Olive Signature, which is the exceptional collector's edition division of Olive Films, does the 1945 Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman classic "The Bells of St. Mary's" more than proud as to the November 26, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of that Oscar-winning classic. The typical sturdy artful sleeve, the comprehensive written essay, and the equally educational and entertaining BD bonus features are pure Signature in a manner that shows that Olive ain't just whistlin' Dixie as to its motto "cinema lives here."
Crosby reunites (and it feels so good) with legendary veteran writer/director/producer Leo McCarey to continue the story of Crosby's Oscar-winning Father Chuck O'Malley from "Going My Way." The Crosby-style charm and wit of that man of the cloth likely provides the Catholic Church with its best propaganda of the '40s. (A BD bonus feature provides copious enlightenment as to the biopic-worthy career of McCarey.)
Our story begins with O'Malley arriving at the titular House of God in his capacity as the new pastor. The circumstances regarding this change-of-command reflect the not-uncommon real-life situation in which a priest well past his prime is a figurehead, and the penguins run the aquarium. This plays a role as to the ready-for-primetime O'Malley sometimes leaving stern but loving Sister Benedict (Bergman) with egg on her face.
The aforementioned Crosby style particularly shines in early scenes in which he inadvertently rings the school bell an hour before the beginning of classes and later shows the students that there is a new Sheriff Taylor in town. Benedict particularly is not amused as to the largess of the new boss but holds her tongue, as she amazingly does throughout the film.
An early highlight is O'Malley being unaware of why the nuns validly are laughing during his introduction of himself to them; one can say that the cat has got the tongues of his audience,
An even more adorable scene come roughly halfway through the film; we see the first-graders rehearsing their version of the Nativity story. Much of this involves a very young Joseph knocking on doors only to be told to take a powder because he does not have any money.
The central conflict between O'Malley and Benedict is highly relatable in this modern era of church closings, The necessity of funds for repairs already has required selling the former playground of the property. Developer Horace P. Bogadus (Henry "Clarence" Travers) is making solid progress with his building on that site and has his eyes on the school as the location of a parking lot.
Laid-back O'Malley is accepting the strong probability that the St. Mary's students will need to be bused to St. Vincent's across town. Benedict has a perish the thought attitude regarding the closure of her home. A "God will get you for that" attitude of O'Malley plays a role.
The response of every viewer with a soul to a shock soon after an apparent resolution to this challenge is a prime example of the impact of this perfect film. You WILL respond as intended to every character and feel his or her pain.
Our leads also clash as to new girl in class Patsy. This girl entering adolescence prompts her single mother to convince O'Malley to give Patsy an education and a "proper" home. Of course, O'Malley responds with exceptional kindness and compassion.
As a BD bonus in the form of an engaging interview with a nun who is a film reviewer states, it is almost certain that the mother either practices the oldest profession in the world or relies on the kindness of strangers. This bride of Christ also shares how her own experience allows her to relate to Patsy. The rest of us will think of a "Facts of Life" episode in which Eve Plumb of "The Brady Bunch" fame plays a young nun who has a profound impact on one of the Eastland girls.
The other primary source of conflict between O'Malley and Benedict is the former making a sacrifice for the good of the latter, who incorrectly thinks that she is being punished for adhering to her principles (rather than to her principal). Once again, the real-life nun speaks for the rest of this as to her response to this.
Every thread of the "St. Mary's" story aptly comes together at the commencement ceremony, which is one of the final times that Benedict shows O'Malley who's the boss, at the end of the film. Everyone ends up where he or she belongs in true Golden Age fashion.
Hopefully as shown above, the blessing and the curse of "St Mary's" is that it reminds us of what movies can be. Neither O'Malley nor Benedict outwardly lose their tempers (or end up in bed together), and there is no violence or shock-and-awe humor.
One must believe that there still are filmmaker like McCarey out there. It is less likely that there are enough Americans who still have a soul to allow another "St. Marys" to return a reasonable profit.