The highest-grossing picture of 1944 had all the perfect elements: some drama, some comedy and lots of musical numbers by one of the biggest stars of the time, Bing Crosby. Developed by Paramount contract writers Frank Butler and Frank Cavett, Going My Way started out as an original concept by master director Leo McCarey (An Affair to Remember, Duck Soup, The Bells of St. Mary’s - and the man who introduced Laurel to Hardy).
Crosby plays Father Charles “Chuck” O’Malley, an Irish Catholic priest with some unusual ideas on how to improve a struggling parish in East St. Louis. Casual and tolerant, Crosby’s Father O’Malley has an ex-girlfriend (Jean Heather), likes to play golf, is not put off by the parish’s would-be juvenile delinquents and, of course, loves to sing, breaking into ballads and lullabies as needed, including three pieces by the illustrious duo Johnny Burke and James Van Housen, and religious evergreens like Ave Maria, Adeste Fidelis and Silent Night.
Shot on location in Los Angeles, Going My Way had interiors on Paramount’s storied lot, and “East St. Louis” exteriors in Toluca Lake, the parking lot of the Shrine Auditorium in Downtown LA and Santa Monica Catholic Church, in Santa Monica, “playing” Father O’Malley’s parish church.
A soothing, optimistic movie for traumatic times, Going My Way was showered with enthusiastic reviews – the New York Times called it “the best movie of Bing Crosby’s career” – and made a killing at the box office, amassing in excess of 16 million dollars. Once again, the Globes set the pace – our second Best Motion Picture went on to win several other awards.