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The Bells of St. Mary's
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that nostalgic guardians will enjoy sharing this one with their children. But parents should be on hand to field a few delicate questions, such as whether it's ever okay to lie to protect someone, and vague allusions to a single mother's fall from respectability. This is a great film for the whole family to curl up to on a rainy day. Teens who are fans of old classics or light musicals will be happy to have this one in their collection.
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What's the story?
In this moving classic, run-down, overcrowded St. Mary's has a new pastor, Father Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby), whose views on how to run a parochial school give Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) a thing or two to think about. The two of them put their differing methods to the same task: saving the school. That salvation comes in the improbable shape of Horace P. Bogardus, a building owner who needs but a few suggestive nudges to awaken the joy of giving in his ailing heart.
Is it any good?
The rapport between Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman is enough to overcome the tired plot, and got the two stars Oscar nominations for their performances. Bearing that in mind, THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S isn't so much about a pair of Catholic do-gooders trying to save their beloved parochial school as it's about that wonderful pairing -- but it is undeniably engaging.
This time around Crosby plays Father O'Malley a bit softer, more quietly subversive, than he did in Going My Way. Why, 40 minutes of movie time pass before he sidles up to a piano and starts crooning. The repentant way he glances heavenward after telling a fib is priceless. That Bergman can look angelic even while coaching a boy on how to box is a testament not only to her screen presence, but to the talents of George Barnes, whose black-and-white camera work also did wonders for her in Hitchcock's Spellbound that same year. You believe she's a sister superior just by the way he makes light fall across her.
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