17. Going My Way (1945)

Title: Going My Way

Release Date: 3 May, 1944

Oscar Ceremony: 15 March, 1945

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: Bing Crosby & Barry Fitzgerald

I’m going to describe this movie in two words: warm and nice. It’s definitely one of the most enjoyable movies amongst the past 16, but I don’t know if it’s the most worthy. Judging movies is a tricky thing… sometimes it feels like you’re comparing apples and oranges. Actually, it often feels like you’re comparing apples and… desks. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t feel right.

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Going My Way tells the story of Father Chuck O’Malley (Bing Crosby), a young unconventional priest sent to New York in a sort of Mary Poppins way to revive and save St. Dominic’s Church, run by the elderly parish priest, Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). From the start, O’Malley does not make a good impression on Father Fitzgibbon: he shows up to their first meeting in a track suit because his priest clothes got soaked while he was trying to get a kid’s ball from under a truck. Both priests continue to clash as O’Malley deals with issues in ways that are atypical of a priest. He tries helping a group of misguided troublemaker kids by bringing them to baseball games and making them sing, he gives money to an 18-year-old girl who ran away from home for no valid reason, and promises to sort out a woman’s eviction situation when he very well knows that the church is near broke. However, slowly but surely, Father O’Malley and Father Fitzgibbon bond and become an unlikely, yet ideal pair.

The movie beautifully manages to encompass the genres of drama, comedy and music (how can you not ground a movie in music when you have Bing Crosby in it?), but there are a few lulls along the way. It goes off on a lot of tangents and spends some time overdeveloping certain segments at the expense of others. Also, just when you think the movie is about to close, they cram in a new major plot point AND another twist in the last 10 minutes. It’s pretty crazy. The truth is, none of these things are really bothersome if you get into it, but they still need to be acknowledged.

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There are a lot of really cute moments in the film, such as when Father O’Malley teaches a group of boys to harmonize. I remember the first time I heard my voice in harmony with other singers and I was in awe. When it comes to these boys, music really does soothe the savage beast. Another highlight is when Father Fitzgibbon tries to run away from St. Dominic’s, and after he is found safe and sound, Father O’Malley tucks him into bed and sings him to sleep with an Irish lullaby. I’m telling you, if they featured this scene in a commercial for a lullaby vinyl, it would have sold millions of copies. It must be nice to be Bing Crosby’s child.

It’s funny because the other Best Picture winner about priests that came to my mind is the current title holder, Spotlight. For those of you who don’t know, Spotlight is about a group of Boston journalists who attempt to uncover the massive child molestation scandal within the Catholic Church in America. Make Spotlight the unofficial sequel to Going My Way and boy do you get a different interpretation of the film. I’m kidding, let’s not ruin it. I want to believe there is good in the world and in the Catholic Church, so I will choose to believe that Father O’Malley was indeed the purely good man he was pictured to be. Really, go watch the movie. It’s cute.

Let’s end this commentary with some interesting Oscar facts. This was the first year to feature 5 Best Picture nominees as opposed to 10, and it remained this way until 2009. I personally appreciate the smaller number, as it makes it more notable. Nowadays, it feels like some of the 10 movies are just there for decoration, since we know they get overlooked either way. 1945 was also the last year in which an actor was nominated for both Best Actor AND Best Supporting actor for the same role, IN THE SAME FILM. That’s right, Barry Fitzgerald was nominated in both categories. I’m not quite sure how that works, but you’ll be pleased to know that he won Best Supporting Actor, and lost Best Actor to none other than his co-star Bing Crosby. On a sadder note, because of metal shortages during WW2, Fitzgerald’ Oscar statuette was made out of plaster and a few weeks after he won it, he managed to break its head while practicing his golf swing. The picture on the left shows Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby with their freshly won awards, while the picture on the right shows Fitzgerald looking at his broken statue:

Well, there you have it. Don’t practice your golf swings when your Oscar is around.

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