The last film in Universal’s The Bing Crosby Collection, Paramount’s Welcome Stranger, was released nine years after the previous film, Sing You Sinners.
In that time, Bing had become an even more popular entertainer in every medium available for a singer at the time. In 1945, he won an Oscar for Going My Way and earned another Oscar nomination the following year for the sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s.
So, it’s easy to see why Welcome Stranger feels much different from any other film in the set. The film is essentially a remake of Going My Way, where Bing and Barry Fitzgerald are doctors from two different generations who learn to work together instead of priests from two different generations who learn to work together. In fact, the story by Frank Butler practically follows Leo McCarey’s far superior film nearly note-for-note. The only major difference is that Bing is allowed a love interest in the form of schoolteacher Trudy Mason, played by a delightful Joan Caulfield.
Welcome Stranger was directed by Elliot Nugent. It’s a nice movie, with a few neat jokes (“He’s as good as Frank Sinatra!” “And I can take your blood pressure, too.”), but not really something I would actively seek out. It still doesn’t come close to the best movie in the set, Mississippi, but it’s fun for Bing fans and anyone who likes hearing Barry Fitzgerald complain for 100 minutes.
Overall, The Bing Crosby Collection is a neat set of rare Bing roles. Considering I picked it up for $10, I think it was worth it. If you need to see everything Bing did, go for it. If not, don’t feel bad about skipping it.