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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>
Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) buys a training manual entitled "The Art of Boxing" by Gene Tunney. In reality, Tunney, a legendary prizefighter, never wrote such a book, although he did write two autobiographies. See more »
When O'Malley breaks up the fight in the school yard, Eddie's opponent introduces himself as Charley Smith. When O'Malley and Sister discuss what's to be done, Sister says you should talk to Tommy. Later he's referred to as Charley again and then back to Tommy. See more »
A special day and a challenge appears at St Mary's convent...a young and inexperienced Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) comes to its convent school. He does not know much about how to deal with school administration, how to put up with the nuns, how to take the biblical advice "Be sober and watch!" Nevertheless, little humor he has in advance, gifted honesty, imagination, and heart are able to make the bell ring out the joy of finding the sixth sense in both pupils and tutors, the sense so gloomily rooted in Hamlet's soliloquy - TO BE. In this movie, however, TO BE reveals a different incarnation, a very optimistic face...
This sixth sense, Father O'Malley memorably reveals to one of his pupils, is brought out not only by the leading characters, portrayed by wonderful Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby but also by vibrant, unforgettable supporting characters like Patsy's parents who reconcile after 13 years and once greedy and reluctant Mr Bogardus. Thanks to their optimistic, humane, subtle contributions to the movie, we can still be touched to tears and realize that, after all these years, we're watching a significant production that has really stood a test of time.
Apart from many reviews and viewpoints on this movie, the major point of praise is with its genuine depiction of life and the 'simplicity' of its complexities. Drama blending with comedy, intense struggle blending with ease, sorrow with laughter. Mr Bogardus (Henry Travers), perhaps, best embodies that idea. His life, with humorous and spiritual undertones, is transformed. He undergoes a unique change of heart, both humorous and serious, but a far more down-to-earth than splendid miracles and loud proclamations. The change is something that he shows in...deeds. The three key concepts of generosity, benevolence and dust leave us amused and positively loaded while watching the nice old fellow with a mind filled with quite concrete realizations of good deeds. Note the sweet dog he saves on the road which follows him. The actor's performance is worth noting.
Keeping in mind constant humor inserted to many scenes helps view the movie quite distanced from its convent setting and its conventional atmosphere. Spirituality is never too tense nor unbearable for a contemporary viewer but subtly contributes to the plots. That is partly achieved by its school context - we rather see priests and nuns teaching than praying. This 'education context' ranges from class humor, pupils' dramatic efforts to boys' fights which are the inevitable part of school life (never totally rejected nor severely punished by the most holy nuns). Meanwhile, music positively aids the mood of the movie, including such classical pieces as a glorious hymn of praise to Virgin Mary "O Sanctissima," (also known as "Mariners Hymn"); a lovely song sung by Bing Crosby "In the Land of Beginning Again," which beautifully goes with a plot; the charming song derived from the title "The Bells of St Mary's," the famous carol "O Come All Ye Faithful" sung in Latin ("Adeste Fideles") and the lovely Swedish folk song about the coming of the spring "Varvindar Friska" sung by Ingrid Bergman. This was the most memorable song from this movie for me. It sounds joyful, thrilling and mysterious.
Since the movie is deeply rooted in its Hollywood tradition and the specific period of star vehicles, the two greatest achievements are most visible through Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby. What a pairing!
INGRID BERGMAN, the Swedish star in Hollywood apart from Garbo (and unlike Garbo...not alone), is a 'grown up tomboy nun,' combines holiness with earthliness being equally captivating at praying earnestly to God with teary eyes and training a young boy Eddie in the art of skillful boxing. Her most unforgettable moments, however, include the terrific scenes with Mr Bogardus. The touch of these scenes is something you cannot describe but you must see.
BING CROSBY supplies the movie with an excellent picture of priest's model - a person of intellect but above all, a person of heart. He is ready to LISTEN to people around (not PREACH through monologue), to help the separated couples reconcile, to talk to the heart of young Patsy, to sing out his concept of living the life of love. A charming performance!
Sister Benedict and Father O'Malley, when we consider their characters as a sort of 'couple', differ in their attitudes about how to treat pupils, ideas of how to run the school, differ in their tempers, too - that is the contrast of 'fight your way through' vs 'think your way through' at certain moments. The leading female and the leading male ... Yet, with unique 'chemistry' they wonderfully complement each other. The typical old Hollywood farewell scene at the finale proves that assumption about leading couple most effectively.
THE BELLS OF ST MARY'S does not only bring sweet memories of Hollywood's heyday but still, through its unique depiction of the story, proudly inspires this sixth sense. Glad to BE aware of why you are here, BE able to lose nothing of yourself but find inspiration that sustains humanity in joyful existence. A wonderful example of a great old classic at which your heart wears a smile...
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