Going My Way Movie Review
Director: Leo McCarey
Starring: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, James Brown, Gene Lockhart, Jean Heather, Porter Hall, Fortunio Bonanova, Eily Malyon
Oscar Wins: Best Actor (Bing Crosby), Best Supporting Actor (Barry Fitzgerald), Best Director, Best Original Song ("Swinging on a Star"), Best Original Motion Picture Story, Best Writing, Best Picture
Other Nominations: Best Actor (Barry Fitzgerald), Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Film Editing
In the 1945 Best Picture winner, Going My Way, Bing Crosby stars as Father Chuck O’Malley, a young priest charged with bringing St. Dominic’s Church out of debt. The current curate of St. Dominic’s, Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), is expectedly O’Malley’s foil – cranky, set in his ways and stuck in his ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude after 45 years of service to the church.
While O’Malley is careful not to offend or challenge Fitzgibbon’s authority, he sets about to make a difference in his community – organizing the local street youths into a choir, helping a runaway find true love and even organizing a choir tour, headlined by his childhood friend, Genevive Linden (Rise Stevens), to help pay off the mortgage on the church.
O’Malley even breaks down Father Fitzgibbon, crooning his way through that rough exterior only to discover Fitzgibbon is no more than a lonely man looking for friendship.
And with Bing as the lead, it should come as no surprise that there were a few tunes scattered throughout this movie – but they added nothing to the story. In fact, they felt more like an interruption. This movie lacked spark, it lacked narrative drive and really dragged as a result. The musical numbers, while okay on their own, were really just rocks tied to a sinking ship.
That being said, the sentiment was strong with this one. Similar to Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dangerous Minds or even Dead Poet’s Society, Going My Way is about an individual who devotes his time and energy to the betterment of society, often without recognition or acknowledgement. It had so much potential, but landed somewhere between being an amazing film and a complete dud.
Despite my indifference, this film was extremely successful upon its release. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 7, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Bing Crosby). The popular tune, “Swinging on a Star” won an Oscar for Best Song as well.
All in all, I guess I just had higher hopes for this one, especially with Bing at the helm and Leo McCarey (Duck Soup) in the director’s seat. I mean the sweetest moment in Going My Way happened literally one minute before the ending title card filled the screen. So emotional, but not worth the 2-hour build-up.
I’ll say this for Going My Way – in a movie featuring the Catholic church, this film could have been very preachy, but it was not. In fact, I don’t think God was mentioned once, if at all. O’Malley could have easily been a professor, a teacher or a coach and the story would have been the same. While Going My Way may have inspired audiences back in 1944, other films have since followed this format and honestly have done it better. This musical drama tried so hard to hit all the right notes, but ultimately just ended up falling flat.