Bells of St. Mary’s, The (1945): Leo McCarey’s Popular Sequel to Going My Way, Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman

To the burning question, cculd a sequel be better than the original, the answer is yes, in the case of Leo McCarey’s The Bells of St. Mary’s, the movie that followed by a year his 1944 Oscar-winning, but lesser feature, Going My Way.

The estimable Dudley Nichols penned the workable scenario based on McCarey’s story. Once again Bing Crosby plays the troublemaker priest Father O’Malley, who is sent to St. Mary’s a financially struggling institution, where he initially clashes with the clever and charismatic Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman, again in uniform), who governs the place and its students with a combo of gentle and firm touch.

O’Malley thinks the Sister is too stern and rigid, and she thinks he’s too soft and liberal, leading to a predictable confrontation and a happy ending that combines both styles of leadership.

Way before singing nuns there were singing priests, and Crosby, at the peak of his form, delivers such melodic tunes as “Adeste Fidelis,” “In the Land of Beginning Again,” and “Aren’t You Glad You’re You.”

Credits

RKO Radio (Rainbow production)

Running time: 126 Minutes

Cast

Father Chuck O’Malley (Bing Crosby)
Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman)
Mr. Bogardus (Henry Travers)
Sister Michael (Ruth Donnelly)
Patsy (Joan Carroll)
Patsy’s Mother (Martha Sleeper)
Joe Gallagher (William Gargan)
Dr. McKay (Rhys Williams)
Eddie (Dick Tyler)
Mrs. Breen (Una O’Connor)

Oscar Nominations: 8

Picture, produced by Leo McCarey
Director: Leo McCarey
Actor: Bing Crosby
Actress: Ingrid Bergman
Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Robert Emmett Dolan
Song: “Aren’t You Glad You’re You,” music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke
Sound Recording: Stephen Dunn
Film Editing: Harry Marker

Oscar Awards: 1

Sound

Oscar Context

“The Lost Weekend” won over Hitchcock’s suspense-thriller “Spellbound” and Leo McCarey’s comedy “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” both starring Ingrid Bergman. The other two nominees were the MGM musical “Anchors Aweigh” and Warner’s noir melodrama “Mildred Pierce,” for which Joan Crawford won the Best Actress for a comeback performance.

The most nominated film was “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (8), though it won only one award, for Stephen Dunn’s Sound Recording, perhaps because it was a sequel to “Going My Way,” which swept most of the 1944 Oscars.

Ray Milland was one of the few actors to win the Oscar at his first nomination and not to be nominated again, despite giving many reliable performances.

Ace composer Miklos Rozsa, whose specialty was film noir, was nominated in 1945 for three Oscars. The other two were: “A Song to Remember,” on which he collaborated with Morris Stoloff, and “Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” for which he won.