Now that I am at home and banged up, instead of on the road and banged up (that was not fun), I think I have some good evening viewing lined up.
There is a great article at The Catholic Sun about the late actor Bing Crosby and his playing of movie priest Fr. O’Malley in Going My Way (US HERE – UK HERE) and The Bells of St Mary’s (US HERE – UK HERE).
As emblematic of the war years as Atticus Finch was to the civil rights era (and inspiring seminarians much as Atticus did law students), O’Malley represented a righteousness people could feel and believe in.
Early in 1946, Crosby, in New York, visited the city’s archbishop, Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, the powerful “antipode of Father O’Malley,” as Giddins calls him. Crosby wanted to discuss a possible split from his wife, Dixie, whose alcoholism had grown worse. At the time, he was considering marrying the actress Joan Caulfield.
“The visit to Spellman,” Giddins writes, “was seen by her family as evidence of his intentions. If he expected an ecclesiastical solution, he was disappointed. In the account he gave of the meeting, as remembered by (Joan’s sister) Betty Caulfield, ‘Cardinal Spellman said, “Bing, you are Father O’Malley and under no circumstances can Father O’Malley get a divorce.’” Betty added, ‘I think that was the beginning of the end for Joan and Bing.’”
On a personal note, my grandmother, long widowed, in her 80’s married an old widower and converted to Catholicism. She took to it right away, getting involved in the parish, singing in the choir, saying the Rosary each night with her new old husband, Joe. As it turns out Joe and Bing were childhood friends growing up in Spokane, WA, though education at Gonzaga. They kept in touch.
This comes in the context of my catching up on news, including the death of Pres. George HW Bush, arguably one of most honorable and admirable civil servants of the last century.
Fr. O’Malley may have been fictional, but he nevertheless represents something which has seemingly been lost. Something of that same something is woven through the life of Bush 41.
We’re losing it. Can we regain it? Perhaps not without great suffering.