The Bells of St. Mary’s is a 1945 theatrical film produced and directed by Leo McCarey under his production company Rainbow Productions, starred Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, and originally released by RKO Radio Pictures on December 6, 1945.
The film has come to be commonly associated with the Christmas season, due most likely to the inclusion of a scene involving a Christmas pageant at the school, a major plot point involving an unlikely (yet prayed for) gift, and the fact that the film was released in December 1945.
The unconventional Father Charles "Chuck" O'Malley (Bing Crosby) is assigned to St. Mary's parish, which includes a run-down inner-city school building on the verge of being condemned. O'Malley is to recommend whether or not the school should be closed and the children sent to another school with modern facilities; but the sisters feel that God will provide for them.
They put their hopes in Horace P. Bogardus (Henry Travers), a businessman who has built a modern building next door to the school which they hope he will donate to them. Father O'Malley and the dedicated but stubborn Sister Superior, Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), both wish to save the school, but their different views and methods often lead to disagreements. One disagreement involves a student (Richard Tyler) who is being bullied by another. A more serious one regards the promotion of an eighth-grade student, Patsy (Joan Carroll) of Syracuse NY, whom the parish has taken in while her mother (Martha Sleeper) attempts to get back on her feet.
At one point, Sister Benedict contracts tuberculosis, and the physician recommends to Father O'Malley that she be transferred to a dry climate with non-parochial duties, but without telling her the reason. She assumes the transfer is because of her disagreements with O'Malley, and struggles to understand the reasons for the path set out for her. Right before Sister Benedict departs, Father O'Malley reveals the true reason for her temporary transfer.
- A reference to it is made in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life, in which Henry Travers, a co-star of The Bells of St. Mary's, played the guardian angel. Both films were released by RKO and later acquired by Republic Pictures.
- The film is referenced in The Godfather (1972). Michael and Kay see it at Radio City Music Hall.
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