Leo McCarey

Sog.: Leo McCarey. Scen.: Dudley Nichols. F.: George Barnes. M.: Harry Marker. Scgf.: William Flannery, Albert D’Agostino. Mus.: Robert Emmett Dolan. Int.: Bing Crosby (padre O’Malley), Ingrid Bergman (suor Mary Benedict), Henry Travers (Horace P. Bogardus), William Gargan (Joe Gallagher), Ruth Donnelly (suor Michael), Joan Carroll (Patsy Gallagher), Martha Sleeper (Mary Gallagher), Rhys Williams (dottor McKay), Una O’Connor (Mrs. Breen). Prod.: Leo McCarey per Rainbow Productions · DCP 4K. Bn. D.: 126’.


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

If the couple is the center of McCarey’s art, that center was dangerously absent in Going My Way, the story of a celibate priest. Celibacy may still be the sticking point of McCarey’s 1945 sequel to the immensely successful Going My Way, but in The Bells of St. Mary’s the filmmaker has found a way to return to the couple without violating the sanctity of his characters’ vows. In effect, Father O’Malley finds a mate, in the alluring form of Ingrid Bergman’s Sister Mary Benedict, when he is assigned to the run-down, inner-city convent where she is the mother superior and head of the parochial school that serves the disadvantaged children of the neighborhood.
In almost every way, Father O’Malley and Sister Benedict represent the glories of marriage, McCarey-style, profoundly united as they are through their easygoing, bantering relationship; their shared taste for music and delight in children; their sense of a higher power and a greater purpose. But without sex to seal the deal (and McCarey remains one of the most unabashedly erotic of American filmmakers, as represented in The Awful Truth and Good Sam), their relationship must survive on purely spiritual terms – perhaps the strictest of the many tests McCarey imposes on his lovers.
Told through an extended series of seemingly independent episodes (Jacques Lourcelles has aptly likened the film’s structure to the beads of a rosary), The Bells of St. Mary’s describes a worldly, pragmatic Catholicism, in which turning the other cheek isn’t always the best strategy (and even nuns must learn to box) and God shows his face, not through the gauzy abstractions of Henry King’s The Song of Bernadette (released the previous year), but through the smiles of children and the change of heart worked in the bosom of a flinty old man (Henry Travers). If Father O’Malley and Sister Benedict can never be united in the flesh, they do earn their union in spirit – a union superbly depicted by McCarey in one of his most heart-rending climaxes.

Dave Kehr

Copy From

Première of the 4K restored version by the Paramount Archives. Scanned in 4K (in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1) on the Scanity film scanner from the 35mm nitrate original negative and 35mm nitrate finegrain. The original main title sequence was restored using a 35mm dupe negative graciously loaned by the British Film Institute. Scanning, picture restoration and color correction were performed by Technicolor. Audio restoration was performed by Audio Mechanics