The win of ‘Going My Way’ is one of those winners that can only be explained by the year that it won. After five years of war, the academy voters probably wanted to honour something that would bring a smile to their faces and forget about the never ending war. ‘Going My Way’ ending up collecting seven academy awards, a fact that now does seem quite hard to believe: it is quite simply the happiest film to ever win the award for best picture.
The film revolves around Bing Crosby, who plays Father O’Malley, a young clergyman who goes to his new parish. Before he joined the Catholic Church the Father clearly led a more colourful life, and this history enables him to influence a young gang of street urchins (turning the thugs into a choir who sing about sunbeams is a personal favourite), and to take control of the finances of the church. Initially he regarded with suspicion by his superior, Father Fitzgibbon, played by Barry Fitzgerald, but even he is eventually won over by Crosby’s cheery nature and ability to help all.
‘Going My Way’ is a pleasant film to watch, and Crosby is as watchable as always. Fitzgerald is especially good as the slightly more complex older figure, and there are some very cheery musical numbers, including the Academy Award winning ‘Singing on a Star’. There is very little else, however, that one can really say about this film. Although the acting is perfectly adequate, the script and storyline are so undemanding that these cannot be described as classic roles in the history of cinema.
Where this film does succeed is that although it is so very happy, it does cleverly avoid plunging into over sentimentality. It is possible to genuinely like the character that Crosby plays without finding him nauseating, which, given the consistently jolly outlook that he has is saying quite a lot.
Not surprisingly, the most delightfully sweet moment of the entire film is the last scene in which Father O’Malley does something for his friend and colleague Fitzgibbon that trumps all of the other delightful things that he has done over the course of the film.
‘Going My Way’ is not a great piece of cinema, but it is so heart warming, that it is impossible not to watch this film without feeling warm inside. It is a light look at how the problems that people have can sometimes be solved through simple actions, and high melodrama and complex resolutions are not always needed if an audience is to be entertained.