road" movies Bing Crosby did with Bob Hope, you most likely remember the occasional aside in which either Bing boasts about his Oscar, or Bob grumbles about it. Well, this is the film that gave Bing his Oscar. And he was nominated again the next year for playing the same character in the the sequel "The Bells of St. Mary's". Obviously, he must've been doing something right! "Going My Way" was a little ray of sunshine cast upon a pained world and, even now, it will still put a smile on your face.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Going My Way---9/10.
Sometimes I can be such a sucker for sap and this film nabbed me hook, line and sinker.
I think the reason this films works so well, despite its sappy shortcomings, stems from the interplay between its two stars, Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. Crosby plays Father Chuck O'Malley, the new easy going, yet radical and modern thinking replacement to Barry Fitzgerald's sweet and financially floundering Father Fitzgibbon. Being a radical and modern thinker for the time of the film's original release means that Father O'Malley can often be seen wearing a baseball jersey and sweat pants around the Church while Father Fitzgibbon is relegated to wearing the traditional frocks more becoming of an older and more respectable priest.
At first Father Fitzgibbon is taken aback by Father O'Malley's radical ideas for the church, but his fears are soon assuaged once he hears the results from O'Malley's new rag-tag boys choir, made up from the local neighborhood delinquents. Father O'Malley becomes more than a figurehead, he becomes a real Father to these kids; he takes them off the streets and into baseball games and gives them a positive outlet through singing to become a positive part of their community.
What Father Fitzgibbon doesn't know is that Father O'Malley was sent to his church as his replacement. Once Father Fitzgibbon discovers this bit of information, he runs away from the parish. Father Fitzgibbon doesn't get too far before Father O'Malley has him back in the church with the understanding that he will never get rid of Father Fitzgibbon. In fact, O'Malley not only has to look after the neighborhood kids, but also the aging Father Fitzgibbon. O'Malley decides to teach Fitzgibbon the game of golf (perhaps Bing was scouting for his own pro am at Pebble Beach?) as a way of keeping track of him and giving him a sense of purpose.
Although the movie will have its moments of 'Gods Will' (the fire that burns down the church) and of 'redeemable sacrifice' (Fitzgibbon's reunion with his mother), the movie really is a centerpiece for Bing Crosby. The movie seems to get by on emotion and good vibes as well as some very fine performances.
Even though the movie is quaint and good-natured, don't be surprised too much when you hear a couple of double entendres uttered by O'Malley while settling down to eat a turkey dinner that was acquired by Fitzgibbon only after the neighborhood kids stole it. O'Malley smirks aloud to the unaware Fitzgibbon that there's nothing quite like eating some 'hot turkey'. O'Malley then remarks that after the boys lost their turkey to Fitzgibbon that the boys must have 'given you the bird'. These remarks have the fingerprints of its director, Leo McCarey.
Yeah, sometimes I can be such a sucker that I'll believe just about anything. This movie won me over, and I feel good about that.
9/10. Clark Richards
One of the best loved of all Oscar winners, Leo McCarey's deeply sentimental film makes no great claims to seriousness nor is it particularly cinematic, (the studio sets are clearly studio sets), but it's well-written and has a deeply likable performance from Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O'Malley, (the Academy liked him enough to give him the Best Actor Oscar and to nominate him the following year for playing the same role). He's the young priest sent to St. Dominic's, a parish down on its luck, to whip it back into shape and to replace the curmudgeonly old priest responsible for its present state. The older priest is the leprechaun-like Barry Fitzgerald and he plays the part shamelessly. The Academy gave him an Oscar, too, and it marked the only time when an actor, (Fitzgerald), was nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for playing the same role in the same film in the same year. (The rules were subsequently changed so it wouldn't happen again). The Mickey Rooney role of the street-wise older kid who makes good is played here by Stanley Clements. If the film has a fault it's that it gave us one of the most annoying of all Oscar-winning songs in 'Swingin on a Star'.
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