GOING MY WAY

(1944)
With Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Rise Stevens, Frank McHugh, Gene Lockhart, William Frawley, James Brown, Jean Heather, Fortunio Bonanova, Stanley Clements, Carl Switzer
Directed by Leo McCarey
Reviewed by JB

"Nope, sorry Bob... you're not in this one!"     I love this film so much, I'm surprised it hasn't been subjected yet to an insulting, feeble-minded remake starring Ben Stiller or somebody less talented.  Then again, a film about a kindly Catholic priest who goes around town gently helping people straighten out their lives?  I'm pretty sure this film is safe from the Hollywood remake brigade.  Not exactly a Christmas movie beyond Bing Crosby singing "Silent Night", the amiable, episodic GOING MY WAY is nevertheless the one movie I am most likely to schedule for Christmas Eve. 

      Crosby plays Father O'Malley, a young priest who is transferred to a struggling inner-city parish presided over by the aging and crotchety Father Fitzgibbon.  Along the way, he works minor miracles around town, such as reshaping the local gang of teen hoods into a choir and guiding a young wannabe-singer onto the path of the nice and the good.  It sounds corny, and it is, but it is the kind of stuff Bing Crosby and Leo McCarey were born to do, and they did it better than anybody else.  The biggest miracle of all is reserved for the end of the film in a scene that, unless you are a complete Scrooge, will have you wiping tears from your eyes.

     With Frank McHugh, Gene Lockhart, William Frawley, Fortunio Bonanova, Stanley Clements and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer all in the cast, GOING MY WAY is paradise for film fans who love character actors.  But the top honors go to Barry Fitzgerald, whose hilarious and touching portrayal of the set-in-his-ways Father Fitzgibbon won him a well-deserved supporting actor award.  The music is high quality also.  Although the title song is disappointing, there's always "Silent Night", "Tura Lura Lural", "Swinging on a Star" and the underrated "The Day After Forever", all arising naturally out of the story rather than being shoehorned into the film haphazardly.

     Funny, warm and definitely the kind of movie they don't make any more, GOING MY WAY was followed by the nearly-as-perfect sequel THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S, in which Bing's Father O'Malley is teamed with a nun who just happens to look like Ingrid Bergman. - JB

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