Friday, December 10, 2010

#4 The Bells of St. Mary's

My #4 favorite movie for the Christmas holiday season is The Bells of St. Mary’s. According to Wikipedia, this is the 50th highest grossing moving of all time, which is saying a lot, when you think of all the blockbuster movies out there (think Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Eclipse, etc.) Here is a plot summary from Wikipedia:

The Bells of St. Mary'sFather O'Malley (Bing Crosby), the unconventional priest from Going My Way, is assigned to St. Mary's, a run-down inner-city Catholic school on the verge of being condemned. O'Malley feels the school should be closed and the children sent to another school with modern facilities, but the sisters feel that God will provide and put their hopes in Horace P. Bogardus, a businessman who has built a modern building next door to the school and which they hope he will donate to them. Father O'Malley and the dedicated but stubborn Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) have to work together to save the school, though their different views and methods often lead to good-natured disagreements. Towards the end, however, Sister Benedict contracts tuberculosis and is transferred to Arizona without being told the reason for her transfer, which she assumes is because of her disagreements with O'Malley.

I don’t know if you have to be Catholic or to have gone to a Catholic school to appreciate The Bells of St. Mary’s. But the school reminded me of St. Anne’s in Fair Lawn, New Jersey where I went to elementary school in the 1950s and 1960s. There are some differences. The kids would have been in uniforms, and there would have been about eight priests instead of one for a parish of that size. But the atmospherics are perfect.

Boxing Sr. Benedict
There are many memorable scenes including Father O’Malley’s introduction to a convent full of teaching nuns and Crosby’s character singing O Sanctissima. (Back then, all hymns and the mass were in Latin.) But probably the most famous scene is Sister Benedict teaching a student, who is being bullied, how to box, and specialty shops still carry a boxing nun puppet. Also, “Dial ‘O’ for O’Malley” is a catch phrase that we used in my family when someone was in trouble and needed help.

The chemistry between Crosby and Bergman is excellent (sometimes a bit on the sexy side). Both were nominated for an Academy Award, as was the picture, and the ending will have you either in tears or laughing. Why? Because Sister Benedict is actually happy to learn that she has TB and is not being sent away because Father O’Malley is unhappy with her. Today, you can only get an ending like that on a Lifetime movie, but it worked in the 1940s.


  1. My #4 favorite Christmas movie after White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and The Bishop's Wife, is The Bells of St. Mary's. Bing Crosby & Ingrid Bergman were made for the roles of Father O'Malley & Sister Benedict. During my catholic school years, I would have loved to have a nun like Sister Benedict, instead of the devil re-incarnate, Sister Column that I had, not just for 1 year but for 2 years!
    Although it is not considered a Christmas movie, every year at this time I watch Going My Way with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. If you haven't seen it, I'd encourage you to check it out. It's a real tearjerker.

  2. Carole, You have excellent taste in movies. All of your movies are in my top ten. It's almost like we grew up in the same house. :)