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Friday, September 6, 2013

WELCOME STRANGER (1947)

This innocuous reteaming of Bing Crosby & Barry Fitzgerald showed up three years after their phenomenal success in Leo McCarey’s GOING MY WAY/’44. No longer dueling priests with generational issues, they’ve dropped the reversed collars for stethoscopes as small-town practitioner (Fitzgerald) and gadfly temporary replacement (Crosby). They still don’t get along, but when Fitzgerald comes down with appendicitis just before his long planned vacation, Bing shows chops for emergency surgery to equal his bedside manner & crooning. After that breaks the ice, roles get reversed as both the local teacher (Joan Caulfield) and the frosty New England town warm up, joining ol’ doc in trying to ‘collar’ Crosby for the new hospital. Smoothly run, and less dopey than it sounds, it’s still pretty tame doings, with a jumpy continuity that seems to have lost a narrative step or two in the editing department. A handful of second-tier tunes give Der Bingle a shot at calling a Square Dance and one or two even look like they were shot ‘live’ and not lip-synch’d. Hardly a patch on the commercial/critical juggernaut that was GOING MY WAY/’47*, but the Crosby/Fitzgerald combo held up for big box-office.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Some Paramount exec really blew the contract on GOING MY WAY since McCarey was able to make its wildly popular sequel, THE BELLS OF SAINT MARY’S/’45 (with Ingrid Bergman in the Barry Fitzgerald spot!!), as an indie production for an R.K.O. release. How’d he ever keep the character rights?

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