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
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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