I bought myself a couple of early Xmas/ Birthday presents this week, Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's. I bought those two old weepers in order to maintain the family tradition (my mother's) of watching at least TBoSM every Christmas. It won't be the same without her (and I'll probably fall apart when that dumb little kid calls Bing "faddah"), but it'll be something.

I would tell you neither movie is an Oscar winner, but Going My Way took home 7 (!), including Best Picture. Cinema has come a long way in the interim: there's more dramatic tension reading the phone book ("Will the Zs really make it at the end?"). The movies exist as frames for musical numbers, a bit of feel-good holiday cheer and not much else. All the same, I will assert (based on nothing more than hope) there are worse ways to spend 2 hours in front of the TV at Christmas.

I've seen both enough they run together, so much so I was surprised to see Barry Fitzgerald isn't in the sequel, The Bells of St. Mary's. It's a solo tour de force for Bing Crosby's Super Priest, who could kick the ass out of Ayn Rand's Architect and bed any woman he wanted, except he's so cool he's into the absitence thing decades before it became cool. The film overcomes two glaring issues:

  1. Allowing Bing Crosby anywhere near other people's children
  2. Employing Ingrid Bergman's nun as an educator, given the church could theoretically reassign her to a high school class full of pubescent males

Aside #1

To emphasize what an issue #2 is, I present a full list of all the women in the world my father ever suggested were attractive

  1. My mother (1,000,006 times)
  2. Ingrid Bergman (1 time)

. . . to get you to a conclusion that might as well appear in the opening credits. SPOILER ALERT: The school is saved! Like any holiday movie, it's not about the story but about the season and some feeling of continuity in life. Much as I'm making fun of the film, it'll be a mess 'round here when they get to singing "The Bells of St. Mary's": the last time we heard it, it was being sung by the girls' choir from St. Mary's Bay View at the funeral.

Like any good Spoil Yourself purchase on Amazon, I wound up with more than just what I set out to buy, adding a 3rd movie we used to watch together, The Grapes of Wrath after running across a post on the New York Times,

It was the kind of movie we'd watch if it was on TV on a Sunday afternoon when there was ironing to be done. The populism and underdog-nature of the story appealed to my mom, but we knew what really got her was the mom. She saw her own mother in her and, of course, I see mine (don't think the "Oh, Tom!" doesn't catch my ear). The final, famous scene ("Where ever there's a fight . . . ") always resonates. When I was young, close to my parents and just wanting to stay home, egotism made it easy to see myself as Heroic Tom Joad, leaving family and friends, purposely striding out the door to make the world A Better Place. Now that the roles are reversed, that I'm home and my mom is gone forever, the scene reminds me she's not exactly gone. She might not show up if you're getting trounced by a cop, but she's there in my relationship with Michelle, she's there in anything I do just for someone else, she's there in just about anything I do right. The idea that time is a coping mechanism, a way of perceiving ourselves in the physical world, it'd be nice to think you could step outside, take a hard right and see everyone that's left behind.

Aside #2

After a dozen viewings of Going My Way (and having seen The Quiet Man), it was disconcerting to run across Barry Fitzgerald as a bad guy in The Sea Wolf. I conveniently came across it one Saturday night on PBS and watched because Jack London's book had just been assigned in class. It was even worse than the time I saw Harry Morgan as a low-down, dirty ranchhand in Bend of the River; at least by that point I knew he was the kind of guy that would push his wife down a flight of stairs.

You can spare me the emails, I'm well aware (old movie on PBS + in high school + Saturday night) = LOSER.

No comments yet.