JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Going My Way (Director: Leo McCarey) - April 20, 2022
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Going My Way

4.5 4.5
126 min.

Any excuse for a song

With World War II raging furiously, it’s not hard to understand why Going my Way took home Best Picture in 1944.

With a script as predictable (and frequently in no hurry to move the plot forward) as the next bombardment, a covey of new and well-known songs (expertly sung by Bing Crosby who quite deservedly received Best Actor with his exquisite timing and wry looks/tone playing Father O’Malley) and a fine helping of opera (none other than the ever smiling Risë Stevens doing the honours as Carmen, even if the orchestra and chorus were somewhat untidy in their accompaniments), the heart-tugging film must have seemed like manna from heaven for moviegoers already numb from the daily reports from all fronts.

Crosby’s main co-actor is the delightfully curmudgeonly Barry Fitzgerald whose depiction of aging Father Fitzgibbon never misses a beat as he, naturally, falls under O’Malley’s spell. Frank McHugh rounds out the vicars with an ideally comic take on Father O’Dowd while the voluptuous Jean Heather plays the wayward eighteen-year old Carol James (guess what?¾she sings!; her line “something or other” in reference to the bodice area is one of film’s funniest lines) to its beguiling hilt. Ted Haines Sr./Jr. are appropriately worlds apart in the capable hands of Gene Lockhart as the business-before humanity dad and James Brown as his handsome and impulsive sound. Both wouldn’t recognize their characters’ metamorphosis from first appearance to last.

Binding much of the action (including the theft of a very alive turkey…) and most of the music were the charming voices of the Robert Mitchel Boy Choir¾would that all juvenile delinquents be “rescued” by four-part harmony and Ave Maria.

Director Leo McCarey wisely lets the music speak for itself and fashions the storyline (screenplay by Frank Butler and Frank Cavett, McCarey providing the story) in a way that easily sets up the next song cue. H is also a master (along with cinematographers Lionel Linden and John Seitz) of using making extended, close-up reaction shots to silently develop character.

Seen in 2016, the production, at times, comes across as trite, but it more than served its purpose in the mid-‘40s and is still a fine combination of great music and sentimentalism in the 21st century. JWR

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Director - Leo McCarey
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