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Father O'Malley, the unconventional priest from 'Going My Way', continues his work for the Catholic Church. This time he is sent to St. Mary's, a run-down parochial school on the verge of condemnation. He and Sister Benedict work together in an attempt to save the school, though their differing methods often lead to good-natured disagreements. Written by
Greg Helton <email@example.com>
Leo McCarey and Bing Crosby had such a mega-hit on their hands with Going My Way that a sequel in this case really was inevitable. If The Bells of St.Mary's does not quite hit the heights of Going My Way it's got nothing to apologize for. One thing that I do like about it is that you don't have to have watched Going My Way to get into the spirit of this.
Bing repeated his Father O'Malley character and in doing so got a second Oscar nomination. Until Al Pacino was nominated for Michael Corleone in both Godfathers One and Two, Crosby was the only performer ever to have been nominated twice for the same role. Because of Father O'Malley, Bing Crosby became probably the most well known Catholic lay person on the planet. And for better or worse it's the Crosby that is remembered when the knives came out for him after he died.
With Ingrid Bergman the damage was more immediate. Today if you asked the average movie goer to quickly name the part Bergman is best known for it would be Ilsa Lund from Casablanca. Back in the late 40s however the answer would be Sister Benedict. How a Swede who is identified as Swedish in the film could be a Catholic, let alone a nun is a mystery to me. But that's how good an actress Ingrid Bergman was. She became the personification of holiness so when Ingrid Bergman announced she was pregnant with Roberto Rosellini's child the reaction of the public was swift and terrible. Banish her from Hollywood and she was. Such is the power of the mass media. Consider folks like Errol Flynn and Robert Mitchum who had reputations as hell-raisers before scandal hit them. Such is the power of the silver screen and the images it creates.
Bing has some good songs here, he sings the title tune with different lyrics for the screen then for his record. It's the school anthem and he sings it with a chorus of nuns to back him. Those nuns do sing well and in key. I wonder if it was the inspiration for Sister Act.
Crosby also has two of his patented philosophical numbers, Aren't You Glad You're You and In The Land Of Beginning Again. And in keeping with the nature of the film, he sings Adeste Fideles and O Sanctissima.
Among the supporting cast I would single out Joan Carroll as the girl boarding with the convent housekeeper and Martha Sleeper as her mother. Sleeper had both looks and talent, she should have had a bigger career.
The Bells of St. Mary's is what we would deem fine family entertainment. It's also how the Catholic Church likes to see itself. It's a milestone movie for the careers of its stars. But what a cost.
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