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Going My Way

Posted by martinteller on October 13, 2012

Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald) is struggling to keep St. Dominic from being foreclosed upon by the mortgage holder (Gene Lockhart) and his son (James Brown, and no, not that James Brown).  The bishop sends in the spunky young Father “Chuck” O’Malley (Bing Crosby) to try to get the church back on its feet and generally just make everyone’s lives hunky-dory.

What follows are random thoughts, not feeling up to the task of trying to organize them.

I’ve seen the sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s, without knowing it was a sequel.  I disliked that movie for its overly wholesome and saccharine tones.  This one isn’t nearly as cloying in that regard, although it’s still pretty gosh-darned wholesome.  O’Malley is an all-around swell dude who always does and says the right thing.  Crosby is charming, but only in the blandest way.  A group of hooligans (who *gasp* steal turkeys… what is the world coming to?) gets transformed into a boy’s choir.  A young woman (Jean Heather) is caught in a potentially scandalous arrangement with Brown, but… wouldn’t you know it, they’d already gotten married.  Whew, sin averted!

Crosby gets numerous opportunities to sing, which he’s lovely at.  The first rehearsal scene with the choir (try making a movie nowadays about a Catholic priest taking a bunch of young boys under his wing) is one of the best, a sweet rendition of “Silent Night”.  But the title tune is a stinker.  “This road leads to Rainbowville”?  Are you kidding me?  This road leads to Cornville.

Famous opera singer Risë Stevens does a very nice “Carmen”.

Why exactly doesn’t Mortgage Jr. tell Mortgage Sr. about his wedding?  “It was in all the papers”?  He doesn’t seem to have an especially acrimonious relationship with his dad.  Was he afraid of disapproval?  He doesn’t seem to care after the fact.  I don’t get it.

I could get offended that the one person openly identified as an atheist is depicted as Awful Grumpy Man.  But the most pious character (Mrs. Quimp) is depicted as a snooty busybody, so I guess I’ll let it slide.

What mostly saves the film is Fitzgerald, the most interesting character and the most enjoyable performance.  Two of the best scenes — returning to the church and the finale — revolve around him.  His balance of sweetness and grumpiness strikes a deeper chord than Crosby’s do-goodery.

Figures that the Academy would pick this over both Double Indemnity and Gaslight.  Sigh.

I guess the best way to sum it up is I didn’t hate it, and I fully expected to.  It’s too long and too bland, but it does have some nice little moments.  Sentimental and hokey, sure, but not to the obnoxious degree of its follow-up film.  Still, I can tolerate wholesome, but I’ve got to be charmed by it.  This movie’s charms are too few and far between.  Rating: Fair (64)


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