For those who wondered where Father Bing O'Crosby went when he walked off into the night, Leo McCarey has provided an answer, hopefully attempting to repeat his former success. But his often knavish imitation gives his audience the uneasy feeling of seeing the same movie twice, while his efforts to differ in details lead him to inconsistency.
Perhaps the most glaring of these is the radical change in Father O'Malley. In "Going My Way" he was a genial but forceful ecclesiastical troubleshooter who reinforced a sagging church; in the sequel he is transformed into a jovial buffoon guilty of every imaginable blunder.
The casting of Ingrid Bergman in the role of a sister superior also presents unsolved problems. Her youth, beauty, and "Minnesota" accent all interfere with her portrayal of a role more obviously designed for Ethel Barrymore or Dame May Whitty.
The plot is framed within the limits of "Going My Way"; the young lovers have been replaced by an older pair, the bankrupt church by a bankrupt school, the wayward boys by a wayward girl, one scrooge by another, and both establishments are saved by a somewhat dubious miracle.
Despite its smattering of genuine McCarey touches, "The Bells of St. Mary's" suffers both by its similarity and inferiority to the 1944 Academy Award Winner; it is a more shadow of "Going My Way," partaking of its shape but not its substance. fps