Going My Way is a 1944 American musical comedy-drama film directed by Leo McCarey and starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. Based on a story by Leo McCarey, the film is about a new young priest taking over a parish from an established old veteran. Crosby sings five songs in the film, with other songs performed onscreen by Metropolitan Opera's star mezzo-soprano, Risë Stevens (in the role of a famous Metropolitain Opera performer) as well as the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir (in the role of juvenile deliquents turned into a choir). Going My Way was followed the next year by a sequel, The Bells of St. Mary's.
Going My Way was the highest-grossing picture of 1944, and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning seven, including Best Picture. Its success helped to make movie exhibitors choose Crosby as the biggest box-office draw of the year, a record he would hold for the remainder of the 1940s. After World War II, Bing Crosby and Leo McCarey presented a copy of the motion picture to Pope Pius XII at the Vatican.
On his first day, O'Malley gets into a series of mishaps; his informal appearance and attitude make a poor impression with the elder pastor, Father Fitzgibbon. The very traditional Fitzgibbon is further put off by O’Malley’s recreational habits – particularly his golf-playing – and his friendship with the even more casual Father Timmy O’Dowd. In a discussion between O'Malley and O'Dowd without Fitzgibbon present, it is revealed that O’Malley was sent by the bishop to take charge of the affairs of the parish, but that Fitzgibbon is to remain as pastor. To spare Fitzgibbon’s feelings, the older pastor is kept unaware of this arrangement and believes that O’Malley is simply his assistant.
A series of events highlights the difference between O’Malley and Fitzgibbon’s styles, as they deal with events like a parishioner being evicted and a young woman named Carol James having run away from home. The most consequential difference of opinion between O’Malley and Fitzgibbon arises in their handling of the youth of the church, many of whom are consistently getting into trouble with the law in a gang led by Tony Scaponi. Fitzgibbon is inclined to look the other way, siding with the boys because of their frequent church attendance. O’Malley seeks to make inroads into the boys’ lives, befriending Scaponi and eventually convincing the boys to become a church choir.
The noise of the practicing choir annoys Fitzgibbon, who finally decides to go to the bishop and ask for O’Malley to be transferred away. In the course of the conversation, Fitzgibbon infers the bishop’s intention to put O’Malley in charge of the parish. To avoid an uncomfortable situation, instead of making his initial request, Fitzgibbon asks the bishop to put O’Malley in charge, and then, resigned to his fate of losing control over the church, he informs O’Malley of his new role.
A distressed Fitzgibbon then runs away, leading to a search. He returns late at night, and as O’Malley puts the older priest to bed, the two begin to bond. They discuss Fitzgibbon’s long-put-off desire to go to Ireland and see his mother, whom he's not seen since he left Ireland as a young priest to come to America, and who is now over 90. O’Malley puts Fitzgibbon to sleep with an Irish lullaby, “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral”.
O'Malley runs into Jenny Tuffel, an old girlfriend whom he left to join the priesthood. Jenny now has a successful career with the Metropolitan Opera, performing under the stage name Genevieve Linden. As she prepares to go onstage as the lead in a performance of Carmen, the two discuss their past, and she learns that her world travels with a previous opera company caused her to miss his letter explaining he had entered the priesthood.
O'Malley next pays a visit to Carol, who is now suspected of living in sin with Ted Haines Jr., the son of the church's mortgage-holder, Ted Haines Sr. On this visit, O’Malley describes to the young couple his calling in life to “go his way,” which to him means to follow after the joyous side of religion and lead others to do the same. He performs for them the song “Going My Way,” which he wrote on this theme.
Jenny visits O’Malley at the church, sees the boys’ choir, and reads the sheet music of “Going My Way.” She, O'Malley, and Father O’Dowd devise a plan to rent out the Metropolitan, perform “Going My Way” with the choir and a full orchestra, then sell the rights to the song, thereby saving the church from its financial woes. The plan fails, as the music executive brought on to hear the song does not believe it will sell. The choir decides to make the most of its opportunity on the grand stage, and sings another song, "Swinging on a Star". The executive overhears the song and decides to buy it, providing enough money to pay off the church mortgage.
With the church affairs in order, O’Malley and Fitzgibbon go on a golf course together. Just as everything seems to have fallen into place, though, the parish church is damaged in a massive fire. O'Malley prepares to move on to a new assignment from the bishop. He leaves O’Dowd to be Fitzgibbon’s new assistant, putting Tony Scaponi in charge of the choir. On Christmas Eve, parishioners gather in a temporary church for a service that also serves as O'Malley's farewell. As a going-away present, O’Malley has sent for Fitzgibbon’s mother from Ireland. As mother and son embrace for the first time in 45 years, the choir sings “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral”, as Father O’Malley quietly slips away into the night.
Risë Stevens, whose character is seen onscreen performing the lead role in a Metropolitan Opera (the Met) production of Carmen, was an actual performer with the Met when the film was made. A few years later she would earn enormous personal triumph as the Met's Carmen in the famous Tyrone Guthrie production of 1951, becoming the leading Carmen of her generation.
Filming locations included the following:
According to The New York Times, Going My Way was "the best" of Crosby's career, which is "saying a lot for a performer who has been one of the steadiest joys of the screen. But, in this Leo McCarey film,...he has definitely found his sturdiest role to date." The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther criticized the film's length while lauding Crosby, and noting that "he has been stunningly supported by Barry Fitzgerald, who plays one of the warmest characters the screen has ever known. As a matter of fact, it is a cruel slight to suggest that this is Mr. Crosby's show. It is his and Mr. Fitzgerald's together. And they make it one of the rare delights of the year."
Variety liked the film, saying: "Bing Crosby gets a tailor-made role in Going My Way, and with major assistance from Barry Fitzgerald and Rise Stevens, clicks solidly to provide top-notch entertainment for wide audience appeal. Picture will hit hefty biz on all booking...Intimate scenes between Crosby and Fitzgerald dominate throughout, with both providing slick characterizations...Crosby’s song numbers include three new tunes by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen — ‘Going My Way,’ ‘Would You Like to Swing on a Star’ and ‘Day After Forever.’ Trio are topgrade and due for wide pop appeal due to cinch recording and airings by Bing. He also delivers ‘Ave Maria,’ ‘Adeste Fidelis’ and ‘Silent Night’ in addition to a lively Irish-themed song, "Toora-loora-looral" with boys’ choir accompaniment."
At the 17th Academy Awards, Going My Way was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including two for Barry Fitzgerald, whose work on the film was nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. (Subsequently, the rules were changed to prevent a recurrence.) It won seven, including Best Picture.
|Best Picture||Won||Paramount Pictures (Leo McCarey, producer)|
|Best Director||Won||Leo McCarey|
|Best Actor||Won||Bing Crosby|
|Best Actor||Nominated||Barry Fitzgerald|
|Best Supporting Actor||Won||Barry Fitzgerald|
|Best Writing, Screenplay||Won||Frank Butler and Frank Cavett|
|Best Original Motion Picture Story||Won||Leo McCarey|
|Best Music, Song||Won||"Swinging on a Star"
Music: Jimmy Van Heusen • Lyrics: Johnny Burke
|Best Cinematography, Black-and-White||Nominated||Lionel Lindon
Winner was Joseph LaShelle – Laura
|Best Film Editing||Nominated||Leroy Stone
Winner was Barbara McLean – Wilson
Bing Crosby recorded six of the songs for Decca Records and some of them were issued on a 3-disc 78rpm set titled Selections from Going My Way. “Swinging on a Star” topped the Billboard charts for nine weeks in a 28-week stay. "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That's an Irish Lullaby)" was in the charts for twelve weeks with a peak position of #4. "The Day After Forever" and "Going My Way" also charted briefly. Crosby's songs were also included in the Bing's Hollywood series.
Going My Way was adapted as a radio play for the January 8, 1945, broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater starring Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald and Paul Lukas. It was also adapted for the May 3, 1954, broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Barry Fitzgerald.
The film also inspired an hour-long comedy-drama of the same name during the 1962–63 television season starring Gene Kelly in the role of Father O'Malley. The series ran on ABC for one season of 30 episodes.