12 July 2009
Best Pictures: Going My Way, 1944
I feel rather bad calling Going My Way a simple film, but it kind of is. I feel guilty, in some kind of religious way, almost, in not recognizing some kind of deeper significance to Leo McCarey's 1944 Oscar winner. But still I stumble through to my verdict- a kindly film without a whole lot else beneath it.
It's the story of a priest trying to modernize a parish at the behest of his bishop. He intially butts heads with the elder priest in charge, but they reconcile. There are a few subplots, including one dealing with a banker trying to foreclose on the church and his son who is in love with a girl from the streets (providing the film with its edgiest material- a vague reference to prostitution).
The priest (Bing Crosby) also nurtures a boys' choir and uses their talents to get a song ("Going My Way") published so he can raise money to save the church. The priest is more worldly-wise than the elder (Barry Fitzgerald), going so far as to take the kids to baseball games and movies (gasp!). It's almost like a kind of anti-Doubt.
That's probably too much plot, but there's not much else that inspires me to write. It's a solid, friendly narrative, capably directed by McCarey, with a couple of good performances to anchor it. Beyond that, it's not what I'd call great, or "best."
A bit of data: The other nominated films that year were Double Indemnity, Gaslight, Since You Went Away, and Wilson. I'm a fan of Wilder's Indemnity, but I can see where the Academy would go for something like Way over the sometimes ambiguous tone of the former.