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A black & white Christmas
by Asa Butcher
2007-12-13 10:32:14
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Going My Way
Directed by Leo McCarey
Paramount Pictures, 1944
Okay, I apologise for the rather uninspired title, but your response may thaw a little after I explain my reasoning for the choice - or, on the other hand, you may hate it even more and not make it to the second paragraph of this review, in which case: Going My Way is great. We are currently in the season for Christmas movies, many of which are classics and seem to star Bing Crosby, such as Holiday Inn (1942) and White Christmas (1954), but there is a film that has all the sentiments of a festive flick and stars Bing, yet is not a classic Christmas movie.

Yeah, the excuse was poor, but stay with me.

Going My Way was actually the Best Picture winner in 1944 - somehow beating Billy Wilder's awesome Double Indemnity - and scooped Bing Crosby the only Academy Award of his forty-year career for his role as Father Chuck O'Malley, a young Catholic priest, who has been sent to help save an ailing parish church and eventually take over from the long-serving Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), an old man not used to Father O'Malley's new methods.

In the 60 years since the film was released we have seen countless films inspired, influenced and copying the plot of the young man moving into the old man's territory, young man upsetting the old man, old man eventually respecting the young man's ideas and they all live happily ever after. Well, Going My Way offers exactly that set-up, but it benefits from having a superb Bing Crosby and an equally-superb Barry Fitzgerald opposite him, plus - dare I say it - a superb supporting cast, namely the Robert Mitchell Boy Choir.

The Robert Mitchell Boy Choir were no stranger to Hollywood sets with appearances in a number of other films, such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and they have and help set-up a number of comedic scenes with Crosby and Fitzgerald - namely the "stolen turkey" scene. Further honourable mentions must be awarded to Frank McHugh as Father Timothy O'Dowd, an old playful school friend of Father O'Malley, and Gene Lockhart as Ted Haines Sr., the banker threatening to close down the church.

Written, produced and directed by Leo McCarey, known for also directing An Affair to Remember (1957) and the Marx Brother's Duck Soup (1933), the film was actually written after its "sequel" The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, and deservedly garnered Academy Awards for Direction and Writing for McCarey.

What makes this such a great movie to watch at Christmas? Well, Bing croons a few now-classic songs, including the first-ever performance of "Swinging on a Star" which won an Oscar for Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, there are some touching sub-plots, such as the landlord's son and a runaway woman, Bing sings at the piano…twice, Barry Fitzgerald is the grumpy old Irish priest personified ("A golf course is nothing but a poolroom moved outdoors"), Bing sings alone and with the choir, and the film has an emotional ending that managed to choke me up. Ahem!

As much as we all love watching Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn, Santa Clause: The Movie and so many more at this time of the year, they can become a little tiresome, so I suggest you search out Going My Way and watch something old as something new.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-13 16:02:25
Good advice. To make all things new (even the old ones: novantiqua)is the meaning of this season...For me, that film happens to be the first film I saw starring Bing Crosby.

Clint2007-12-13 20:53:53
Miracle on 34th tiresome - behave yourself.

Bryan2007-12-13 20:56:53
I'm dreaming of a White New Year, not Christmas, and I don't think I'm going to be disappointed!!

Asa2007-12-13 23:19:31
Seems I touched nerve there!

Don't worry, you can still crowbar in two extra viewings of 34th Street... "I believe!"

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