THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S (1945)
Starring Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers, William Gargan, Ruth Donnelly, Joan Carroll, Rhys Williams. Directed by Leo McCarey. (126 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM OLIVE FILMS
Review by Mr. Paws😽
Yeah, everybody loves Bing Crosby. And yeah, he won an Oscar for his portrayal of Father O’Malley in Going My Way. Personally, I never thought he had much range. In everything I’ve ever seen, his characters simply seemed to be an extension of his own persona. While I don’t begrudge ol’ Bing for staying in his comfort zone, he certainly didn’t deserve another nomination for playing the same guy in The Bells of St. Mary’s.
Ingrid Bergman certainly deserved hers, though. One might argue she’s a bit too glamorous to play a nun, but she unarguably instills Sister Mary Benedict with enough complexity and pathos to be the most interesting character in the film. She serves as the primary foil to the more laid-back and unconventional O’Malley.
|"Back at the convent, they called me Sister Whoopass."|
Speaking of which, The Bells of St. Mary’s has little in the way of real conflict. An episodic film with no true villains, every crisis is efficiently resolved before the next one comes along. This includes the story’s major plot thread, where greedy businessman Horace P. Bogardus (Henry Travers) has his sights on buying the run-down old parish in order to tear it down and expand his construction. Even then, the overall tone is so consistently sweet it makes your typical episode of The Waltons look like American History X.
Still, it’s that same relentless congeniality that has endeared The Bells of St. Mary’s to so many, perhaps even more than Going My Way. While it features Bing at his Bingiest - meaning he croons a few classic numbers along the way – Bergman is the film’s heart and soul. Originally released on Blu-ray five years ago, Olive Films has given it a considerable upgrade with an impressive 4K restoration and a batch of great new bonus features. Classic film fans should be more than pleased.
FEATURETTES - “Faith and Film” (Sr. Rose Pacatte discusses the film’s plausibility from a nun’s perspective); “Human Nature” (Historian Steve Massa provides an overview of director Leo McCarey’s career); “Before Sequel-itis” (author Emily Carman discusses the rarity of big-budget sequels back then, making The Bells of St. Mary’s somewhat unprecedented).
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Crosby biographer Gary Giddens.
2 RADIO ADAPTATIONS – From Screen Guild Theater, one from 1946, the other from 1947, each running about a half-hour.
ESSAY – Written by Abby Bender. Included in a supplementary booklet as well as the disc itself.
PURR-R-R. A BIT SUGARY FOR OUR TASTES, BUT AN UNDENIABLY GREAT DISC.