Going My Way
- Leo McCarey
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Friday, January 30, 2009
Many of the characters represent these varied points of view I guess, and that’s probably the reason; no one is exempt from the effect of a good heartwarming and that has very little to do with particular beliefs or religions. Set in a church and starring a priest, this is a story about human nature at its best.
The protagonist is Father Chuck O’Malley, memorably played by Bing Crosby in his most famous role. O’Malley is a good-doer if there ever was one, a talented, good-looking man who gave up his artistic ambitions for the sake of his spiritual journey. Now quite the respected churchman, he’s assigned the job of taking over the New York St. Dominic’s church, whose current pastor, old Father Fitzgibbon, can’t control the mortgage and other troubles of the community, including youth delinquency.
Most of the plot revolves around Fitzgibbon’s realization that he’s not quite what he used to be and that he must let someone else take charge. Barry Fitzgerald is unforgettable as the old priest.
There’s much more going on in the story though, including the way O’Malley takes care of the gang of young derelicts by showing them a new path of redemption through music, forming a chorus. This being, after all, a Crosby vehicle (one way or the other, meaning that it was probably not constituted as such but became one), music forms an integral part of the story, and it’s through it that we’re mostly touched.
Just to delve into it, let’s reminisce some of the musical numbers that are used as plot devices: when the boys sing a playful song and Father Fitzgibbon hears it and figures Father O’Malley isn’t taking things seriously, he decides to take some extreme measures; when O’Malley finds out that the aspiring singer runaway that he coached (Jean Heather) is causing the landlord’s son, who’s in love with her, to be unfair with other people in the building, he sings the title song and changes the young couple’s hearts; and when he fails to take this song to another level by selling it to record executives, the kids propose that they sing “Swinging on a Star”, the fun tune nicknmaed “The Mule” which unexpectedly and brilliantly turns out to be the definitive song of the movie, the one that moves mountains.
With music by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Johnny Burke, the songs are outstanding.
The film moves fast and is never as boring as church, but in fact, a perfect representation of what’s good about religion, when it focuses on enlightening people’s lives. It’s a bombastic, entertaining piece by one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood history, and one of the few who would dare make a film like this, and turn it into one of the greatest box office successes: Leo McCarey.
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