8 December 2006 | robmeister
A Ray of Sunshine for a World In Pain
If you are looking for something thoughtful, dramatic, or even controversial, go somewhere else. But if it's a light-hearted comedy you're after, then pull up a chair and check out "Going My Way".
Bing Crosby stars as Father Charles "Chuck" O'Malley, a newly-ordained priest assigned to take over St. Dominic's, a New York City church with a mortgage currently run by veteran priest Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). Both Crosby and Fitzgerald give good performances in this movie, as attested by the fact they each won an Oscar (and Barry Fitzgerald was nominated TWICE, for Actor and Supporting Actor, a move that necessitated a rule change at the Academy). If you ask me, between the two of them, I would go with Barry Fitzgerald. His portrayal of the crusty, yet kind-hearted Father Fitzgibbon was a role he was born to do, and it shows.
This movie also features the talents of soprano Risë Stevens, who plays Jenny Linden, an old friend of Father O'Malley's, in town performing at the Metropolitan Opera House as Carmen. Though her acting is somewhat wooden (it was only her second role), she shines all three times she sings. Which leads me to the title of the movie itself.
"Going My Way" is not a story about the Catholic Church, nor is it about old friends reuniting, or even about two young lovers (James Brown and Jean Heather). It's about a song. That's right. A song, written by Father O'Malley, and upon which its success determines the very future of St. Dominic's. Like I said, this is light comedy; nothing too serious is happening here.
At the time of this movie's release in 1944, World War II was at its crescendo. The newsreels and the papers were full of reports of the war. Some war veterans had made their way back home after getting wounded in battle. Major offenses like Operation: Overlord (D-Day) had succeeded, but at tremendous cost. At a time when the world was at its grimmest, this was the perfect escape. The only reference to the war in the entire movie occurs when landlord Ted Haines Sr. (Gene Lockhart) discovers his son, Ted Jr. (Brown) quit his job and eloped with a young singer named Carol James (Heather). Just when he thinks his son has lost all sense of reality, he turns around and sees Ted Jr. in an Army Air Corps uniform. Only then, Ted Sr. realizes his son hasn't gone mad; he is off to join the war.
If you are a fan of the "Road" movies Bing Crosby did with Bob Hope, you most likely remember the occasional aside in which either Bing boasts about his Oscar, or Bob grumbles about it. Well, this is the film that gave Bing his Oscar. And he was nominated again the next year for playing the same character in the the sequel "The Bells of St. Mary's". Obviously, he must've been doing something right! "Going My Way" was a little ray of sunshine cast upon a pained world and, even now, it will still put a smile on your face.