Friday, February 17, 2012

"Going My Way" with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald (1944)

I'm not in the best if shape to really read right now, what with this lump on my head, so I'll be doing movies for the next few days while I get back to normal, whatever that is. Luckily for me, the Mooreville Public Library has outdone itself this year with their acquisition of some of my favorite classic movies. This one turned up just the other day; you can tell by the marking on the cover that it was just purchased in the last few weeks. I used to watch this every Christmas when I had a larger VCR collection. When I made the switch to DVD I found it too cumbersome to change from one format another every time I was watching something, so a lot of those tapes were given away. And sometimes it's just plain fun to run across an old favorite unexpectedly, rather than have it at your disposal constantly. Somehow it loses value when it can be taken for granted. I suppose that’s true of most things.

At any rate, this one was a sheer delight to watch again. Briefly, Bing Crosby, playing Father O'Malley, comes to the aging parish of Saint Dominic's, which has been the domain of the aging Parish Priest Father Fitzgibbon, played by Barry Fitzgerald in his unique and mischievous way. Unknown to the elder Priest, Father O'Malley is there to replace him. But who would break this old man's heart with the news? His life, after all, has been spent in this one Parish, where he is known, and loved, by all.

Through a series of mishaps, Father O'Malley manages to get off to a bad start with some of the local parishioners, but manages to strike a chord with some of the neighborhood roughnecks. The Parish is in an impoverished area of the city, which makes it all the more challenging for Father O'Malley, while Father Fitzgibbon has grown a bit too "long in the tooth" to be completely effective.

The church is in debt and in threat of foreclosure if it cannot meet its financial obligations. The same bank also owns the tenements which exist in the neighborhood. At the same time in which the owner is evicting one of the tenants; an old woman with no visible means of support; the owner's son is becoming romantically involved with a young woman, Carol James, played by Jean Heather, who aspires to become a singer. He has even installed her in an apartment in the same building in which the destitute old woman lives. This sparks a scandal, which must be handled by the irrepressible Father O'Malley.

O'Malley is no stranger to love, having once been in love with opera star Genevieve Linden, played wonderfully by real life opera star Rise Stevens. Their reunion scene; and her part in helping Father O'Malley with the children; form some of the more poignant parts of the film.

While attempting to navigate this veritable mine field, O'Malley, with the help of a fellow Priest named Father O'Dowd, played by Frank McHugh, manage to help Father Fitzgibbon overcome a fire at St. Dominic's, while quietly engineering a re-union of the old man and his mother, a woman of 90 who still resides in Ireland. They also find the time to form some of the local kids into a Boys’ Choir with the help of Ms. Stevens. When Christmas Eve arrives , and the Boys’ Choir is performing, Father Fitzgibbon is re-united with his aging mother on Christmas Eve, bringing this movie to a beautiful finish, and leaving the viewer a bit misty eyed in the process.

No comments:

Post a Comment