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The Bells of St. Mary’s

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The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) starring Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, by Leo McCarey
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The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) starring Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, by Leo McCarey

Synopsis of The Bells of St. Mary’s

In The Bells of St. Mary’s, a carefree singing priest clashes with a no-nonsense nun at a school in a struggling parish.

Editorial review of The Bells of St. Mary’s courtesy of

After watching director Leo McCarey’s 1945, black-and-white ode to sentimentality, it’s intriguing to note how everything old becomes new again. As evidenced by 1998 box-office fare such as Stepmom and One True Thing, the “disease of the week” mentality has been tugging at filmgoers’ hearts for decades. The Bells of St. Mary’s is the “sequel” to McCarey’s Oscar-winning Going My Way, for which star Bing Crosby incredulously took home a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the paternal priest, Father O’Malley. But in The Bells of St. Mary’s, Crosby’s undernourished, laconic technique barely registers against the luminous, playful gravity of Ingrid Bergman, who embodies the heart of a faith-abiding but forward-thinking nun named Sister Benedict.

O’Malley is transferred to her poverty-stricken school, and the two square off, ultimately forming a respect and liking for each other despite the fact that the good Sister has taken ill with tuberculosis and Father O’Malley must send her away from her beloved parish to save her life. Sure, The Bells of St. Mary’s feels outdated and even trivial in light of the successors to its throne, but it’s still a contender. McCarey had the touch for striking a chord that hearkens back to everything we didn’t get as kids. He fills a need, as it were, with his ability to reveal our human frailties. Too, he’s got Ingrid Bergman, who makes us fondly remember every teacher who lovingly and patiently made a difference in our lives.

The Bells of St. Mary’s recalls better days and romanticizes a gentler way of being, as suggested when Sister Benedict, after overhearing Father O’Malley remark that sometimes a man must fight his way through life, offers simply in response, “Why not make him think his way through instead?” –Paula Nechak

Cast of characters

Songs in The Bells of St. Mary’s

  • Aren’t You Glad You’re You?
    • Lyrics by Johnny Burke
    • Music by Jimmy Van Heusen (as James Van Heusen)
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s
    • Lyrics by Douglas Furber
    • Music by A. Emmett Adams
    • Special lyrics by Sister Madeleva Wolff
  • In the Land of Beginning Again
    • Written by George W. Meyer and Grant Clarke
  • Vårvindar friska
    • Swedish Lyrics by Julia Nyberg (1784-1854)
    • English Lyrics by Eddie Lisbona and Robert Musel
    • Performed by Ingrid Bergman
  • Adeste Fideles (O, Come All Ye Faithful)
    • Written by John Francis Wade
  • O Sanctissima
    • Traditional
  • Pomp and Circumstance
    • Written by Edward Elgar
  • Happy Birthday to You
    • Written by Patty S. Hill and Mildred J. Hill

Updated May 12, 2022

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