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The Bells of St. Mary's

"The Bells of St. Mary's" on DVD

Crosby's Still Young

The 1945 sequel to "Going My Way" sees Bing Crosby reprising his Oscar-winning role as Father O'Malley, the kind-hearted and easy going New York priest.

This outing sees him talking up new duties as head of St. Mary's parochial school, a down on its luck dump of a place that's on its last legs and in danger of being condemned. It's a fine school at heart, though, with warm and dedicated teaches led by Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman, in a fine performance).

Naturally, Crosby and his team of nuns manage to save the school - and a few souls - as the movie unfolds, despite their disagreements over their methods of educating and disciplining the children in their care.

Leo McCarey's film is a lovely movie that could have been sappy but which instead is lovable. Crosby plays the Crosby character we know and love - and, not surprisingly, does it very well - while Bergman's "Sister Superior" is at various times gentle, stern, open, stodgy - but always dedicated, kind, and believable. The actress was nominated for an Oscar for the past, and won the Golden Globe.

"Bells of St. Mary's" was actually nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, though it only took home the award for Best Sound Recording. It doesn't matter; Hollywood is often an ass when it comes to bestowing Oscars, and "The Bells of St. Mary's" is a legitimate classic the whole family can enjoy (though we can never get our kids to sit through anything that's in black and white, unfortunately. It's their loss.).

The biggest name supporting actor is Henry Travers, who would later enter movie history as the angel Clarence in "It's a Wonderful Life." Here, he plays the aging industrialist who's trying to buy out the school so he can "pave paradise and put up a parking lot" for his office building - but when he meets the tag team of Crosby and Bergman he has no idea the rules have changed and his world is about to be turned upside down.

In the end, he's better and happier for the experience, as are just about everyone whose life is touched by Father O'Malley and the nuns of St. Mary's.

The flick is sentimental to the max, but never sappy - and in the end it's a very satisfying movie experience.

The fullscreen (the original theatrical aspect ratio) DVD has been digitally remastered and it looks really good. To see how good, take a look at the theatrical trailer, which hasn't been remastered, and you'll see the difference. Audio is Dolby Digital mono - correctly directed to the center front speaker. There's a decent liner essay inside the package, but other than that and the usual chapter stops/language choices, there aren't a lot of extras.

Still, "The Bells of St. Mary's" is a warm and witty movie that's a worthy addition to the movie lover's DVD collection.

The Bells of St. Mary's, from Republic Pictures/Alliance Home Video
126 minutes, fullscreen, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, with Henry Travers
Story by Leo McCarey, Screenplay by Dudley Nichols,
Produced and Directed by Leo McCarey


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Updated May 13, 2006