The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

bells

Starring: Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers, William Gargan

Director: Leo McCarey

Summary: A liberal priest tries to soften the strict nun running St. Mary’s school

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Crosby), Actress (Bergman), Dramatic/Comedy Score, Original Song (“Aren’t You Glad You’re You”), Sound Recording*, Film Editing

Positives

-Crosby and Bergman are both good here (especially Bergman who is the picture of loveliness here), and the dynamic between the two produces the some very good moments, even if I like the one Crosby and Fitzgerald had in Going My Way better. I also liked Travers as the old businessman.

-The subplots that make up the movie are hit or miss, but the one with the girl who lives there and is having a hard time academically was clearly my favorite.

Negatives

-Structurally, this movie is the same as its predecessor but worst. Most of the time, it feels like a series of a few subplots vs. being a consistent and focused narrative. This can work in a movie if done right, but the subplots feel mostly unconnected and a lot of them aren’t particularly interesting. Both movies also have the same core problem facing the characters (the Church/School needs money or it will be shut down), but there are long stretches where the movie forgets about it entirely.

-Crosby’s character is kind of annoying sometimes and most of the time I agree with Bergman’s character more than Crosby’s.

-There’s no songs that I liked, whereas GMW at least had “Swinging on a Star.”

Other Stuff

-The movie had a Catholic Priest as an advisor during shooting. As a joke, Crosby and Bergman did a take in one scene where their characters, a Catholic Priest and a Nun, embraced in a passionate kiss, while the advisor jumped up roaring in anger.

-Crosby earned his second nomination for playing the character Father O’Malley, the first time a person earned two Oscar nominations for playing the same character. The others who have done it since: Cate Blanchett (Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Peter O’Toole (King Henry II in Becket and The Lion in Winter), Paul Newman (Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler and The Color of Money), Al Pacino (Michael Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II), and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa in Rocky and Creed)

Going My Way was #1 at the Box Office in 1944, and The Bells of St. Mary’s was #1 in 1945 , making it the first franchise to be #1 in multiple years (much less in back-to-back years). Others to do so since: Star Wars (Star Wars in 1977, The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Return of the Jedi in 1983, The Phantom Menace in 1999, and The Force Awakens in 2015), Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, The Last Crusade in 1989), Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers in 2002 and Return of the King in 2003), Harry Potter (The Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001, The Goblet of Fire in 2005, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011), and Pirates of the Caribbean (Dead Man’s Chest in 2006, At World’s End in 2007)

Overall

This is a schmaltzy movie that has some good moments and Bergman especially is strong, but wasn’t my style and is slightly below its predecessor.

Rating: C-

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