Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Going My Way (1944).
In Going My Way, Bing Crosby finds himself playing a singing priest who comes to take over a parish from an older priest and, in many ways, it seems a role perfectly made for him and is probably the best he ever was. It’s a film about two men finding a balance between the old and the new so they can both realize their callings to God and help their communities to prosper in a changing world. With a healthy dose of comedy and philosophical introspection, it’s essentially what The Two Popes tried and failed to do. This one has gripping performances, with Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald providing excellent foils to each other, but it also features wonderful musical numbers (including “Swinging on a Star” which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and years later would be a childhood favorite song of mine), and a message that may have been told many times before but remains ever potent. It occasionally veers into the overly sentimental and can be a bit trite, but overall it is quite a solid film.
The Real Best Picture:
I haven’t seen Double Indemnity and I’ve been assured it’ll be the one that takes this place but regardless, for all its merit, I don’t think Going My Way is nearly as great as Gaslight, so Gaslight takes the title for me.