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Going My Way is a 1944 American musical comedy-drama film directed by Leo McCarey and starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. Based on a story by Leo McCarey, the film is about a new young priest taking over a parish from an established old veteran. Crosby sings five songs in the film, with other songs performed onscreen by Metropolitan Opera's star mezzo-soprano, Risë Stevens (in the role of a famous Metropolitan Opera performer) as well as the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir (in the role of juvenile deliquents turned into a choir). Going My Way was followed the next year by a sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s.


Going My Way was the highest-grossing picture of 1944, and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning seven, including Best Picture. Its success helped to make movie exhibitors choose Crosby as the biggest box-office draw of the year, a record he would hold for the remainder of the 1940s. After World War II, Bing Crosby and Leo McCarey presented a copy of the motion picture to Pope Pius XII at the Vatican.

Plot

Father Charles “Chuck” O’Malley, an incoming priest from East St. Louis, arrives in New York City with an unconventional style that will transform the parish life of St. Dominic’s Church.

On his first day, O'Malley gets into a series of mishaps; his informal appearance and attitude make a poor impression with the elder pastor, Father Fitzgibbon. The very traditional Fitzgibbon is further put off by O’Malley’s recreational habits – particularly his golf-playing – and his friendship with the even more casual Father Timmy O’Dowd. In a discussion between O'Malley and O'Dowd without Fitzgibbon present, it is revealed that O’Malley was sent by the bishop to take charge of the affairs of the parish, but that Fitzgibbon is to remain as pastor. To spare Fitzgibbon’s feelings, the older pastor is kept unaware of this arrangement and believes that O’Malley is simply his assistant.

A series of events highlights the difference between O’Malley and Fitzgibbon’s styles, as they deal with events like a parishioner being evicted and a young woman named Carol James having run away from home. The most consequential difference of opinion between O’Malley and Fitzgibbon arises in their handling of the youth of the church, many of whom are consistently getting into trouble with the law in a gang led by Tony Scaponi. Fitzgibbon is inclined to look the other way, siding with the boys because of their frequent church attendance. O’Malley seeks to make inroads into the boys’ lives, befriending Scaponi and eventually convincing the boys to become a church choir.

The noise of the practicing choir annoys Fitzgibbon, who finally decides to go to the bishop and ask for O’Malley to be transferred away. In the course of the conversation, Fitzgibbon infers the bishop’s intention to put O’Malley in charge of the parish. To avoid an uncomfortable situation, instead of making his initial request, Fitzgibbon asks the bishop to put O’Malley in charge, and then, resigned to his fate of losing control over the church, he informs O’Malley of his new role.

A distressed Fitzgibbon then runs away, leading to a search. He returns late at night, and as O’Malley puts the older priest to bed, the two begin to bond. They discuss Fitzgibbon’s long-put-off desire to go to Ireland and see his mother, whom he's not seen since he left Ireland as a young priest to come to America, and who is now over 90. O’Malley puts Fitzgibbon to sleep with an Irish lullaby, “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral”.

O'Malley runs into Jenny Tuffel, an old girlfriend whom he left to join the priesthood. Jenny now has a successful career with the Metropolitan Opera, performing under the stage name Genevieve Linden. As she prepares to go onstage as the lead in a performance of Carmen, the two discuss their past, and she learns that her world travels with a previous opera company caused her to miss his letter explaining he had entered the priesthood.

O'Malley next pays a visit to Carol, who is now suspected of living in sin with Ted Haines Jr., the son of the church's mortgage-holder, Ted Haines Sr. On this visit, O’Malley describes to the young couple his calling in life to “go his way,” which to him means to follow after the joyous side of religion and lead others to do the same. He performs for them the song “Going My Way,” which he wrote on this theme.

Jenny visits O’Malley at the church, sees the boys’ choir, and reads the sheet music of “Going My Way.” She, O'Malley, and Father O’Dowd devise a plan to rent out the Metropolitan, perform “Going My Way” with the choir and a full orchestra, then sell the rights to the song, thereby saving the church from its financial woes. The plan fails, as the music executive brought on to hear the song does not believe it will sell. The choir decides to make the most of its opportunity on the grand stage, and sings another song, "Swinging on a Star". The executive overhears the song and decides to buy it, providing enough money to pay off the church mortgage.

With the church affairs in order, O’Malley and Fitzgibbon go on a golf course together. Just as everything seems to have fallen into place, though, the parish church is damaged in a massive fire. O'Malley prepares to move on to a new assignment from the bishop. He leaves O’Dowd to be Fitzgibbon’s new assistant, putting Tony Scaponi in charge of the choir. On Christmas Eve, parishioners gather in a temporary church for a service that also serves as O'Malley's farewell. As a going-away present, O’Malley has sent for Fitzgibbon’s mother from Ireland. As mother and son embrace for the first time in 45 years, the choir sings “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral”, as Father O’Malley quietly slips away into the night.

Cast

  • Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O'Malley
  • Barry Fitzgerald as Father Fitzgibbon
  • Frank McHugh as Father Timothy O'Dowd
  • James Brown as Ted Haines, Jr.
  • Gene Lockhart as Ted Haines, Sr.
  • Jean Heather as Carol James/Haines
  • Porter Hall as Mr. Belknap
  • Fortunio Bonanova as Tomaso Bozanni
  • Eily Malyon as Mrs. Carmody
  • Robert Mitchell Boychoir as St. Dominic's Church Choir
  • Risë Stevens as Genevieve Linden
  • Stanley Clements as Tony Scaponi
  • William Frawley as Max Dolan
  • Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer as Herman Langer
  • Adeline De Walt Reynolds as Father Fitzgibbon's mother, Mrs. Molly Fitzgibbon (uncredited)
  • Anita Sharp-Bolster as Mrs. Quimp
  • Jack Norton as Music Publisher (Mr. Lilley)
  • William "Bill" Henry as Doctor
  • Martin Garralaga as Zuniga
  • Julie Gibson as Taxi driver
  • Gibson Gowland as Churchgoer

Songs

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