Someday I will move on, but for the moment I am stuck on just four of Bing Crosby’s large number of movies. They are two matched sets. Bing as entertainer in Holiday Inn and White Christmas. Bing as priest in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s.
I believe that Bing’s movies elevate friendship from a simple “buddies movie” status to something enduring and eloquent. There is no better example of that than Going My Way, which won Best Picture in 1944, best actor for Bing, and best supporting actor for Barry Fitzgerald. Barry was *also nominated for best actor, a situation which is not even allowed anymore.
Wow! The friendship between Barry, as the older priest, Bing as the younger priest who has come as his “assistant” (actually to take charge of the parish), and Bing’s childhood friend (Frank McHugh), who is also a priest, is epic! These men are sensitive to each other and to those they serve without coming across as milquetoast or sappy. They are strong men who can cry; firm leaders who can rejoice in God’s good gifts, like golf, and sing their hearts out. This may be my favorite movie ever.
Rise Stevens appears as a Metropolitan Opera star who used to be Bing’s lady love before he took his vows. The scene where she emerges from her dressing room to see his clerical collar and realize that he is a priest is delicious! Bing is able to continue his relationship to Rise as a good friend in the film. She becomes his parish’s biggest benefactor.
Bing seems to thoroughly enjoy his role in the movie and the rich relationships his character cultivates with everyone in it. He influences people with a joyful and kind spirit that leads them to faith.
I have seen it written that today’s sex-soaked society may be a reaction to the fact that we have minimized the spirit of friendship in our day. Everyone, of either gender, is seen as a potential bed partner. People seem to feel that if they have not tried sex in various configurations of gender and number of participants, they have not fully lived.
Our low view of sex (for that is what our utter fixation on it is) has emotionally crippled us in friendship. We all claim that our partner is our best friend, thus those who are unpartnered are regarded as people who need to be pitied. Even if they live in community, like a priest, and minister to others in a variety of rich relationships. We can’t conceive of a person being content to live a lifetime without sex.
Furthermore, if someone connects with us on a deep level through shared love of books and movies or a common worldview, people around us often won’t let it *be a good friendship without suggestions that the relationship should move to the bedroom, even if the two people are not interested in a relationship with someone of that gender and even if the two people might not be interested in sex at all. We can’t allow anyone to be content in a relationship characterized by deep thoughts being drawn from the well of conversation. We have to push to sexualize *everything.
I believe in this we are the losers. I have seen appeals to us to return to the idea of having several deep lifelong friends. I think we all long for this level of friendship but we also become afraid of that much vulnerability and about the possibility that someone will claim the relationship is sexual. We shut ourselves off from friendship to protect ourselves.
I love the scene in Going My Way where Bing Crosby sings the older priest, Barry Fitzgerald’s character, to sleep with a lullaby from his childhood in Ireland. It is beautiful and pure.
We would do well to return to the friendship standards of Bing Crosby movies!!!