Going My Way (1944)

“This young man and I differ; we don’t see eye to eye.”

Going My Way Poster

Synopsis:
A progressive young priest (Bing Crosby) is sent to assist an ailing parish run by elderly Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is quite a fan of this genial box-office hit (directed by Leo McCarey), which he refers to as “a wonderful, warmhearted film”. While he acknowledges that “some of the scenes are a bit forced or corny” (and, in his Alternate Oscars book, concedes that it’s “flawed, with subplots better suited for the reject basket than the screen”), he cites a number of “delightful” scenes, including many between Fitzgerald — “who tends to play the martyr” — and Crosby (who Peary describes in Alternate Oscars as “genial, wise, humble, unpretentious, [and] quietly authoritative”). He seems impressed by the film’s attempt “to show that priests are human too”, and argues that the “finale in which Fitzgerald is reunited with his old, old mother after about forty years ranks with [the] greatest of tear-jerking reunion scenes”.

These days, opinions are decidedly mixed on whether Going My Way has stood the test of time. Crosby (the “No. 1 box-office draw” of the time) is certainly charismatic, and sings as nicely as ever, but the meandering storyline — in which “Crosby helps out a young woman (Carol James) who has left home and wants to be a singer, turns the tough neighborhood kids (all of whom say ‘fodder’) into angelic choirboys, looks up his opera-singer friend (Rise Stevens) …, gets money for the church by selling one of his songs, and wins over Fitzgerald” — lacks focus, and feels patently crafted to allow either Crosby and/or Stevens (who’s charming but smiles too much) “natural” opportunities to sing. With that said, if you’re in the mood for a feel-good film with some fine ditties sprinkled throughout (my favorite is Crosby leading the boys in “Swinging on a Star”), then this is certainly worthy viewing.

P.S. Despite his claim that Going My Way was a “deserved Best Picture winner”, Peary actually gives the award to Double Indemnity in Alternate Oscars, noting that …Indemnity was “more deserving… if only because it has been much more influential.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Barry Fitzgerald as Father Fitzgibbon
    Going My Way Fitzgerald
  • Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley
    Going My Way Crosby
  • Several enjoyable musical sequences
    Going My Way Music

Must See?
Yes, for its historical importance as a multiple Oscar winner.

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One Response to “Going My Way (1944)”

  1. Oscar wins (very much) aside, this meandering bore is not a must.

    I won’t even elaborate on the sluggish tone of the piece – except that it’s maddening right from the start.

    None of the characters are particularly interesting. A number of them are irritating for one reason or another.

    I’m tempted to return to the tone and elaborate. Molasses in January. In the first scene, gentlemen from a savings and loan company are talking with Fitzgerald. The church is in danger of foreclosure because a loan cannot be repaid. Five minutes in, I was on the side of the savings and loan guys. This film basically arrives DOA.

    I often post here on films I’ve only seen once – years ago. Sometimes I don’t mind all that much revisiting films I don’t particularly like. Many times I can at least make it through the entire revisit.

    Not this time. Not easily, I made it about 40 minutes in – around the time that Crosby rallies the young boys of the town to become the church choir. One of the boys begins slapping another one – repeatedly in the face – to make sure he joins the group. Then Crosby starts choir practice off with ‘Three Blind Mice’…and I was DONE!

    Cripes – a genuine soporific.

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