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The Bells of Saint Mary's: The Christmas Pageant

Cheryl loves writing about the first Christmas and all things related to it

Children reenact the first Christmas.

Children reenact the first Christmas.

A Holiday treat

The Bells of Saint Mary's is truly a holiday delight. I am ashamed to say that my first time watching it was last night. I had seen advertisements each December that the film would be on TCM and I made a lot of wrong assumptions about it. I thought it was going to be a combination of The Bishop's Wife and It's A Wonderful Life but I was wrong. I was captivated by the simplicity and the acting skills of the children during the Manger scene. This brought back so many memories of my childhood and the many Christmas plays I was a part of.

The Bells of St. Mary's is a 1945) American film starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. The movie is about a priest and a nun who are trying to prevent their school from being shut down. One of the most precious and heartwarming scenes is when the children are practicing for the Christmas play. This brought back fond memories for me and will probably do so for every adult who grew up in the era of children performing the first Christmas at school or church. The many practices, the snickers when someone misses their line and the final performance are so special.

Children are adorable

An adorable 2-year-old Edward Coch Jr. portrayed little Jimmy who was the baby Jesus in the manger. When the children sing off-key during Happy Birthday to You to baby Jesus it brought tears to my eyes. During a day and time when the true meaning of Christmas is being overshadowed by commercialism, lust, greed, and secularism this film is a must see for believers who desire to focus on the true reason for the season. I am sorry that I ignored this gem each holiday season for so many years but thankful that I finally watched it.

Only 4 other children in The Bells of Saint Mary's were named:

Tommy Smith (Bobby Frasco) ..Peggy McKim and Betty Jean Nichols were school girls and all the children's roles were uncredited.

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Edward Coch Jr, portrayed Jimmy who was baby Jesus.

Edward Coch Jr, portrayed Jimmy who was baby Jesus.

Film Facts

The Bells of Saint Mary's received an impressive 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film won the Acadamy Award for Best Sound recording (Steven Dunn) and Bing Crosby was nominated for Best Actor in a leading role., Ingrid Bergman received the nomination for Best Actress in a leading role, The movie also was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Music. This was the only movie that year where both the lead actor and actress were nominated for top awards and was the top grossing film of 1945. Joan Carroll who portrayed Patsy was chosen over Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple for the role. In 1947 The Screen Guild Theater did 2 30 minute segments of the movie on the radio and Bergman and Crosby reprised their roles. The film was made prior to "Under God" being added to the pledge of alliegence so the children recited it in this original form.

Advertisement for the 1945 film

Advertisement for the 1945 film

Practice makes perfect

I don't know why the children were shown practicing rather than actually performing their Christmas pageant but I am so thankful that The Bells of Saint Mary's was filmed this way. I think of all the Christmas programs that my brothers and I practiced for as children and teens and the same with my 3 children. it was so much fun preparing for the big night and a feeling of relief when it was all over. Practice, practice, practice we heard because it makes perfect. I think of all the children who forgot their lines during rehearsal but come showtime they did just fine. Watching those little boys and girls in the movie reminded me of days gone by when life was a bit more innocent. It was as if I were transformed back to my childhood. I think of the year my husband, grandma, mother and I piled into the car and drove 10 miles in the freezing cold. My firstborn was 4 and had a part in the Christmas play which was being held on a Sunday night at my home church in the county. He had been practicing at home but that night he said not a word. I was so angry but today I can laugh about it. There are many churches today with aging congregations and they do not have any children to perform in the Christmas plays and this is so sad. I'm thankful I can watch The Bells of Saint Mary's and relieve my childhood during the holidays.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Cheryl E Preston

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