The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

In this follow-up to director Leo McCarey's Going My Way (1944), Bing Crosby repeats his Oscar-winning characterization of happy-go-lucky priest Father O'Malley. The good father is sent to help out financially strapped St. Mary's Academy, a parochial school presided over by lovely nun Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman). The film is constructed in anecdotal fashion: Nun and priest gently quarrel over teaching methods; they help patch up the tottering marriage of William Gargan and Martha Sleeper; Sister Benedict plays baseball and teaches a student how to box; Father O'Malley softens the heart of the man who holds the mortgage (Henry Travers) by convincing the poor fellow that he's only got a few months to live; and the kids of St. Mary's put on a much-revised stage version of the Nativity, complete with a chorus of "Happy Birthday" on the occasion of the Virgin Birth. A huge hit at the box office, Bells of St. Mary's was nominated for nine Academy Awards.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Kids & Family, Classics, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Leo McCarey, Dudley Nichols
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 23, 2003
RKO Radio Pictures

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Bing Crosby
as Father Chuck O'Malle...
Ingrid Bergman
as Sister Benedict
Henry Travers
as Mr. Bogardus
William Gargan
as Joe Gallagher
Ruth Donnelly
as Sister Michael
Martha Sleeper
as Patsy's mother
Rhys Williams
as Dr. McKay
Una O'Connor
as Mrs. Breen
Cora Shannon
as Old Lady
Gwen Crawford
as The Sister
Aina Constant
as The Sister
Eva Novak
as The Sister
Dewey Robinson
as Truck Driver
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Bells of St. Mary's

Critic Reviews for The Bells of St. Mary's

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (4)

As Sister Benedict, Ingrid Bergman manages to combine beauty, great good humor and saintly dignity even while swinging a baseball bat.

Full Review… | December 5, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

[Bergman's] clashes with Crosby...are moments that will have an audience alternately laughing and sniffling.

Full Review… | July 22, 2008
Top Critic

Rambling [and] embarrassingly winsome...

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Seldom has a sequel so completely transcended its predecessor.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The same qualities that make The Bells Of St. Mary's quaint are also the qualities that make it, if not great, then at least solidly entertaining.

Full Review… | November 19, 2013
The Dissolve

Though the various irregular pieces of this movie make it one of McCarey's least satisfying movies on an artistic level, it's totally understandable as to why it's his most popular.

Full Review… | January 21, 2011
Combustible Celluloid

Audience Reviews for The Bells of St. Mary's

Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman head the proceedings as the local dilapidated Catholic school is in danger of being torn down. Playing smooth and breezy Crosby sometimes disagrees with Bergman's by-the-book head nun, but they actually complement each other as sort of the metaphoric mom and dad pairing parents and children both can desire in this unabashed 2 hour commercial for the Catholic Church, made back when the Church's reputation had yet to be sullied with myriad unpleasant scandals. Its a pleasant time passer of a film if you don't look too closely at some of the creepy plot points (like how Crosby's priest congratulates a bully for bullying while simultaneously blaming the victim). It's the first Crosby film I've ever seen where I wished he wouldn't sing a note.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

A priest and a nun run a struggling school and try to convince a businessman to give them a neighboring building.
I don't see much conflict between the two main characters. Their differences are pedestrian, and the few differences that wind up as plot points aren't all that compelling. In fact, I was uncomfortable with the film's approval of Father O'Malley's handling of a schoolyard fight; he declares a bully "the winner" of a fight, and the "loser," a boy who did nothing to start the fight, ends up getting pugilism lessons from a nun. The episode is meant to accentuate O'Malley's worldliness, but shouldn't priests - at the very least - not embrace violence? O'Malley's attitude not only belies verisimilitude; it makes the character less appealing.
I've always liked Ingrid Bergman, but there's not a lot to this character for such a great actress to sink her teeth into. Bing Crosby has the voice of God even though the situations that allow his character to sing feel contrived.
Overall, I have trouble understanding why this film gets universal accolades because a lot of the film didn't work for me.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

This is the story of an easy going priest and a firm nun who try to put their differences aside in order to save a financially strapped parochial school from closing due to the hardheartedness of a stuffy businessman who has the building's mortgage.

The story isn't really anything new or original, but it's still pretty decently done. It's actually rather loose plotwise, and is very episodic in nature, often being playing fast and loose with the timeline. The script could have been a tad stronger, but this is made up by some decent direction, good cinematogrpahy, and some wonderful performances.

Bing Crosby is the type of guy who you really can't find a reason to hate. He's just too damn nice and loveable. Same goes for his character. He plays the type of priest I'd love to hang out with in real life. He's easy going and fun, but he's also got hius heart in the right place, and really cares. Ingrid Bergman is too attractive to be a realistic nun, but her performance is terrific, and she's (looks aside) convincing as the stern nun who begins to soften and become more understanding. Henry Travers is also good, if slightly underused as the old fudddyduddy businessman.

I'm fine with having several different plotlines going on, I just wish that the main one wasn't introduced, then mostly shelved for a while before making an appearance again. More balance with the stories would have made for a more focused and tighter film. That aside, this one's pretty solid.

All in all, this is a difficult film to not enjoy. It's got a bit of everything: comedy, drama, singing, stories of hope, redemption, forgiveness, and a heavy coating of charm and innocence. I'm not sure if I just really like or possibly even love it. I'll just be fair and give it at least a 4. I definitely recommend giving this a watch though.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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