Going My Way (1944) Paramount Pictures/Musical-Comedy-Drama RT: 130 minutes No MPAA Rating (nothing offensive) Director: Leo McCarey Screenplay: Frank Butler and Frank Cavett Music: Robert Emmett Dolan Cinematography: Lionel Lindon Release date: May 3, 1944 Starring: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, James Brown, Gene Lockhart, Jean Heather, Porter Hall, Fortunio Bonanova, Eily Malyon, Stanley Clements, The Robert Mitchell Boy Choir, Rise Stevens, William Frawley. Box Office: $6.5 million
Who would have ever thought that I'd like Going My Way? It's the ultimate feel good film! I'm saying this and I'm not even Catholic! It won 7 of the 10 Academy Awards for which it was nominated (including Best Picture) and it was the top money maker at the box office that year (about $6.5 million). It stars crooner Bing Crosby as Father Charles "Chuck" O'Malley, the new priest at St. Dominic's parish in New York City.
He doesn't make a very good first impression with the parishioners as he finds himself involved in a broken window situation. He shows up for his first meeting with the elder pastor Father Fitzgibbon (Fitzgerald) in a sweatshirt and casual pants. Fitzgibbon doesn't like his recreational habits (he plays golf) or his friendship with the even more casual Father O'Dowd (McHugh). What Fitzgibbon doesn't know is that O'Malley has been sent to take charge of the affairs of the parish, but the older man is to be kept unaware of this arrangement. Wonderful things start to happen once O'Malley arrives at St Dominic's. For one thing, the problem with juvenile delinquency seems to disappear overnight after Father O'Malley turns the neighborhood youths into a church choir. Something like this could only happen in a movie, and only somebody like Bing Crosby (or Whoopi Goldberg) could pull it off, but damned if it doesn't work here! A movie like Going My Way depends upon feel-good cliches like this, it doesn't matter whether they're believable or not, the only important thing here is whether or not they make you feel good.
Fitzgibbon disapproves of the way O'Malley handles certain things, like the young runaway that the local policeman brings to the church. Instead of making her return home to her family, O'Malley offers her career advice on her singing before allowing her to leave. He definitely doesn't like how he's handling the neighborhood youths, so he takes his concerns to the bishop and when he's informed of O'Malley's true role in the parish, he doesn't take the news too well and tries to run away from home. The relationship between the two priests change and things in the parish really start to improve, especially when O'Malley puts his songwriting gifts to use in order to save St. Dominic's from their financial troubles. In a way, I can see where Going My Way served as an inspiration for the Sister Act movies of the early 90s. This is the movie that features Bing Crosby and the boys choir singing "Swinging On A Star", it won the Best Song Oscar that year. You might also remember it as the song that Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello sang as they robbed the museum in the infamous 1991 bomb Hudson Hawk. But I digress, Going My Waymakes for some swell and inspirational entertainment. From start to finish, it's one of those movies that keeps a smile on the face of even the most cynical viewer. Like I said before, I'm not even Catholic, but you don't need to be because this movie appeals to all faiths, it's an all-around feel good movie!
Bing Crosby took home the Best Actor award for Going My Way and it's well deserved! It's a well known fact that he's one of the very best singers of the 20th century, but who knew that his talent also extended to the movie screen? Along with Frank Sinatra (From Here to Eternity), it appears that Crosby could never do any wrong. He restores my faith in the Catholic church, I'd have no problem trusting him around my children (if I had any). In a time when we hear so many terrible things about the inappropriate things that Catholic priests do to children, it's nice to see a movie like Going My Way that tells a story about a positive religious figure like Father O'Malley. Likewise, Barry Fitzgerald turns in a wonderful performance as the traditional minded Father Fitzgibbon. I really liked watching how the dynamics of the relationship between the two priests changed as they became friends. Fitzgibbon tells O'Malley that he hasn't seen his mother in over 45 years and that she still lives in Ireland, he'd love nothing more than to embrace her just one more time in his life. In a movie like this, you just know that this is bound to happen before THE END shows up on the screen, right? One of the best supporting performances comes from Stanley Clements as Tony Scaponi, the neighborhood tough kid who becomes the choir leader. He's a born leader, that's for sure! He's like a character right out of Our Gang, you can't help but love this guy. The music in Going My Way is top-notch material! There's no two ways about it, you'll watch this movie with a big smile on your face!