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Friday, November 11, 2011


No one has ever been able to explain how Leo McCarey held his loose-limbed pics together, especially the phenomenally popular Bing Crosby/Father O’Malley duo of GOING MY WAY/’44 and THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S. With their wise, twinkly priests & benevolent, good-humored nuns, they might be taking place on another planet: roughhousing city kids turn into angelic choirboys; cloying subplots reunite families; and weepy finales get boosted with miraculous displays of generosity in true faith & hard cash. Yet, with only slight indulgence, they remain irresistible. Part of the secret may be McCarey’s background in silent film comedy. Present at creation to Laurel & Hardy, he developed a relaxed feel for the rhythms of comic pacing & the patience to let episodic structures bloom. In this one, Crosby’s padre is sent to give Sister Ingrid Bergman’s rundown parochial school the once over. Will its doors close forever? If anything, we’re less connected to the real world than in the first film. Maybe a good thing. Lesser story materials & less memorable songs hardly matter since these films don’t rise & fall on the usual pluses & minuses. It’s all in the way McCarey riffs on his gags & sentiment, as if he’s playing jazz. It’s also why Ingrid Bergman, given a rapturous close-up from lenser George Barnes, reaches a level of spirituality far beyond anything she achieved when playing Joan of Arc in ‘48.

DOUBLE-BILL: Instead of GOING MY WAY, try McCarey’s decidedly odd final pic, SATAN NEVER SLEEPS/’62 which manages to relocate GOING MY WAY to ‘Red’ China! William Holden & Clifton Webb get the young priest/old priest roles played in GOING by Crosby & Barry Fitzgerald.

CONTEST: Listen as this Catholic school recites the Pledge of Allegiance. Notice something missing? Name and explain the gap to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of any NetFlix DVD.

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