That Sentimental Feeling
How come filmmakers 50 years ago could do sentiment without going all sappy, and we can’t do that now? If Going My Way, a delightful movie confection, were remade today, it would end up as a sticky Hallmark Hall of Fame thing.
Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is the new priest at the Church of St. Dominic in a working-class New York City neighborhood. He fails to make a good first impression with crusty old Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), who doesn’t cotton to O’Malley’s golf playing, baseball game attending, or fishing. But O’Malley starts spiffing up the church and its neighborhood: dealing with the church mortgage, which is in arrears, straightening out the street gangs (not as tough as it sounds — major gang activity runs to stealing turkeys off the butcher’s cart), and getting the boys to help him start a choir. Romantic matches are made; neighborhood busybodies are appeased. Many songs are joyfully sung — including “Swing on a Star” and “Ave Maria.” O’Malley even arranges a big surprise for Fitzgibbon, who’s homesick for Ireland.
O’Malley is such a great guy, actually, and so undemanding of any kind of reward, that he’d be an impossible character for a film today to deal with unless he was suddenly revealed at the denouement to be an angel or some other heavenly being. I’ve got nothing against cynicism — it’s my default attitude. But what’s wrong once in a while with some ordinary human acting in a kind, generous, and thoughtful manner, just being a nice guy? Is that too much to ask today that we can’t even imagine those qualities in a fictional character?
Oscars Best Motion Picture 1944
unforgettable movie moment:
O’Malley sings a delightful rendition of “Three Blind Mice” with his boys choir.