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Going My Way--NOT


kingrat
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With apologies to Braveheart, the previous #1, it's just possible that the worst Oscar winner for Best Picture that I've seen is now Going My Way. Braveheart is still the historical film for those who can't find Scotland on a map of Great Britain, but that's a different rant. I'm sure that Going My Way has its devoted fans, so apologies in advance. There are still quite a few Oscar winners I haven't seen, both early and recent, including Cimarron and Crash, but Going My Way is a strong contender for worst Best Picture.

 

Most Oscar winners have either 1) spectacle; 2) prestige (made from a famous novel or play); 3) important subject matter new to the screen, or some combination of the three. Going My Way has none of the above, though it does have two important secondary pluses: 4) financial success (it was the top grosser of the year--in more ways than one); and 5) a feel-good quality to the original audience.

 

No doubt this film seems very different to those who grew up in urban Catholic parishes and have fond memories of kindly Irish priests. I don't qualify. To me, Going My Way seems like sentimental swill with an insipid story, lackluster direction, and Barry Fitzgerald. For those of us who never meet any Irish priests, Barry Fitzgerald seems as exotic and as little like a real person as Zsa Zsa Gabor. In addition, he's an old school ham. Though various films try to convince us Fitzgerald is a darlin' darlin' man, to me he's about the creepiest actor in Golden Age Hollywood. He usually seems devious, untrustworthy, and manipulative, and instinctively I guard my wallet whenever he's on screen. He'd have made a good villain in a James Bond movie. He was born to play Kreechur in the Harry Potter films, which is essentially the role he plays in The Sea Wolf, where's he still hammy, but correctly cast.

 

Bing Crosby doesn't do much to earn his Best Actor award, but he's pleasant and relaxed on screen, which is harder to achieve than it seems. The juvenile delinquent subplot is almost laughable, and when she's supposed to be running away from home, Jean Heather looks dressed for a Jeanne Crain lookalike contest instead. Her first scene is miserably directed, Perhaps the point is that the problems aren't really problems, so don't take anything seriously.

 

If you're given to conspiracy theories--not that anyone on these boards is!--you might wonder if making Going My Way and giving it an Oscar was intended as a sop to the right-wing Catholics who ran the censorship office. Or perhaps the popularity of Bing Crosby and the Epcot theme park version of a big-city parish brought genuine comfort to the original viewers.

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Going My Way is by no means the worst Oscar Winner not even close. I actually thought it was pretty entertaining movie and no worse than something like You Can't Take it With You which is also overly sentimental. I think a lot of Oscar winners have that issue actually.

 

That being said it didn't deserve to win. The Oscar definitely should have went to *Double Indemnity*

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Best film of 1944 was *Wilson*. I know it wasn't a success when it was released, but it's an incredible biopic. And Alexander Knox as President Wilson should have won over Crosby and everyone else. Knox gives one of the great screen performances. The supporting categories were also particularly strong that year.

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> No doubt this film seems very different to those who grew up in urban Catholic parishes and have fond memories of kindly Irish priests.

 

I grew up in a small-town Irish Catholic parish, and it makes me hate *Going My Way* even more. I think I too would pick *Double Indemnity* for Best Picture. And this was the one year Alfred Hitchcock was really robbed for Best Director. He should have won hands down for *Lifeboat*.

 

However, I've come around a bit more to the idea that Barry Fitzgerald might have deserved the Oscar, because in real life, his character would have been alcoholic, gay, fondling the altar boys, and running arms to the Southern Irish terrorists Deborah Kerr wanted to join up with in *I See a Dark Stranger*. That fact that Fitzgerald can make his character look like a nice guy takes a bit of acting.

 

My father is of German descent (he married an Irish Catholic, which is why I wound up getting baptized in an Irish Catholic parish), but when to an Irish Catholic parochial school. One of his abiding memories is of the nuns' making the students go see the sequel *The Bells of St. Mary's*, a film he still hates to this day.

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It's always seemed a little clunky and thrown-together. Not obviously made by the guy who brought us *The Awful Truth*. (And for the record, it bears no resemblance to my Irish Catholic upbringing in the 70s).

 

It made a lot of people happy, though. I file this under "I Guess You Had To Be There" movies.

 

(worst Best Picture? That would be *Crash*...don't even get me started.)

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Yeah, it is a high-grade brick of cheese, isn't it?

 

I still say it's not as bad as The Greatest Show in Earth (maybe it's the fact that it's shorter, doesn't feature a cracked-out Betty Hutton swinging on a trapeze and the vignette structure is at least interesting.)

 

It is hard to believe the same dude who did the gleefully amoral Awful Truth did this- although I do note that Love Affair is a good example of McCarey managing to balance himself on the edge of the sugar bowl without falling in head first (he owes a lot, of course, to Dunne and Boyer for that). I also also note that An Affair to Remember (1957) is one of the most lazyassed jobs I have ever seen of a director remaking his own picture (something that's pretty damn lazy to begin with.) I also also also note that I just don't get Duck Soup but I guess that's another post.

 

If it's any consolation, after Bells of St. Mary's which I also find insufferable, only not quite so much, McCarey's career pretty much went "pfft!" (He did some stuff, but not a lot, and nothing good.)

 

SPOILER IN REGARDS TO AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (1945) SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU ACTUALLY CARE (you shouldn't)

Fitzgerald is the murderer in that movie and it is the styoopidest thing I've ever seen. He's like a killer version of the Lucky Charms mascot. The Oscar was wasted on that cat.

 

I throw in for the heck of it that if any of you can catch the computer-colorized version of Bells of St. Mary's you should- it's like an acid trip.

 

Bing Crosby did give one great performance in my book though, he is awesome in the otherwise atrocious The Country Girl - the only thing about that film that I would've nominated (but I would have.) Double Indemnity should so totally have won it's really a joke and Laura , for all its flaws, is a better movie by far.

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Feb 15, 2011 8:42 PM

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For those of you who didn?t live or remember, in 1944 there was a raging World War going on. This was a time that Hollywood wanted to bestow something of an upbeat message to the masses of fans. The film community felt the country and for that matter the world needed a symbolic gesture of hope and good will that in the long run was lacking throughout the war years. Looking at the other four nominees, it?s easy to see that a film like ?Wilson? was too political, ?Gaslight? was simply too moody a melodrama (but good!) and ?Since You Went Away? reminded everyone too much of the pain resulting from the raging World War and as for "Double Indemnity," its elements of showcasing a crime wasn't exactly having much of a humanizing spirit. So, most of the votes headed in a very different direction. It was a feeling to sort of designate positive ideals and a desire to see American society on the bright side of things. Sure, the other nominees were powerful, important, provocative motion pictures. But, what the voters of the Academy felt was needed was a lot of heart. Bing winning was something of a surprise, but then he was after all is said and done, the biggest box-office draw of the day. He had a widely heard national radio variety show and toured the country whenever he could. He was for that time of the 1940s, a wonderful inspirational figure to the country and parts of the world. Thus, Bing became one of the biggest superstars of the entertainment world.

 

I don?t think ?Going My Way? is one of the worst ?Oscar? winners. It?s just a film given consideration for a time when a lot of sympathy came its way to become one of the most beloved in motion picture history. There just seems to be times when the votes go towards a direction where drama, artistic intent and romantic passion have no chance against what?s inspirational about the heart and soul, especially during a period of great strife. It was Hollywood simply saying they wanted to give something back to an issue of having faith; it was a faith to believe what?s good about the human psyche. Is this so bad or rotten?

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I've never been a fan of Crosby, though I like him well enough in *We're Not Dressing*. But the real stars of that film are Lombard, Burns and Allen, Merman, and Leon Errol. It's a sort of Admirable Crichton story, with Crosby playing the Crichton character. Great songs. Best line is from Gracie, at the end of the film: "I'm not crying because I'll miss them, I'm crying because this accordion is pinching my stomach."

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The funny thing about this subject is that at various times, at other websites, fans have taken votes on the Academy Awards. It's rather interesting that today, the clear cut winner in voting has been "Double Indemnity." This is probably a good example of how the sentiment of the times change towards an issue that once had a different meaning or outcome. Are we more realistic today, than in 1944? Of course, I have to admit that my vote has always been for "Double Indemnity." Yet, I can't help but understand the disposition of those "war years" and a need to feel good about our lives in general.

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I haven't seen "Cimarron" either, but as someone who grew up near and crossed over that river many times in my youth, I can tell you that it took only a few minutes of it last night to send me away. Richard Dix tells the men who have ridden up to rob him -- but relent when they see he's an old friend -- that he's aiming to settle in O'Sage and start a newspaper there. They aggravate the situation by repeating this name two or three times. Now, I don't know whether Osage was ever pronounced as if it were an Irish name, with the accent on the second sylLAble, but I never heard it any other way than Osage, with the accent on the first, whether it was for the tribe, the county or the river of that name. So it seems that those who worked on this film were as deeply in touch with their subject as was Edna Ferber, who wrote a friend: "Oklahoma I hate and loathe, stem and stern, people and habits, town and country, up and down, forever and ever."

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I can't help but think that one reason Grace Kelly may have received her Oscar that year was due to her willingness to look "frumpy" and tired for most of the movie. Whenever an exceptionally beautiful and glamourous woman shows the nerve to "un-pretty" for a role, she is praised for her courage. People seem to think it's an acting miracle in itself for a beautiful woman to agree to make herself look unattractive on film. I'm not taking away from actresses who do that, usually their acting is good in these kinds of films. But the "de-glamourizing" definitely helps.

 

Other examples: Nicole Kidman in *The Hours* , Charlize Theron in *Monster* .

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> {quote:title=MovieProfessor wrote:}{quote}

> The funny thing about this subject is that at various times, at other websites, fans have taken votes on the Academy Awards. It's rather interesting that today, the clear cut winner in voting has been "Double Indemnity." This is probably a good example of how the sentiment of the times change towards an issue...I can't help but understand the disposition of those "war years" and a need to feel good about our lives in general.

 

 

And yet, irony of ironies, THE VERY NEXT YEAR they gave Best Picture to a bleak, serious and rather unhappy film by Wilder The Lost Weekend a film that is fine, but nowhere near as smart, well-acted (with the exception of Ray Milland's excellent performance) or entertaining (in my book) as Indemnity and one that has a tacked-on happy, schmappy ending that I call out as bulls*** every time I see it.

 

But what didn't get nominated? The box office hit Meet Me In St. Louis - a glorious, lovely, uplifting, un-pretentious and genuinely honest Valentine to the pre-war America that had slipped away, never to return, and a film I'll take over Going my Way any damn day of the week. Bells of St Mary's did make the cut, as did Anchors Aweigh which is just awful, I'm sorry.

 

I tells you, the AMPAS ALWAYS gets it _perfectly_ wrong, they have a real talent for it.

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Feb 16, 2011 11:52 AM

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I dont know how it worked in 1944. Did the studios position the certain films for nominations, and then lobby for people's votes, as they do now? I'm wondering if Paramount just put all its effort behind this movie getting the nomination (knowing it had a good chance of winning), instead of pushing for something riskier like *Double Indemnity*.

 

*The Broadway Melody* has always been a head-scratcher for me as well. Is that just the strong arm of MGM at work? Even as a technical achievement in sound it is weak, especially when one sees Fox's *Sunny Side Up*, which now looks like Star Wars in comparison.

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Yes, I'm sure that was the case. Studios put their clout behind what film of theirs they wanted to win. And their employees were supposed to vote accordingly. I'm sure Paramount put everything behind Going My Way. Double Indemnity didnt have a chance..........

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It's hard to hate this movie. It has heart, sentimentality. A certain purity of theme. Many films that lack those qualities are MUCH worse. But you're right. It's overstated, awkward and devoid of subtlety. Even those moments that are clearly meant to be emotional depth charges are set up and telegrammed so you see them coming a mile away. Whatever effectiveness they might have had is lost. A couple of the songs are cute. Some are not. What is with that title song? I challenge anybody to hum the tune! This is a mediocre movie that miraculously (hmm...) achieved lasting popularity.

 

As others have noted, that this theatrical elbow jab was directed by the man responsible some of the wittier classic comedies is baffling. Amen.

 

Edited by: redriver on Feb 16, 2011 5:53 PM

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It is impossible for any of us to rate movies from bygone eras with any fairness unless we were a part of that era. I remember my mother talking many times over how wonderful the original Broadway Melody was and what a huge hit it was at that time yet a previous poster mentioned how awful it was. Unless you lived during that time how can you possibly rate these films? Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion but let's be fair.

During World War II people needed an escape. Movies such as Going My Way provided that escape.

I remember watching programs like "Leave it To Beaver" when a child and now when I would watch it I cringe at the corniness of it. Yet those were the times and the Cleaver family like the Nelsons were the ideal of that era. Likewise with "Three's Company". I remember what a huge hit it was at the time and people thought of it as very provacative and very funny. Yet viewing it today on TV Land I find it extremely corny and even embarrassingly silly and stupid.

Maybe someday people in the far distant future will look at today's current load of reality shows as absurd and ridiculous.

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