The Bells of St. Mary's
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) is an American drama film, produced and directed by Leo McCarey and starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Written by Dudley Nichols and based on a story by Leo McCarey, the film is about a priest and a nun who, despite their good-natured rivalry, try to save their school from being shut down. The character Father O'Malley had been previously portrayed by Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film was produced by Leo McCarey's production company, Rainbow Productions.
|The Bells of St. Mary's|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Leo McCarey|
|Produced by||Leo McCarey|
|Screenplay by||Dudley Nichols|
|Story by||Leo McCarey|
|Music by||Robert Emmett Dolan|
|Edited by||Harry Marker|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Box office||$21,333,333 (United States)|
The unconventional Father Charles "Chuck" O'Malley (Bing Crosby) is assigned to St. Mary's parish, which includes a run-down inner-city school building on the verge of being condemned. O'Malley is to recommend whether or not the school should be closed and the children sent to another school with modern facilities; but the sisters feel that God will provide for them.
They put their hopes in Horace P. Bogardus (Henry Travers), a businessman who has built a modern building next door to the school which they hope he will donate to them. Father O'Malley and the dedicated but stubborn Sister Superior, Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), both wish to save the school, but their different views and methods often lead to disagreements. One disagreement involves a student (Richard Tyler) who is being bullied by another. A more serious one regards the promotion of an eighth-grade student, Patsy (Joan Carroll) of Syracuse NY, whom the parish has taken in while her mother (Martha Sleeper) attempts to get back on her feet.
At one point, Sister Benedict contracts tuberculosis, and the physician recommends to Father O'Malley that she be transferred to a dry climate with non-parochial duties, but without telling her the reason. She assumes the transfer is because of her disagreements with O'Malley, and struggles to understand the reasons for the path set out for her. Right before Sister Benedict departs, Father O'Malley reveals the true reason for her temporary transfer.
- Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O'Malley
- Ingrid Bergman as Sister Mary Benedict
- Henry Travers as Horace P. Bogardus
- William Gargan as Joe Gallagher
- Ruth Donnelly as Sister Michael
- Joan Carroll as Patricia "Patsy" Gallagher
- Martha Sleeper as Mary Gallagher
- Rhys Williams as Dr. McKay
- Richard Tyler as Eddie Breen
- Una O'Connor as Mrs. Breen
- Edward Coch Jr. as Baby Jesus (uncredited)
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times felt that the film was too similar to Going My Way, and "although a plenteous and sometimes winning show, lacks the charm of its predecessor—and that comparison cannot be escaped." Variety wrote: "Picture is packed with many simple scenes that tug at the heart and loosen the tears as directed by McCarey and played by the outstanding cast." Harrison's Reports wrote: "As in Going My Way, which he also wrote, produced, and directed, Leo McCarey has proved again that great pictures do not require pretentious stories ... The acting of the entire cast is excellent. Crosby delights one with his ease and natural charm, and Miss Bergman will undoubtedly rise to new heights of popularity because of the effective way in which she portrays her role." John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote derisively that "Mr. McCarey seems to view the Roman Catholic Church, which is quite a formidable and venerable organization, as a kind of settlement house where good works and jollity provide a lively substitute for religion ... Everything, of course, turns out quite happily, except, perhaps, for those captious souls who regard religion as an adult matter."
- "Aren't You Glad You're You?" (Jimmy Van Heusen / Johnny Burke) sung by Bing Crosby
- "Adeste Fideles" sung by Bing Crosby and children's choir
- "In the Land of Beginning Again" (George W. Meyer / Grant Clarke) sung by Bing Crosby
- "O Sanctissima" sung by Bing Crosby
- "It's Spring" ("Varvinda Friska" in Swedish) sung by Ingrid Bergman
- "The Bells of St. Mary's" sung by Bing Crosby and choir 
Bing Crosby recorded four of the songs for Decca Records and these were issued as singles as well as a 2-disc 78 rpm album titled Selections from The Bells of St. Mary's. “Aren't You Glad You're You” was in the Billboard charts for nine weeks with a peak position of #8. "In the Land of Beginning Again" and "The Bells of St. Mary's" both charted briefly also. Crosby's songs were also included in the Bing's Hollywood series.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound, Recording (Stephen Dunn), and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bing Crosby), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ingrid Bergman), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Music, Song (for Jimmy Van Heusen (music) and Johnny Burke (lyrics) for "Aren't You Glad You're You") and Best Picture.
Bing Crosby's Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Father Chuck O'Malley made him the first actor in history to receive two nominations for portraying the same character.
- The screenplay was adapted into a novel by George Victor Martin.
- There were two radio adaptations of The Bells of St. Mary's on The Screen Guild Theater radio program. Both starred Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. They were broadcast on August 26, 1946 and October 6, 1947.
- A television adaptation on videotape of The Bells of St. Mary's was shown in 1959, starring Claudette Colbert, Marc Connelly, Glenda Farrell, Nancy Marchand, Barbara Myers, Robert Preston, and Charles Ruggles, and was directed by Tom Donovan.
The Bells of St. Mary's has come to be associated with the Christmas season, probably because of the inclusion of a scene involving a Christmas pageant at the school, a major plot point involving an unlikely (yet prayed for) gift, and the film's having been released in December 1945.
In the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life, in which Henry Travers, a co-star of The Bells of St. Mary's, played the guardian angel, the title of The Bells of St. Mary's appears on the marquee of a movie theater in Bedford Falls, New York.
- Variety 12 September 1945 p 12
- The Bells of St. Mary's. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 20, 2010. This is $460 million when adjusted for inflation, the 52nd highest of all time.
- Crowther, Bosley (December 7, 1945). "Movie Review - The Bells of St. Mary's". The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: 10 November 28, 1945.
- "'The Bells of St. Mary's' with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman". Harrison's Reports: 191. December 1, 1945.
- McCarten, John (December 8, 1945). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: 86.
- "'Lost Weekend' Tops '10 Best'". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 1 January 6, 1947.
- "60 Top Grossers of 1946", Variety 8 January 1947 p8
- "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
- Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p46
- Richard B. Jewell, Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures, Uni of California, 2016
- The Bells of St. Mary's" is a 1917 popular song. The music was written by A. Emmett Adams, the lyrics by Douglas Furber, following a visit to St. Mary's Church, Southampton, England. Sadly the Church was destroyed by enemy action in World War II, but the bell tower survived.
- "A Bing Crosby Discography". A Bing Crosby Discography. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 110. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
- "The 18th Academy Awards (1946) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
- Debczak, Michele (January 15, 2016). "When the Academy Nominates Actors Twice For Playing the Same Character". Mental Floss. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
- Martin, George Victor; Nichols, Dudley; McCarey, Leo (1966). Leo McCarey's The bells of St. Mary's: a novelization. New York: Bantam Books. OCLC 10364804.
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