In the 1940s, the only Oscar-winning comedy was "Going My Way," directed by Leo McCarey and starring Bing Crosby, as a progressive priest who turns a group of young delinquents into a choir, and Barry Fitzgerald, as the old and irascible priest, still attached to his 90-year old mother.
Never a great actor, Bin Crosby nonetheless, had a light, comical, amusing way of delivering his lines in a sort of nonchalant way, as when he tells Ted Hains, Sr. (Gene Lockhart), who holds the mortgage on Crosby's church: "All churches have mortgages. It isn't respectable for a church not to have one." Almost the same line is repeated when Hains agrees to rebuild the church: "After all, it wouldn't be a church without a mortgage."
And both Crosby (and his fans) could relate to his inside-joke monologue, when he explains his career choice: "Y'know, at one time I had quite a decision to make: Whether to write the nation's songs or go my way."
Both Crosby and Fitzgerald won acting awards, the former in the lead and the latter in the supporting category. "Going My Way" was the only nominated comedy that year; the other nominees were two noir pictures, Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" and George Cukor's "Gaslight," and two patriotic features, the sentimental family drama "Since You Went Away" and the boring biopic "Wilson."
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Going My Way won 7: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Story (Leo McCarey), Screenplay (Frank Butler and Frank Cavett), and Song, "Swimming on a Star," music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke. The picture lost Actor (in bizarre and unique circumstances, Fitzgerald was nominated for both Actor and Supporting Actor for the same role), B/W Cinematography (Lionel Lindon), and Editing (Leroy Stone).
"Going My Way" proved to be the sentimental favorite of the public, too, ranking as the top grossing film of the year. Earlier, the film had won the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture.
The Belles of St. Mary's, also directed by Leo McCarey, in 1945, is sort of a sequel to this picture.