Greatest Films of Christmas #20 The Bells of St. Mary’s

“It isn’t what we acquire in life, is it? It’s what we give.”

Again this movie is a Christmas film by only a tenuous string. That string would be the most adorable nativity play in the history of film.

This is film of friendship and battle of wills of a priest, Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby), and nun, Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), who share responsibilities for running a rundown Catholic school.

The movie has its good points…

It has what may be the first video of cats doing stupid and funny things (foreseeing the creation of YouTube 60 years after the movie was made) (skip to 8:30 on the YouTube clip).

Then there is the scene where Sister Mary Benedict is teaching a young pupil how to box. Seeing a nun teach someone how to hit a person is all too entertaining…

One of the reasons this is a wonderful Christmas film even though only about 5 minutes of the movie are dedicated to Christmas is that it deals with the concept of charity. A main plot point is the drive to get a rich businessman played by Henry Travers (you might know him better as the world’s second most inept angel*, Clarence, who, yes, will be making an appearance later in this list) to give his brand new building to replace the aging facilities of St. Mary’s. There are long discussions of the personal benefits of charity. That it brings you health and happiness, that it makes life worth living (and it may be tax deductable….okay maybe the rich businessman isn’t a complete saint, but he’s still a nice guy).

And of course this situation with the greedy millionaire giving a building to the church also deals with how faith and prayer can move mountains…in this case the faith and prayer of the sisters of St. Mary’s

And it also deals with how we can never get along with people, disagree with them on every point, and still be good friends and respect one another because we, as human beings, have the capacity to see beyond our differences and see the character and goodness of a person. Even if they’re a bit of your opponent and borderline enemy.

*The most inept Angel can be found in Christopher Moore’s book The Stupidest Angel: A heartwarming tale of Christmas terror (which again has that weird crossover of Christmas and Halloween, can someone please explain this phenomenon to me) and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal the second one may be the funniest book EVER written)…and I put this discussion here and not on the Wonderful Life discussion because that one will a much longer blog.

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