At least 20 minutes too long, this is largely sanctimonious schmaltz combined with some indifferent musical numbers. Nevertheless there are still moments of considerable power, thanks largely to the excellent work between Fitzgerald and Crosby. McCarey's direction is unassuming and subtle, allowing for nuance in the character interaction and there is an interesting melancholy atmosphere that underpins the whole.
An absolute delight from start to finish, Bing Crosby plays the priest who doesn't want to let his new "boss" (Barry Fitzgerald) know that he has actually been sent there to relieve him of his duties. The two don't exactly get along from the start, but it's not long until the good nature and intentions of Crosby start to win him a number of fans.
The elements of this that constitute an exploration of an older, immigrant priest struggling with depression, and being supported by his utterly self-confident young colleague, are very interesting (minus the sentimentality). Double Indemnity is a film which tells of the mean ugliness of human beings, so I'm not surprised that the Academy picked this instead. It's similar to the Kings Speech/Social Network divide.
It swept the Oscars over "Double Indemnity." As outrageous as that sounds, if you watch "Going My Way" with an open mind, you can see why it was such a hit. It just barely skirts overt sentimentality and has a low-key humor. Barry Fitzgerald helps a lot. Make no mistake. It should not have won the Oscar over "Double Indemnity."
Nice film, but a bit by the numbers and pushes the religion a bit too far now and then. Still, one of the better Crosby films I have seen (never a huge fan), likely due to the supporting cast including Fitzgerald (a huge fan! love his work in Quiet Man, Naked City, etc). Billed as a musical, but really just a faith story with some songs. Worth a look. Apparently they made a sequel.