A couple of days ago, we were talking about Sharknado. Today, we’re looking at The Bells of St. Mary’s. Where else are you going to have the opportunity to see discussions on these films side by side? Come on people!
Up until this point, my biggest experience with The Bell’s of St. Mary’s was the Monty Python skit about Arthur Ewing and his musical mice. While I enjoy that small bit, it’s nice to be able to expand a bit on my cultural awareness in this category.
The Bells of St. Mary’s came out in 1945 and the first sequel to ever be nominated for Best Picture. It followed Going My Way which itself won the Best Picture actor, as well as Best Actor (Bing Crosby) and Best Director (Leo McCarey), both of whom returned for the sequel. Bing Crosby apparently reprises his role as Father Chuck O’Malley.
Bells brings Father O’Malley to be the new pastor of St. Mary’s, a school that is under pressure to close, particularly from a big money businessman who is building is a massive development just across the street. Father O’Malley must both work with and deal with the Sister who leads the nuns at St. Mary’s, Sister Mary Benedict, played by Ingrid Bergman.
Father O’Malley’s free-wheeling style (he gives all the kids a day off on his first moments at work) puts Sister Benedict on edge, but she handles it all with such grace and poise that one feels no malice toward her. She is also a woman of tremendous, almost angelic, faith – believing that God will move on the heart of the businessman across the way to lead him to give St. Mary’s his new building.
It’s interesting to see a major motion picture in which these sort of values are not only talked about but also esteemed. I actually live and work as part of a “faith-based” missions community, and so the idea of praying for a miracle like, as well as seeing the answer to that miracle, is not unfamiliar to me. But it’d pretty out of place in a modern Hollywood film. Indeed, it’s not even normal to see a priest or a nun in a film who isn’t a child abuser, a psychopath, a nitwit, or a heartless creep. So watching a straight drama (even with moments of levity) about characters who are genuine in their faith is refreshing.
I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with either Bing Crosby or Ingrid Bergman. With all my vaunted film appreciation, if I was honest I’d have said my impression of Bing Crosby was a bit goofy, and my impression of Ingrid Bergman was ethereal and distant. Boy, would I have been wrong. Or at least vastly limited in my view. Crosby is restrained and likeable, occasionally taking the opportunity to break into song, but always keeping it genuine. And though if anyone can pull of grace, poise and angelic, it’s Ingrid Bergman, but she’s also very grounded and easy to relate to, and also quite funny – just see the scene where she is teaching the young boy how to box.
So though The Bells of St. Mary is a little slow (even by old-movie standards), and some may find it’s approach to life a bit optimistic, it has a lot going for it, including a sincere heart-felt quality, that I quite enjoyed and appreciated. So I feel good recommending it.
Even more than Sharknado.
PS. Did you know that Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, the star of The Bells of St. Mary’s, Casablanca, and many others, is not related at all to the Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman? But that one of Ingmar Bergman’s wives was also named Ingrid, and she also was an actress (at least a couple of times).