361. The Bells of St. Mary’s

Movie: The Bells of St. Mary’s

Release Date: December 6, 1945

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman

Tag Lines: “The Whole World’s in Tune . . . with Bing and Bergman together at their most brilliant best!”

“They’re a grand pair in the grandest picture of the year!”

“Your heart will be wearing a smile!”

Relevance: ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ is not necessarily a holiday movie but growing up in my household it seemed to always be playing around that time. My first time I ever came across this movie was by watching a more genuine holiday movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ (Spoiler alert: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ will be popping up sometime during this challenge.) As George Bailey is running through Bedford Falls, NY near the end of the film, he passes a movie theater. The movie spelled out on the marquee was ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s.’ I asked my dad if that was a real movie, to which my mom said, “It’s a real movie and a good movie!”

Here is another film I don’t remember watching the first time around but yet another example how art leads to more art. Because I had asked about the movie, my parents (most likely my mom) had seen it listed in the TV Guide and we made a point of watching it. Yes young people, there was a weekly magazine that was basically a printed version of what was playing that week on television for all channels. There was also a crossword puzzle on the back page that my mom used to love to complete. So, whenever that first time I saw the movie was, it was thanks to my mom and TV Guide.

Today’s Thoughts: I probably have only seen this movie a few times as a child, and probably not all the way through every time. So I was eager to watch it again as an adult as much of it I did not remember. I will probably say this a lot throughout this challenge, but a well made, well acted movie stands the test of time. That is true for ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s.’ It’s charm, wit and sentiment (at times a little extra schmaltzy) are not lost in today’s world. It’s simple storytelling but still relevant in terms of human emotions. Ingrid Bergman is especially charming as Sister Mary Benedict and the scene where she teaches a young Eddie boxing is silly and delightful in all of the right ways.

One small interesting observance I am absolutely positive I did not catch the other times I watched the film happens near its beginning. Father O’Malley is going to address the children on the first day of school but before he does, they say the Pledge of Allegiance. Since the film was made before 1954 (the year the USA started its descent into a theocracy) , “under god” was not part of the pledge. I just found it ironic as the movie is filled with themes of religion not to mention the bulk of characters are nuns. Just dial O for Observance.

I can now see why the movie gets lumped in with other holiday classics. For starters, there is the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ tie-in, even more so when I realized who played Horace Bogardus. It was Clarence himself, actor Henry Travers. There is also the Christmas pageant scene in the middle of the movie which is one of my favorite scenes in the film. And overall, the sentiment of the movie and themes of praying for miracles, good will and good deeds, just has that Christmasy feel to it. It was a great movie to watch as I packed away Christmas 2019.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Bing Crosby (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Ingrid Bergman (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Leo McCarey (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Harry Marker (nomination), Academy Award for Best Sound Recording, Stephen Dunn (winner), Academy Award for Best Original Song, “Aren’t You Glad You’re You,” Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Robert Emmett Dolan (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actress, Ingrid Bergman (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, Ingrid Bergman (winner), Venice Film Festival, Best Feature Film (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, DVD Availability

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