"Going My Way" Is Released
Going My Way, a 1944 film directed by Leo McCarey.
It is a light-hearted musical comedy/drama about a new young priest (Bing Crosby) taking over a parish from an established old veteran (Barry Fitzgerald). Crosby sings five songs in the film. It was followed the next year by a sequel, The Bells of St. Mary's. This picture was the highest-grossing picture of 1944. Its success helped to make movie exhibitors choose Crosby as the biggest box-office draw of the year, a record he would hold for the remainder of the 1940s.
It took some doing to persuade the staunchly Catholic Bing Crosby to play a happy-go-lucky priest in Going My Way; luckily he acquiesced, winning an Academy Award in the process. Crosby is cast as Father Chuck O'Malley, newly arrived at rundown, heavily in debt St. Dominic's Church. Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), the cranky, set-in-his-ways curate of St. Dominic's, is none too pleased with O'Malley's breezy, "modernistic" methods. Fitzgibbon is content to adhere to the policies he has followed for nearly 45 years. Without overtly challenging Fitzgibbon's authority (he likes the old buzzard, and the feeling is mutual), O'Malley sets about to win the confidence of the local street toughs, organizing the boys into an angelic church choir. He also forestalls the plans of St. Dominic's mortgage holder Ted Haines (Gene Lockhart) to evict Fitzgibbons by arranging a fundraising choir tour, to be headlined by O'Malley's childhood friend, opera star Genevieve Linden (Rise Stevens). When he's not coming to the rescue of St. Dominic's, O'Malley is smoothing the path of romance for Haines' son (James Brown) and orphaned Carol James (Jean Heather), and arranging for a reunion between Fitzgibbons and his nonagenarian Irish mother. There is sentiment by the bucketful in Going My Way, but director Leo McCarey sagaciously tempers the treacle with moments of genuine hilarity and several delightful (and seemingly spontaneous) musical interludes. In addition to Crosby, Oscars went to Barry Fitzgerald, Leo McCarey, screenwriters Frank Butler and Frank Cavett, and Burke and Van Heusen's song hit "Swingin' On a Star." Bing Crosby repeated his father O'Malley characterization in McCarey's 1945 sequel The Bells of St. Mary's. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide