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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A slightly sugar-coated impression of Catholic education, but heartwarming
I had often heard how this film was nominated for Best Picture and other important Academy Awards, so I was glad to see it on cable a few days ago. I was very pleased with it. The film builds up to quite an emotional, dramatic ending. There are some moments when Ingrid Bergman simply shines with a special radiance. Bing Crosby was excellent also, although I think he had many better songs to sing in his long career. The direction seems slow-paced at times, but in a way this measured pacing gives the audience a better chance to focus on the characters on the screen.
The story certainly touched upon some important issues of Catholic education in the 1940's and 1950's. There were always fine attempts to help children from the other side of the tracks to prosper in a private school, with assistance of various kinds. The postwar population boom, however, led to huge numbers of children being educated as cheaply as possible in crowded, old, unsafe buildings. It was not uncommon to have 70 pupils in one classroom. In this film the nuns are relentlessly polite, but in real life they had to be very strict to control large classes. The picture refers to "fire traps" and the fact that St. Mary's School was about to be condemned. How ironic this was, for just 13 years later -- on December 1, 1958 -- a fire swept through the antiquated Our Lady of the Angels elementary school in Chicago, killing 92 children and three nuns. That tragic fire led to sweeping changes in building code laws and the modernization of thousands of schools across America, both public and private.
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