As well as directing the movie, Leo McCarey wrote the original story as he did for the sequel the following year, 'The Bells of St Marys' (which was actually written first). As Paramount was nervous about the prospects of success for the movie, McCarey was required to waive his salary in lieu of a share of the profits. It was a good move for the director. His share of the profits gave him the highest reported income in the United States that year.
The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. Barry Fitzgerald became the only actor to be nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role in the same year. (Subsequently the Academy changed the rules so that this could never be repeated.
In 2004, the Library of Congress selected 'Going My Way' to be preserved in the National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
PlotThere are several story lines, each developed in an episodic fashion. Bing Crosby plays Father Charles "Chuck" O'Malley, a progressive young priest who tries to transform and breathe new life into the rundown parish of of St. Dominic's in New York City. The elderly priest who has been in charge for many years is Father Fitzgibbon, played by Barry Fitzgerald, who is in desperate need of help but, at first, distrusts the younger man and his modern ideas.
The two men gradually grow to like and trust each other and the problems which the young priest encounters are one by one overcome, and he manages to do it in a way that suits the best interests of all concerned. So whilst foiling the church's mortgage holder, Ted Haines, played by Gene Lockhart, by bringing the institution out of debt, Father O'Malley also improves the lives of the delinquent street kids by turning them into a choir - and a pretty good one at that. There are several subplots, such as reuniting Fitzgibbons and his old mother from Ireland and all loose ends are tied up by the end in a very satisfying way.
Because of the choir, several songs are slipped into the action, in a not too contrived a way and there is enough of them to make the movie a quasi-musical. They include the splendid "Going My Way", "Swinging on a Star" , "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral (That's an Irish Lullaby)" and "The Day After Forever". After all, you can't have a Bing Crosby movie without music. To be fair he does a fine job as an actor as well as a singer.
SummaryThe movie was released when World War II was still raging and it provides the perfect antidote to the horrors of war, reflecting the goodness that is to be found in humanity. It has a message, delivered in a subtle way, that we should be accepting of our fellow man and help each other to develop our strengths. The movie is well written and directed by Leo McCarey, and leaves us feeling better for having watched it.
Main CastBing Crosby ... Father Chuck O'Malley
Barry Fitzgerald ... Father Fitzgibbon
Frank McHugh ... Father Timothy O'Dowd
James Brown ... Ted Haines, Jr.
Gene Lockhart ... Ted Haines, Sr.
Risë Stevens ... Genevieve Linden
Jean Heather ... Carol James
Porter Hall ... Mr. Belknap
Fortunio Bonanova ... Tomaso Bozanni
Eily Malyon ... Mrs. Carmody
Stanley Clements ... Tony Scaponi
William Frawley ... Max Dolan
Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer ... Herman Langer
Adeline De Walt Reynolds ... Mrs. Molly Fitzgibbon (uncredited)
Bing Crosby was already an established recording star when the film was made and his performance as the movie's anchor only enhanced his reputation as well as earning him an Oscar for Best Actor. His relaxed, easy manner was perfect for the part of Father O'Malley and the interplay between him and Barry Fitzgerald is genuinely funny.
Barry Fitzgerald (1888-1961) was born in Dublin and moved to Hollywood in 1935 after a successful stage career in Ireland. He spent 25 years in Hollywood as a well known supporting actor and he almost steals the movie from Bing Crosby with his Father Fitzgibbon. The old-fashioned priest adds depth and character to the story and was one of the best creations of Fitzgerald's long and successful movie career.
Two well known character actors, Frank McHugh and Gene Lockhart also add to the quality of the movie and Risë Stevens, who for 2 decades was the leading mezzo-soprano of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, plays opera singer, Genevieve Linden.
CreditsDirector ... Leo McCarey
Producer ... Leo McCarey
Original Story ... Leo McCarey
Screenplay ... Frank Butler, Frank Cavett
Music ... Kenyon Hopkins
Cinematography ... Lionel Lindon
Studio ... Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date ... May 3, 1944
Running time ... 130 minutes
Academy AwardsSeven Wins:
Best Picture ... Paramount Pictures
Best Director ... Leo McCarey
Best Actor ... Bing Crosby
Best Supporting Actor ... Barry Fitzgerald
Best Writing, Screenplay ... Frank Butler, Frank Cavett
Best Original Story ... Leo McCarey
Best Music, Song ... "Swinging on a Star" - Music: James Van Heusen, Lyrics:Johnny Burke
Three Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actor ... Barry Fitzgerald
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White ... Lionel Lindon
Best Film Editing ...Leroy Stone