94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
Some movies are simply beyond criticism. Despite having been written off in recent years by many mainstream critics - with much repeated, off-base allegations of over-sentimentality - this is one of them. It belongs in the pantheon of truly great films. The cynicism of the world we live in today no doubt prevents countless viewers (and critics) from looking beneath the placid surface of "Going My Way", but it's definitely worth the effort.
Part of this reluctance to delve may be due to the film's pastoral (no pun intended) ambience and relaxed pace, which could have inspired the producers of the Andy Griffith Show a few years later (check out the checker game scene). It takes its time, telling its story on its own terms, and this simply doesn't sit well with the majority of modern multi-taskers who've been fed a steady diet of breakneck action orgies, sophomoric sex comedies, and formulaic, artificial romantic comedies. But if you give it a chance and let it work its charms it will eventually win you over. To borrow a line from the film, it will "grow on you." Maybe not in the first viewing, maybe not even in the first few years...but eventually.
Its charms worked instantly on audiences in need of hope, inspiration, and a chuckle or two during the Second World War, making it a huge box office hit in 1944. It even won over critics of the day: James Agee stated that "Going My Way" "points the way to the great films which will be possible when Hollywood becomes aware of the richness and delight of human character for its own sake." It earned seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a Best Actor Oscar for Bing Crosby (as Father Chuck O'Malley), who was starting his run as the #1 box office star for a record five consecutive years.
Not quite a comedy, not quite a drama, this slice-of-life piece gently sets an example of all generations helping one another, ultimately working together as one extended family. While only a couple of scenes take place at Christmastime, the whole film is basically an enactment of how one person can make a difference by helping his neighbor - one of the reasons for the first Christmas. That helpful, caring attitude is infectious to the point that disparate members of an urban neighborhood eventually come together as a community. The twist is in Father O'Malley's appealingly relaxed methods, which appear unorthodox to the staid, older, by-the-book (small "b") Father Fitzgibbon, providing the conflict of the main plotline.
Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald, Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner) has been the pastor of St. Dominic's Parish for forty-five years, and as the neighborhood around him has changed, his old school ways have become less effective. Gangs of unsupervised boys roam the streets getting into trouble (a real-life consequence of fathers fighting overseas and mothers working in war production plants during WWII), and the church is deeply in debt and about to be foreclosed on. The financial state of the church reflects the spiritually bankrupt community around it, and the physical structure itself will ultimately undergo a literal baptism by fire in order to be born again. In the meantime, young Father O'Malley is sent by the bishop to put things right, basically being assigned to take over for Fitzgibbon without letting the old man know it.
After assuming he's no longer needed, and having left in despair (only to be summarily returned by the local beat cop), the contrite Fitzgibbon eventually comes to understand and embrace O'Malley and his methods, and puts complete faith in the younger man. It all comes together in a delightfully subdued, justly celebrated scene in which the two men bond over a "wee drop of the creature", as Bing endearingly intones a couple of choruses of "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral" while sitting at the convalescing Fitzgibbon's bedside (!). When they came up with the term "screen chemistry" they must have had this scene in mind.
Sooner or later, nearly everyone in the film gives of themselves: young Ted Haines, the son of the banker who's foreclosing on the church, leaves his father's line of work to volunteer for military service; an opera star (Rise Stevens) auditions a Father O'Malley-penned song for a music publisher, the royalties of which it is hoped will raise badly needed funds for St. Dominic's; the members of a street gang provide their (previously unrealized) singing talents for the (also previously unrealized) church choir; even the greedy banker (Gene Lockhart) forgives the church its mortgage. All the giving is sparked by the efforts and example of O'Malley, whose ultimate gift is saved for a no-dry-eye-in-the-house ending, just before he leaves for another parish he's been called on to save.
Sentimental? Certainly. But every iota of moisture in every teardrop is earned, and one doesn't feel foolish blubbering like a fool.
That's partly due to the effortlessly smooth, confident persona Crosby projects in an immaculate performance, which is the perfect counterweight to the story's inherent sentiment. Bing's acting has often been dismissed as that of someone merely playing himself (perpetuated by the self-effacing Crosby), and his Oscar win has been attributed to the fact that much of the crop of `40s actors was away in the service (which was also maintained by Bing). But just watch him - he carries the movie, despite sharing scenes with a couple of the best scene-stealers in the business, Frank McHugh and especially Abbey Theatre alum Fitzgerald. Crosby's acting style appears modern in an era of now-antiquated theatrics. We look across the years at him and he seems familiar, contemporary.
He handles the role of a priest convincingly - a daunting task for the best of actors in any era - and almost casually, without the slightest hint of stiffness or self-consciousness. There is no trace of the sanctimoniuosness that frequently crept into Spencer Tracy's performances in the "Boys Town" films, and Pat O'Brien's in "Angels With Dirty Faces." Crosby's priest comes across as likeable guy, yet one who's just tough enough to deal with whatever situation is at hand - without having to use his fists. Perhaps the greatest tribute to his achievement is that young men in the 1940s and `50s actually joined the priesthood because of their having been inspired by the Father O'Malley of "Going My Way" and its sequel, "The Bells of St. Mary's".
"Going My Way's" Oscar winning writer-director Leo McCarey probably summed up his film best when he stated his storytelling philosophy: "I love when people laugh. I love when they cry, I like a story to say something, and I hope the audience feels happier leaving the theatre than when it came in." From where I'm sitting, "Going My Way" succeeds on all counts. If it doesn't for you, give it a chance. It just may grow on you.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2001
In "Going My Way," director Leo McCarey taps into one of the basic tenets of human nature, that being the fact that even the most selfless individual has wants and needs that often go unrecognized or unexpressed. It's a matter of understanding the human condition, being sensitive to what drives our fellow man and responding to it. A young woman of eighteen leaves home because of a conflict with her parents, yet has nowhere to go; a man with a touch of "Scrooge" in him, who runs a Savings & Loan has trouble setting his priorities; a gang of street-wise kids need some direction; an elderly priest after forty-five years has allowed his parish to slip into financial straits. All circumstances that are affecting in their innate humanity, and it's into this that McCarey taps directly with his story, and it's the reason for the success of his film. Simply put, it has heart-- and it makes it timeless.
Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald) has been at St. Dominic's in New York since it was built, but the financially strapped parish is in arrears on the mortgage payment, and Mr. Ted Haines Sr. (Gene Lockhart), of the S&L that holds the note, would like nothing better than to be able to foreclose on the church, because then he could raze the building and turn it into a parking lot. Meanwhile, the Bishop has sent a young priest, Father Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby) to St. Dominic's to look into the situation, and very quickly the good Father finds that he has his hands more than full.
Sent to take charge without "taking charge," in deference to Father Fitzgibbon's tenure, Father O'Malley has his work cut out just trying to save the church; but that's not all he has to contend with. Found alone on the street by a local policeman, a girl named Carol James (Jean Heather) is brought to St. Dominic's, and Father O'Malley realizes that without some help, she's headed for nothing but trouble. He also encounters a lad named Tony Scaponi (Stanley Clements), the leader of the gang that has been terrorizing the neighborhood, and turning that situation around becomes a priority on Father O'Malley's "to-do" list. Then there is Mr. Haines Sr. to deal with. But most especially in need of all (though he doesn't realize it himself) is Father Fitzgibbon, and this, too, Father O'Malley recognizes. Now it's just a matter of addressing all of these needs at once; and as Father O'Malley finds out, it's no easy task.
There's something of the Angel, Dudley (played by Cary Grant in "The Bishop's Wife"), in Father O'Malley, as he is not only sensitive to the needs of those he encounters, but knows how to resolve their conflicts in a way that suits the best interests of all concerned. His solutions may be those of a perfect, pie-in-the-sky world and not necessarily a reflection of reality, but it works because it captures the spirit of what this movie is all about: caring and lending a helping hand to those who need it. The solutions may be unrealistic and overly simplified, but the feelings and emotions of the characters are very real, and McCarey's ability to capture that essence of humanity is what earned this film the Oscar for Best Movie of 1944 (McCarey received Oscars, as well, for Best Director and Original Story).
As Father O'Malley, Bing Crosby gives one of his best performances, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. But as good as he is in this part, the award is something of a surprise; the Father O'Malley Crosby presents has the patience of a Saint and insight to match, and his mild mannered approach to the character makes his portrayal the kind that are usually overlooked and under-appreciated because of the apparent facility of the delivery. And Crosby does make it look easy-- which also makes it very real, striking a chord as perfect as the solutions to the problems he solves along the way. It's interesting to note that when Crosby recreated the role a year later in "The Bells of St. Mary's," though he slipped back into the character readily enough, it didn't seem to have that same depth or impact as in this one, but more of a "been there, done that" feel. Then again, this story and the characters with which he is surrounded here are much richer and have much more definition than those of the sequel, and this film is much more emotionally involving.
Barry Fitzgerald received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Father Fitzgibbon, and well deserved it was. Father O'Malley may be the anchor of this film, but Father Fitzgibbon is it's soul. And the final scene-- unexpected and extremely moving-- leaves no doubt about it. That scene, in fact, so powerful in it's simplicity, veritably sums up the sentiment of the entire movie. It's a triumph for Fitzgerald, as well as McCarey, but the one who really comes out the winner is the viewer.
The supporting cast includes Frank McHugh (Father Timothy), William Frawley (Max), James Brown (Ted Haines, Jr.), Rise Stevens (Genevieve Linden), Eily Malyon (Mrs. Carmody), Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer (Herman) and Adeline De Walt Reynolds (Mrs. Molly Fitzgibbon). A heart-felt and uplifting discourse on the brighter side of the human condition, "Going My Way" reflects the good there is to be found in humanity if we but take the time to seek it out. An entertaining, feel-good film, this is what the magic of the movies is all about.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2002
This is a must see film It's uplifting good, and fun to watch. All of the songs Bing Crosby sings are lovley. Rese Stevens rendition of Ave Maria, is very beautiful. Bing is great as a priest and plays the role so convincingly. If you buy this movie you wont be sorry. You will be in for a real treat. They don't make films like this anymore. It's a classic!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2006
Going My Way deservedly won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Original Story. It is such a warm story written and directed by Leo McCarey (who also wrote Love Affair, Bells of St. Mary's and An Affair to Remember as well as directed the latter two).
The movie's warmth owed much to the wonderful performance of Barry Fitzgerald (Best Actor in a Supporting Role), as the lovable and respectable elderly Father Fitzgibbon, despite his old school of strict rules and hardships expected of a clergyman. And Bing Crosby(Best Actor), as Father O'Malley, came to rescue the old church with utmost regard of Father Fitzgibbon's delicate feeling. Bing Crosby's portrayal of a sensible, upright Father who enjoyed a close relationship with the younger generation was most impressive. The joyful and buoyant Father O'Dowd (Frank McHugh) provided the optimistic mood often needed to uplift the morale of the other two Fathers. The personal sacrifice made by Fitzgibbon, his longing to see his mother far away, the subplots of a radiant contralto of Metropolitan Opera Association (Rise Stevens) with a gold heart, the father and son money lenders, a naïve run away 18-year old (Jean Heather) all make a wonderful story.
In addition, there is much good music performed by Bing Crosby (Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra, Silent Night, Swinging on a star - Best Original Music) and Rise Stevens (Ave Maria, Habanera of Carmen)with the Robert Mitchell Boychoir. There is just a right balance between the good Christmas spirit and delightful Christmas music. It leaves you adoring the kindness and integrity of these good characters while humming the beautful tones. A true Christams Gem not to be missed.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2004
Paramount Pictures. Bing Crosby plays "Father O'Malley who has been sent to the Church of Saint Dominic to assist with the older priest Father Fitzgibbon (dearly played by 5 foot 3, born in Ireland, actor Barry Fitzgerald) who has been there for 45 years. Young Father O'Malley is in charge of straightening out Saint Dominic since it is in the worse way without hurting the feelings of the old priest. However, with the Bishop's understanding, Father Fitzgibbon is to stay there as the Pastor. Father Timothy O'Dowd (Frank McHugh) of the nearby Saint Frances, drops by to offer support to his St. Louis childhood friend. O'Malley is able to take care of the church mortgage, get the boys interested in baseball and begin a boys chior with Carl Switzer ("Alfalfa" of Little Rascals/Our Gang) and O'Malley plays golf too. Won Academy Award for Best Picture, Both Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald won their own Academy Award and the new song "Swinging On A Star" also was a winner. "Silent Night" and "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo" are also sung. William Frawley has a good role (nearly eight years before he did the "I Love Lucy" tv series). April 27, 2004 marks the 60th Anniversary of this fine film. Followed the next year by the sequel: THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S (1945).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2006
If you were raised Catholic in the 20th century, you know that among the clergy, you had your staid, old-school, well, OLD-COUNTRY types, who struck bemusement--if not out and out fear--in the hearts of children and adults in the parish. Then you had your spirited, fun-loving priests (and nuns), who weren't above playing a few innings of baseball or running a sack race.
GOING MY WAY touches, very lightly, upon the clash of those two strains among the clergy of the era. As it turns out, the more traditional Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald) is more irascible than truly terrifying. And young Father O'Malley can be as all business behind the charm and easy going manner. He just knows that you win more flies with honey than vinegar. And he knows how to get things done. He also knows that he can loosen up the older priest with a few rounds of golf and some fresh air.
The plot amounts to little more than "Let's put on a show to save the parish church." Almost absurdly, a famous opera star (played by famous opera star Rise Stevens) shows up to help out, and high power music publishers rush to buy the young priest's "original" composition "Swinging On a Star" after hearing Bing and his choir of former street kids sing it as a lark. It's hokum, of course, but it's almost guaranteed to make viewers nostalgic for a more innocent era--even if it's one before their own time.
Film historians and popular culture scholars would likely have a field day analyzing this film as a product of the WWII era. God and country themes are never too far from the surface, as one might expect. And these are certainly ideals that one would not expect to be challenged in any American film of the era. But the film is a bit more complex that its current day critics might suggest. In its portrait of Father O'Malley as the (relatively) hip, progressive young priest, writer/director Leo McCarey reminds us that social change is always inevitable--even for those who strongly believe that spiritual truths remain eternal.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 1999
This film is one of the greatest sentimental dramas of all time (second only to "It's A Wonderful Life"). It was a tremendous success on its origianl release, and rightly so. Bing Crosby's performance (and everyone else's, for that matter) is stupendous, and the direction is brilliant. I also, as a Roman Catholic, love how this film is one of the few Hollywood movies to give the Church an even break. I have high company in this regard, for this film was a favorite of Pope Pius XII.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
At the height of his wartime fame, Bing Crosby plays a hip young Catholic priest who arrives to help a troubled parish struggle back to its feet. Of course, what passed for young and hip back then, in this lily white, family-friendly comedy-drama may seem pretty silly these days -- Bing is convincing, though, as he use his suave social skills to listen to and help out those in need. Veteran scene-stealer Barry Fitzgerald plays the doddering, crusty old Irish priest who runs the church before Crosby's arrival... The rest of the supporting cast isn't as strong, but the film still has its charms. Mostly it's just a great chance to observe Crosby at his most magnetic and self-assured. The film also previewed hits like "Swinging On A Star" and Bing's version of "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra," both of which are longtime favorites.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2007
I LOVE to see this movie at the Holidays. I had it, this year,
for Thanksgiving Weekend, and it put me in the Christmas Spirit.
I ALWAYS cry at the end, and that, to me is the sign of an authentic
story. It never gets old, just better.
Times were simpler and we could all use a little bit of that.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2000
Bing won the Academy award for his portrayal of the easy-going Father Chuck O'Malley, and Barry Fitzgerald's performance deseredly won him the best supporting actor Oscar. Their interplay in this movie is touching and well-acted. Perhaps the best scene in the entire movie is when Bing tucks Barry into bed and softly croons "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral" to him. What a voice Bing had!
The one drawback is the long operatic scene with Rise Stevens, this interrupted the flow the movie, but you can always resort to the fast forward button. Otherwise, enjoy!