I adore Barry Fitzgerald in this vintage old Catholic version of life in a parish church. Young whipper-snapper (what DOES that mean?) Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O”Malley, shows up to secretly to take over the parish from aging Father Fitzgibbon, played by Fitzgerald. Father Fitzgibbon thinks he is the new assistant and distrusts the modern priest and his new ways. Father O”Malley wins Fitzgibbons respect which takes up most of this movie. This won best picture in 1944, (one of seven Academy Awards) and cemented Bing as the biggest box office draw for the remainder of the 40’s.
This is a shmaltzy totally unlikey story with a funny side-kick named Father O”Dowd, an old flame that is now a famous opera singer, a gang of wild boys getting into trouble and a budding romance, with a sentimental, emotional ending. I love it, although I do fast forward past the long opera scenes and I love the turkey that ends up on the parish dining table. Throw in Father O”Malley turning all the hoodlums into the Vienna Boys Choir and you have the perfect Hollywood fantasy. Gosh I loved the 40’s. This was so popular they made a sequel.
O’Malley’s turns the crisis ridden parish around and becomes the hero. Bing goes on to star in a sequel called “The Bells of Saint Mary’s” with Ingrid Bergman that I like even better, that’s my movie for tomorrow. I tend to watch all the oldies up front and build up to the “new fangled” color ones. Mr. Crosby was a staunch Catholic in real life but it was also discovered he beat his boys from his first wife who died from alcoholism and was known to be a tad too rigid. Too bad he wasn’t like the warm, loving Father O”Malley. Come to think of it there were a number of tough old birds that played endearing priests. I love denial, it makes for great movies.