Father O'Malley is transferred to a decrepit Catholic school run by a kindhearted nun trying to find a way to save it from being condemned.
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Directed by Leo McCarey
Written by Dudley Nichols
Starring Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers,
Martha Sleeper, Joan Carroll, William Gargan
Sequel to 1944's Going My Way
Oscar Wins - Best Sound Recording
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Bing Crosby),
Best Actress (Ingrid Bergman), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Robert Emmett Dolan), Best Original Song (Aren't You Glad You're You)
The Bells of St. Mary's vastly improves on the established characters and themes of Going My Way. I think a big part of that is owed to Ingrid Bergman and her impeccable chemistry with Bing Crosby. One thing I do like about both of these films is how it treats religion. This is how religion should be used to change lives. Not out of hatred or exclusion, but love and kindness. Father O'Malley and Sister Benedict are benevolent, good people who see God as a vehicle through which they can help people who need it most. The sappiness of these films can get into your head, and while I'm still not sure if that's a good thing, it definitely sucked me into the film.
Brief but strong tensions rise when Father O'Malley (Crosby) is once again transferred, this time to the decrepit St. Mary's Catholic School. The building is on the verge of being condemned, but there are still many students there. The convent who run the school are headed by Sister Benedict (Bergman), who starts out a bit obstinate, but softens up when she meets Patsy (Carroll), a lonely young girl with a single mom. Together, O'Malley and Benedict try to help Patsy succeed in her studies so she has something to be proud of, while at the same time trying to convince a lonely old miser to give them his building for the school. The storytelling is tighter than the first film, and the subplots matter. Plus, there's only two songs and they also matter to the story.
The Bells of St. Mary's might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I thought it was a delightful film about how good it feels to impact someone's life for the better. There's a scene where the kindergarten class puts on a nativity play, and it will warm even the coldest heart. It's adorable to say the least. I believe this sequel, one of the first, to be an improvement on the first film in almost every way.