It took some doing to persuade the staunchly Catholic Bing Crosby to play a happy-go-lucky priest in Going My Way; luckily he acquiesced, winning an Academy Award in the process. Crosby is cast as Father Chuck O'Malley, newly arrived at rundown, heavily in debt St. Dominic's Church. Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), the cranky, set-in-his-ways curate of St. Dominic's, is none too pleased with O'Malley's breezy, "modernistic" methods. Fitzgibbon is content to adhere to the policies he has followed for nearly 45 years. Without overtly challenging Fitzgibbon's authority (he likes the old buzzard, and the feeling is mutual), O'Malley sets about to win the confidence of the local street toughs, organizing the boys into an angelic church choir. He also forestalls the plans of St. Dominic's mortgage holder Ted Haines (Gene Lockhart) to evict Fitzgibbons by arranging a fundraising choir tour, to be headlined by O'Malley's childhood friend, opera star Genevieve Linden (Rise Stevens). When he's not coming to the rescue of St. Dominic's, O'Malley is smoothing the path of romance for Haines' son (James Brown) and orphaned Carol James (Jean Heather), and arranging for a reunion between Fitzgibbons and his nonagenarian Irish mother. There is sentiment by the bucketful in Going My Way, but director Leo McCarey sagaciously tempers the treacle with moments of genuine hilarity and several delightful (and seemingly spontaneous) musical interludes. In addition to Crosby, Oscars went to Barry Fitzgerald, Leo McCarey, screenwriters Frank Butler and Frank Cavett, and Burke and Van Heusen's song hit "Swingin' On a Star." Bing Crosby repeated his father O'Malley characterization in McCarey's 1945 sequel The Bells of St. Mary's.
by Hal Erickson synopsis