Sunday, June 13, 2010

Father O'Malley: A Spiritual Leader in Film

Last month I talked about the role of priest/clergy/pastors in film. My complaint was that the stereotype either has them as sleezy rule breakers or the overly sweet and irrelevant rule follower.

So it was this frustration I was pleasantly pleased with the film Going My Way.

This film doesn't just have a priest in it's rank of principle characters, but rather stars 3, with Bing Crosby playing the lead in his academy award winning role of Father Chuck O'Malley.

Crosby's character is not only endearing, but relevant. His character's love of God and people is undeniable, and yet, those two loves don't prevent him from having a variety of friends, street smart, and a creative passion.

It's crazy to me to think that this movie came out over 60 years ago, because I feel like some of the ideas in this film are the same ideas that religious people discuss when they discuss and dream about what it looks like to be a relevant post-modern Christian. Interestingly, a 1940s version of that concept is pictured here.

In a scene with a couple presumably far away from God, they ask questions about faith and how Father O'Malley doesn't seem like a typical priest. Instead of preaching to them, he shares his own dreams of sharing truth in a song and then sings the title song "Going My Way" about his confidence of where he's going, and hopes other people will follow him. There is implied change that occurs in these people upon Father O'Malley's time with them.

Similarly the other major priest in this film, Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald) has his own unique cinematic arch, and while he's more of the aging old-style priest image, he really brings the comedic virtue of this film, as well as the touching heart of this film along side Father O'Malley.

Oscar Trivia, Fitzgerald's double nomination:

Going My Way won 7 Oscars including Best Picture. Included in that count were Bing Crosby who won Best Actor, and Barry Fitzgerald who won best supporting.

Barry Fitzgerald was interestingly enough also nominated for Best Actor that same year, and for the same role.

That's right, Fitzgerald was up for Best Actor & Best Supporting Actor, with both nominations being for a role in the same film. Talk about a anomaly that messes with statistics!

The rules were changed so this would not happen going forward. But no one else but Fitzgerald can claim there performance was so good it received two Oscar nominations.

Photo credits with relevant accompanying articles: Bing Crosby with the boys from Classic Film & TV cafe, and Fitzgerald image from Oscar at a Glance.


Megan said...

This film sparked a documented increase in applicants for the priesthood. My uncle was one of them. And he has spent the last sixty years doing right by his boys.

If only they all had.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this film and the real and positive protrayal of a man who loved God and other people, no matter what their life was like and where they were (or were not) on their journey with God.