Going My Way,' Comedy-Drama With Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald, at Paramount -- New Film at Palace
Having hit about as high in his profession as any average man would hope to hit—and that to say the top notes in the musical comedy league—Bing Crosby has switched his batting technique (or had it switched for him) in his latest film, "Going My Way." And—would you believe it?—old Bing is giving the best show of his career. That's saying a lot for a performer who has been one of the steadiest joys of the screen. But, in this Leo McCarey film, now at the Paramount, he has definitely found his sturdiest role to date.
For in this, Mr. Crosby's first picture with a comparatively serious dramatic theme—and also the first in which his singing is not heavily depended upon—he has been beautifully presented by Mr. McCarey, who produced and directed the film. And he has been stunningly supported by Barry Fitzgerald, who plays one of the warmest characters the screen has ever known. As a matter of fact, it is a cruel slight to suggest that this is Mr. Crosby's show. It is his and Mr. Fitzgerald's together. And they make it one of the rare delights of the year.
For "Going My Way" is the story—rich, warm and human to the core—of a progressive young Catholic priest who matches his wits and his ideas with those of the elderly pastor of a poor parish—a parish which the young priest is tacitly sent to conduct. It is the story of new versus old customs, of traditional age versus youth. And it is a story of human relations in a simple, sentimental, honest vein.
But it is far from a serious story—in the telling, anyhow. It is as humored and full of modern crackle as a Bing Crosby film has got to be. From the moment that Mr. Crosby shows up at St. Dominic's Church in a faded athletic costume to face the breathless skepticism of Mr. Fitzgerald until the final (and somewhat obvious) fadeout, when Mr. Crosby goes away in the night — the parish's treasury replenished and Mr. Fitzgerald comfortably wrapped in his old mother's arms—it is a delightful and witty case of sparring, with perfect dignity, between the two men.
There is the beautiful moment when Mr. Fitzgerald, while displaying his parish garden to the young priest, exclaims that it is a wonderful place to meditate and then adds, slyly, "You do—meditate?" There is the charming scene in which Mr. Crosby escorts the weary old gentleman to his bed, and then is surprised to discover that the reverent ancient likes "a drop of the craiture" now and then. And there is that simply exquisite sequence in which Mr. Fitzgerald goes off in a huff because Mr. Crosby is testing the neighborhood roughnecks in a vocal rendering of "Three Blind Mice."
Yes, there are musical passages in the picture. They come when Mr. Crosby occasionally sings a modern song bearing the title of the picture, another new air and a couple of old timers. They also come—and more magnificently—when Risé Stevens, who is trickily worked in, sings an aria from "Carmen," "Ave Maria" and the title song, too. And Mr. Crosby and the Robert Mitchell Boy Choir (dressed up like neighborhood kids) do very amusingly by a number called "Swinging on a Star."
The only criticism of the production—and of the excellent script which Frank Butler and Frank Cavett wrote—is that it runs to an excess. It is more than two hours long. And in that time there are certain stretches when the momentum somewhat lags. But otherwise no exceptions are taken. In addition to Mr. Crosby and Mr. Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, Miss Stevens, Jean Heather and Stanley Clements—especially the latter as a genial tough — give thoroughly good performances. They enrich this already top-notch film with a vigorous glow of good spirit. "Going My Way" is a tonic delight.
GOING MY WAY, screen play by Frank Butler and Frank Cavett; from a story by Leo McCarey; produced and directed by Mr. McCarey for Paramount; songs by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen. At the Paramount.
Father Chuck O'Malley . . . . . Bing Crosby
Jenny Linden . . . . . Rise Stevens
Father Fitzgibbon . . . . . Barry Fitzgerald
Ted Haines Jr . . . . . James Brown
Carol James . . . . . Jean Heather
Mrs. Carmody . . . . . Eily Malyon
Father O'Dowd . . . . . Frank McHugh
Tony Scaponi . . . . . Stanley Clements
Haines Sr. . . . . . Gene Lockhart
Mr. Belknap . . . . . Porter Hall
Tomaso Bozanni . . . . . Fortunio Bonanova
The Robert Mitchell Boy Choir