Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Here we are for the seventh and final movie in the Road series, the 1962 movie The Road To Hong Kong, with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope returning, and joined this time by Joan Collins.

This time, Bing is Harry Turner and Bob is Chester Babcock, a pair of con men. When Chester ends up in an accident during one of their cons that causes him to lose his memory, they go to a lamasery that holds the potential to restore his memory. While at the airport on their way there, Chester is mistaken for an agent of the Third Echelon, and is given a secret rocket formula by Diane (Joan Collins). After Chester regains his memory at the lamasery, he is also given an herb that would allow him to remember word for word anything that he reads after being shown it. When they return, Harry unknowingly has Chester memorize the formula, and burns the paper they were on. Harry makes a deal with Diane, and they go to Hong Kong to meet the leader of the Third Echelon. They have no luck, and they get sent up on a rocket. I could easily keep going, but I need to stop at some point!

Since I should discuss movies I DON’T have as high an opinion of (or otherwise, I may run out of movies eventually), we’ll discuss what I think of this movie. As the seventh and final movie in the Road series, this one shows indeed that the series was running out of steam. The story is somewhat convoluted, and seems at times like the movie is trying to be a “greatest hits” of their material. That would be fine, except Bing and Bob were both nearly sixty at the time they made this movie, and their timing (and physical abilities) show it. I don’t know what the problem is (possibly just the material they were given), as I have seen them together in one of Bing’s TV specials made about the same time to promote the movie, where I thought they were far funnier together.

It hurts even more that they have a much younger female co-star, Joan Collins, instead of Dorothy Lamour, their co-star in the previous six movies (reduced to a cameo here as a compromise, since Bing and a number of others apparently thought she was getting too old, even though she was about ten years younger than Bob and Bing, and wanted somebody much younger, but Bob wanted her in the movie). However you look at it, though, the lack of chemistry shows, and the brief few minutes with Dorothy Lamour are far better than the rest of the movie with Joan Collins.

Now, in spite of what I have said, I do enjoy this movie. I admit, I am only really likely to watch it when I am either watching through the filmographies of Bing or Bob (at least, those I have on disc), or when I am watching the Road series. It is worth a few laughs, but sometimes it depends upon my mood when I watch it. I can’t quite recommend it to anybody else, though, hence my more negative review (if you have read this review and still want to try it, I am still providing Amazon links as usual).

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 4/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

High Time (1960)Bing CrosbyRobin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

Alias Jesse James (1959)Bob Hope

The Opposite Sex (1956) – Joan Collins

Road To Bali (1952)Dorothy Lamour

Ocean’s 11 (1960)Frank SinatraRobin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

Ocean’s 11 (1960) – Dean Martin – Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

Road To Bali (1952) – Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour (screen team)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

The Long And The Short (Series) Of It on… Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

Now, we have the two Oscar-nominated movies featuring Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley, both of which were directed by Leo McCarey. From what I have read, The Bells of St. Mary’s was actually the first movie that was planned, but since it was being planned for RKO, and Bing was under contract to Paramount, a deal had to be made for Going My Way to be done first.

In Going My Way, we find Father O’Malley coming to the troubled St. Dominic’s Church, which is run by the more-old-fashioned Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). He is sent there by the bishop to help fix some of the church’s problems, which include the mortgage holder who is demanding payment and the youth of the church who are constantly getting into trouble with the law. Due to their differences in getting things done, Father Fitzgibbon goes to the bishop to have Father O’Malley transferred, only to find out why he was sent there in the first place. Although Father Fitzgibbon runs away at first, upon returning the two begin to bond, and with the help of Father O’Malley’s former girlfriend (now a big opera singer at the Metropolitan) and his friend, Father O’Dowd (Frank McHugh), they help to change the parish for the better.

This is a wonderful movie, with many different moments worth highlighting. The first few minutes as we watch Father O’Malley first arrive, from meeting some of the parish members, to joining a game of baseball with the neighborhood kids on the street, to being soaked as he tries to grab the ball, and then meets Father Fitzgibbon (who takes an immediate dislike to him). I know I can’t help but laugh at the kids singing “Three Blind Mice” as O’Malley tries to form the choir, which irritates Father Fitzgibbon (the song irritates him, that is). Of course, some of the most fun is watching Father Fitzgibbon when he joins Father O’Malley and Father O’Dowd on the golf course, followed by a game of checkers (watch it, and tell me you can’t laugh at it 😉 ). Watching the relationships develop in the movie is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s not just a straight plot, but there is much fun to be had here, just the same.

In The Bells of St. Mary’s, Father O’Malley is sent to be the pastor at a parochial school, and soon finds out what it means to be “up to his neck in nuns.” He and the head nun, Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), butt heads over how to run the school, and what they want to teach the students. Their most fervent disagreement is over Patsy Gallagher (Joan Carroll), who is in the school at Father O’Malley’s insistence. Patsy’s single mother had come to him, asking if Patsy could come there, since she was getting old enough to realize her mother was essentially a prostitute, which seemed to be one of the few ways she could pay the bills after her husband left her. Patsy isn’t as interested in school, hoping to get a job on her own, until Father O’Malley helps her build her confidence (at least, until she sees her father coming out of her mother’s apartment, mistaking him for one of her mother’s “clients”). Father O’Malley and Sister Mary Benedict are also trying to figure out how to save the school, which is in bad shape and in danger of being condemned by the city council (with businessman Horace P. Bogardus, played by Henry Travers, building a new office building next door and hopes to use the school for parking space). Of course, the nuns are all praying that Mr. Bogardus will end up giving them his building for them to use for the school.

Bells of St. Mary’s is also a fantastic movie. I know I enjoy watching Sister Mary Benedict teach one of the boys who was being bullied how to box (which she had to do because he was trying to “turn the other cheek” as she had taught him). Honestly, with this movie, Sister Mary Benedict is most of the fun, as she proves how clever she can be, such as how she can tell Father O’Malley is helping Patsy a little with one piece of homework. And one can’t deny the humor in watching how, in a conversation with Mr. Bogardus, she plants the thought of him giving his building to the school. There are many other wonderful moments, but these are just a few worth mentioning, off the top of my head.

Both movies seem to qualify as Christmas viewing. Going My Way connects with Christmas mainly because, as Father O’Malley, Bing sings “Silent Night” as he starts working with the boys choir, and the end of the movie takes place near Christmastime. While The Bells of St. Mary’s takes place over the school year, it does briefly make a stop at Christmas. Father O’Malley can be heard singing “Adeste Fidelis” with some of the older students, figuring it to be necessary for a Christmas program, before being taken by Sister Mary Benedict to see the nativity play that the first graders are doing. Of course, they do it their own way (I’m not sure, but I think that the kids may have been improvising it within the movie, as Sister Mary Benedict implies through some of her dialogue for the scene).

As best as I can tell, Going My Way seems to have made more of an impact. About this time, Bing Crosby became the top actor at the box office for a number of years, and on the overall list of most tickets sold, he ranks third (behind Clark Gable and John Wayne). Apparently, Bing and Barry Fitzgerald had great chemistry, because they were teamed up again for at least two more movies, Welcome Stranger (1947) and Top o’ the Morning (1949). While haven’t seen the latter film, I have seen Welcome Stranger, and my own opinion is that it is Going My Way, except with the two as doctors instead of priests (which allows for Bing to be the romantic lead).

Going My Way also spawned a TV series of the same name in the early sixties. Gene Kelly took over the role of Father O’Malley, with Leo G. Carroll as Father Fitzgibbon (or “Father Fitz,” as they usually called him), and Dick York joined them as Tom Colwell. It lasted for one season, at thirty episodes. Having seen the whole series, I can say that I enjoyed it very much, although I rate the first half of the series as being better. Since I have seen little information about the show, I don’t know whether the episodes were aired out of order or not, but I was left feeling like the ratings affected the show, and as a cost-cutting measure, Gene Kelly’s Father O’Malley was reduced to brief appearances in each episode for the last half of the season (again, just a guess). Being that he was one of the reasons I wanted to see it, that lessened my enjoyment of it (although the show’s cancellation did leave Dick York room to be the first Darren Stevens on Bewitched a little over a year later). One thing worth mentioning is that Frank McHugh, who played Father O’Dowd in the movie, is possibly the only actor from that movie to make an appearance on the show, in the Christmas episode (although as a different character).

Both of these are movies that I highly recommend if you get the chance to see them. Going My Way is on DVD from Universal. The Bells of St. Mary’s is on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.

More recently, on September 24, 2019, Going My Way has been released on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory, and on November 26, 2019, Olive films re-released The Bells Of St. Mary’s on Blu-ray as part of their Olive Signature line with a new transfer and extras. While I haven’t seen the Blu-ray for Going My Way, I have commented on the newly released Blu-ray of The Bells Of St. Mary’s here.

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Going My Way

Film Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Morocco (1942)Bing CrosbyThe Bells Of St. Mary”s (1945) (here) (update)

The Chocolate Soldier (1941) – Risë Stevens

International Lady (1941) – Gene Lockhart – Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

The Bells of St. Mary’s

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Going My Way (1944) (here) – Bing Crosby (here) (update) – Road To Utopia (1946)

Gaslight (1944) – Ingrid Bergman (here) (update) – Notorious (1946)