After watching director Leo McCarey's 1945, black-and-white ode to sentimentality, it's intriguing to note how everything old becomes new again. As evidenced by 1998 box-office fare such as Stepmom and One True Thing, the ... more »"disease of the week" mentality has been tugging at filmgoers' hearts for decades. The Bells of St. Mary's is the "sequel" to McCarey's Oscar-winning Going My Way, for which star Bing Crosby incredulously took home a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the paternal priest, Father O'Malley. But in The Bells of St. Mary's, Crosby's undernourished, laconic technique barely registers against the luminous, playful gravity of Ingrid Bergman, who embodies the heart of a faith-abiding but forward-thinking nun named Sister Benedict. O'Malley is transferred to her poverty-stricken school, and the two square off, ultimately forming a respect and liking for each other despite the fact that the good Sister has taken ill with tuberculosis and Father O'Malley must send her away from her beloved parish to save her life. Sure, The Bells of St. Mary's feels outdated and even trivial in light of the successors to its throne, but it's still a contender. McCarey had the touch for striking a chord that hearkens back to everything we didn't get as kids. He fills a need, as it were, with his ability to reveal our human frailties. Too, he's got Ingrid Bergman, who makes us fondly remember every teacher who lovingly and patiently made a difference in our lives. The Bells of St. Mary's recalls better days and romanticizes a gentler way of being, as suggested when Sister Benedict, after overhearing Father O'Malley remark that sometimes a man must fight his way through life, offers simply in response, "Why not make him think his way through instead?" --Paula Nechak« less
Bing's Tones, Ingrid's Charms,Remastered on DVD....Heavenly!
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 12/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This review refers to the Silver Screen Classics Edition(Republic Pictures)DVD.......A beautiful sequel to "Going My Way", is now a beautifully transfered to DVD. "The Bells of St.Mary's" is funny, poignant and will tug at your heartstrings.Father O'Malley(Bing Crosby) has now been assigned to a parochial school that is in dire need of repairs. The school has no money and O'Malley's job is to assess the possibilites, of perhaps sending the children to another school.He meets with some tough oppostion though, in the form of one Sister Benedict(Ingrid Bergman). She is the no nonsense type,and right away the two have some very different ideas on what's good for the kids.There is also the problem of a businesman(Henry Travers) who wants the building condemned so he can put up a parking lot for his own employees.Sister Benedict prays for miracle, will she get it?The story and Ingrid Bergman are charming and delightful and will have you praying with her for that miracle.Bing's beautiful voice graces the film with song and Henry Travers(It's A Wonderful Life) is wonderful as always. It's not too often a sequel equals the original, but with the addition of Bergman, (along with some really adorable kids)and under the direction of Leo McCarey once again, this heartwarming story has accomplished that.This Silver Screens Classic DVD has done a really nice job with the remastering of this Black and White Classic.The film made in 1945 barely shows it's age. It is a nice clear picture, and the Dolby Digital Sound is good as well. It contains the original Theatrical Trailer, Has French and Spanish language tracks as well as subtitles, and has captioning in English.It also comes with a little brochure with some facts about the filming.If your looking for some great old classics that look great on DVD to add to your collection, this would be a good one.Happy Viewing......Laurie"
An often underrated classic
L. Shirley | 01/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don't believe the Amazon reviewer, whoever she is. Crosby's performance in this picture is astonishing; the fact that he holds the screen with the great Ingrid scene after scene, as he did with Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way, tells you that; very often he steals their scenes, not with any two-bit mugging but with the forcefulness he brings to the character. Also, that's nonsense about it being an ode to sentimentality; there is a difference between sentimentality and sentiment, and the latter is what makes this film to compelling no matter how many times you watch it. Leo McCarey and Bing Crosby were both schooled by the Jesuits and they incorporate incidents and characters they knew in their youths. Also, McCarey was THE master of improvisation before John Casavetes and some of the finest sequences--Bergman teaching a boy to box; the children's pageant; Bing and the cat in the hat--have the timeless enchantment of spontaneous invention. And if there is a musical scene in any movie that is more quietly potent than Bing singing In the Land of Beginning Again (one of Louis Armstrong's favorite songs, incidentally), I haven't scene it. A lot of people think they are too sophisticated for the O'Malley films. Pity. I've been an admirer for over 10 years and their craftsmanship and candor never cease to amaze me. I wish they would put some of the rarer Crosby films (like the Universal gems, East Side of Heaven and If I Had My Way)and McCarey gems like The Awful Truth and Love Affair) on DVD."
ESSENTIAL in any collection!
Pope | Wisconsin, United States | 11/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I saw Leo McCarey's THE BELLS OF ST MARY'S was on Christmas Day of 2002 when it aired on TCM. I was blown away from the moment the Main Title rolled across the screen. I've always been a sucker for sentimental movies of the 40s and BELLS fits the bill to the "t". I picked up a copy of the DVD this past holiday season. I've seen the movie complete a number of times and never tire of watching it. This is the epitome of 40's motion picture entertainment. An excellent cast turn in equally excellent performances. Bing Crosby is Father O'Malley. Crosby is the only actor ever to have been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar twice for the same role, having also played Father O'Malley in GOING MY WAY the previous year. Ingrid Bergman plays Sister Benedict, the Sister Superior of St. Mary's. Henry Travers plays Mr. Horace P. Bogardus... you will recognize him as Clarence from IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.
The film earned eight Oscar nominations in the following categories: Best Actor (Crosby); Best Acress (Bergman); Direction (Leo McCarey); Editing; Score of a dramatic/comedy picture (Robert Emmett Dolan); Song (Aren't You Glad You're You); Sound Recording; Best Picture. BELLS won for Sound Recording.
It's a shame BELLS didn't walk away with more Oscars, this truly is a beautiful film and is necessary in any collection. Good for watching anytime, especailly when your spirit needs a lift.
The DVD transfer is outstanding. Picture is (generally) stable and clear throughout. Sound is crisp, with little distortion whatsoever. There is a theatrical trailer included, but no other extras. My only complaint about the DVD transfer... what is up with the gray bar at the bottom of the screen that appears at about the 2nd or 3rd page of the Main Title? It looks like it was digitally superimposed over the film to cover something up, but what and why?
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED in any collection. A classic.
The Bells of St. Mary's
Pope | 12/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"We watch The Bells of St. Mary's every year at Christmas. It's a tradition. I know that many think of it as just a corny, sentimental film. And on the surface it is a friendly, light-hearted movie that tugs at our heartstrings in not so subtle ways. The freewheeling Father O'Malley lands in a rundown parish opposite the more traditional Sister Benedict. However, it is much more than that as the themes are timeless. Hope, faith, love, spirituality, miracles, loss, illness, family, triumph and redemption are all explored. The hope of saving St. Mary's. The aging and ailing curmudgeon, Mr. Bogardis, his building, the dog and his redemption. The Sisters' irrational prayers that he'll give them his new building. Billy, the underdog, and Patsy, the forgotten child. The Sisters' close knit group as family. Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman are first rate. Crosby sings as only he can and Bergman's face, framed in the habit, is pure beauty. By the end, you realize the irony that they love each other. Although it was not originally made to be a Christmas movie, The Bells of St. Mary's fits the bill. You get what you need at Christmas: laughs, tears and the warmth of hope. What more could you ask for?"
Bing Crosby And Ingrid Bergman Together In Much Loved Roles
Simon Davis | 02/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What can I say about this classic film other than that it captures perfectly two of Hollywood's most beloved performers in Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman at the peak of their careers in roles with which they would be forever cherished for. The phrase "they dont make them like this anymore", I feel definately applies to this charming little movie which was a sequel to Bing Crosby's Academy Award Winning role in the previous years classic "Going My Way". Playing the ever resourceful singing Father O'Malley Bing Crosby created the type of character for which he would be always identified with. The great Ingrid Bergman fought long and hard to obtain the plum role of Sister Benedict despite the reluctance of David O. Selznick to loan her for a role which he felt would only require her to sit and listen to Bing Crosby sing. Ingrid apparently said that she would love to be able to do just that and turned in one of her most famous performances as the sensible head nun of St. Mary's School who engages in an affectionate rivalry over the future of the school when Father O'Malley is assigned there to sort out the school's many problems. The two leads deliver first rate performances in the rather leisurely story and with "The Bells of St. Mary's", Ingrid Bergman especially became almost the benchmark for how nuns were to be portrayed in Hollywood for the next 30 years.
We first see Father O'Malley arriving at St. Mary's school in his new appointment where he is to be responsible for looking into the future of the present establishment which from lack of funds is operating in a very run down building and has already been forced to sell off most of the children's playing area to developer Horace P. Bogardus (Henry Travers). He is building a new factory on the site and hopes to buy the rest of the school as well. St. Mary's is run by Sister Benedict(Ingrid Bergman), a nun who believes in the power of prayer to obtain what is needed in life. With Father O'Malley's more practical everyday philosophy on life the two soon become engaged in a battle of wills over what future St. Mary's has. Sister Benedict strongly believes that Mr. Bogardus will eventually donate his nearly completed building to the school whereas Father O'Malley sees the logic of selling off the remaining school grounds. As time goes by a number of people and incidents occur to colour the life of St. Mary's and which allow both Father O'Malley and Sister Benedict to learn more about each others qualities that increase the at times reluctant respect they have for each other. Father O'Malley takes responsibility for the education of a young girl Patsy (Joan Carroll), who is left at the school and who doesn't know who her father is, and he sets out to reunite her shattered family. Meanwhile Sister Benedict takes young student Eddie (Richard Tyler), under her wing and actually teaches him boxing in order for him to be able to defend himself against some playground bullies. Despite the seemingly ongoing hopeless situation St. Mary's is in Sister Benedict's unswerving belief in a miracle occuring finally does happen when through a health scare Mr. Bogardus realises the need to do something for others in order to be liked by people and with some not so gently "persuasion", by Sister Benedict and the other nuns he finally donates the new building to the school and thus St. Mary's is saved from closing. However Sister Benedict's trials are not yet over when her own health begins to fail from over work and it is discovered she is suffering from the early stages of TB. Father O'Malley with his growing respect for the Sister then faces the difficult task of relieving her of her duties at her beloved St. Mary's so that she can recover in a warmer climate from her ailment. At first depressed about being sent away and not informed of her illness Sister Bendict prays hard to find forgiveness in her heart for Father O"Malley's seemingly harsh actions. Only when she is finally saying her goodbyes to the Sisters does Father O"Malley break down and tell her the real reason why she is being sent away and the rift between then instantly disappears. To an obviously relived Sister Father O'Malley then delivers his famous line that if She ever needs anything at all all she needs to do is "Dial "O" for O'Malley".
As beautiful and heartfelt story as you would find anywhere "The Bells of St. Mary's", is a class act from start to finish and while perhaps not as famous as its illustrious "parent", "Going My Way", it has much that is worthwhile. The once off teaming of Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman created great chemistry on screen and they are both incredibly believable in their performances. The film contains a number of truly delightful little scenes that really help humanise the characters such as when Father O'Malley has to content with a kitten playing in his hat while he is giving his welcome speech to the very amused nuns, and especially when Sister Benedict teaches Eddie to box and "coaches", him from the window during a school yard fight. Both performers are perfect here and in the sadder moments such as when Sister Benedict is told she is being sent away these two really show their acting strengths in a scene that could have been simply sentimental with little depth to it but which is turned into a remarkable scene that shows that clergy are people just like everyone else full of many different emotions. Veteran character actor Henry Travers who was so wonderful in countless classic over this decade such as "Mrs. Miniver", delivers another fine performance here as the grumpy Mr. Bogardus who eventually sees the value in living life in the service of others. His scenes with Ingrid Bergman in particular recall his great work opposite that other popular 40's actress Greer Garson in "Mrs. Miniver", and is beautifully multilayered for what could have been just your standard mean old man. Produced and directed by Leo McCarey he leads the film in an at times slow and leisurely pace however that suits the subject matter here as it slowly traces the growing respect that develops between the two sometime rivals Father O'Malley and Sister Benedict. Nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, the film shows off its expertise in all areas and while at times of course idealised it is a good illustration of much of the largely unacknowledged work carried in schools by the clergy over the decades.
"The Bells of St. Mary's", may appear on the sentimental side to modern movie watches but I appreciate it for the truly great performances by the two leads in their prime and for the sensitive treatment it takes in depicting one woman's great belief in the basic good of others and their ability to do the right thing by their fellow man. For a look into how Hollywood once depicted the varied work of nuns and priests in a dignified manner while still showing them as human beings with feelings, "The Bells of St. Mary's", is unrivalled and is highly recommended viewing. Enjoy."