Going My Way
Posted by J on January 15, 2009
The fact that Going My Way won the Academy Award in 1944 for Best Picture is as trivially incomprehensible as Rabbit Maranville’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame or the celebrity status of nine-tenths of the “celebrities” we have today. We do not mean to attack a harmless, innocent flick. Pouncing on this movie is like manhandling a kitten. But, seen from today’s perspective, the movie is too slow and ambling to even deem “okay.”
Probably the golly-gee-whiz good-naturedness of this movie is what wins it brownie points. Bing Crosby plays a youthful priest who’s ends up at St. Dominic’s, a New York City parish. Crosby has to answer to Father Fitzgibbon, an old Irish priest whose 45-year service at the parish gives him the right speak in brogue whenever he wants. Insofar as there is a plot, it is that Crosby and Fitzgibbon lightly and playfully clash over certain ideas. Crosby likes golf and piano-playing. Fitzgibbon prefers to be somber and old-fashioned. Who will determine the future of the parish? This is the movie’s only real problem, and it is solved about halfway through.
Yet this is hardly a major plotline in a movie that is really a collection of subplots or vignettes, each of which are clearly designed to make the viewer feel good. Of course, with Crosby in the movie, there is singing, but not enough of it — just four or five short songs. The tempo of this movie is what will really test the patience of the modern viewer, who is used to quick cuts and a faster-paced narrative. There’s even a long, inexplicable pause where we watch with Crosby a scene from the opera Carmen. We couldn’t figure out what this had to do with anything.
The movie, which features the two priests, is heavy on Roman Catholic iconography. Yet it is really just generically “religious.” When Crosby gives advice to two young lovers, for example, he sings a secular song in an attempt to move their hearts towards charity. There is even an American flag prominently displayed in the cathedral, which might be orthodox for Catholics for all we know, but is more a reminder here that Catholicism fits within the generic American religion, and not vice versa.