The Bishop's Wife (1947)
Niven's Prayers are Grant-ed
I've never before had to fight an angel. But I suggest you take off your coat and put up your dukes - Bishop Henry Brougham
To give the 1996 remake "The Preacher's Wife" some credit it was entertaining but it didn't match up to "The Bishop's Wife" the 1947 Henry Koster movie. You see "The Bishop's Wife" is entertaining, it is amusing, it is well acted and being what you would call a Christmas movie has that touch of Christmas magic which makes you feel good. What it also has is some wonderful performances from Cary Grant, David Niven and also Loretta Young although how different it could have been if original director William A. Seiter hadn't been replaced and Cary Grant and David Niven had played the opposite character as originally intended.
With big plans for a new Cathedral taking up all of his time, Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven - A Matter of Life and Death) finds himself struggling to meet the demands of the rich widow who is funding the building and his wife Julia (Loretta Young) who he barely has time for. But having prayed for help Henry meets Dudley (Cary Grant - The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer) an angel sent down to help him, except the way Dudley helps is not necessarily what Henry expects and as Julia and daughter Debby (Karolyn Grimes) warm to the charming Dudley, Henry gets increasingly jealous of this handsome stranger.
It has to be said that "The Bishop's Wife" is both amusing and touching as you get the easy going nature of Dudley helping to sort out Bishop Henry's problems in his own special way. There is scene after scene of amusement from Cary Grant delivering plenty of charm as Dudley to the scene where the sherry glasses keep on refilling themselves. But at the same time the amusement doesn't overwhelm the storyline as we watch Bishop Henry become increasingly suspicious of Dudley, first questioning whether he really is an angel then becoming concerned at the friendship he forms with Julia.
But what is really nice is that "The Bishop's Wife" also has that magical Christmas feeling. From the opening scene with the children looking at the wonderful Christmas displays in the shop windows, through to the ice skating and the church choir recital it really does put you in that wintry, Christmassy mood. But it never feels corny, these magical scenes are so wonderfully scripted and delightfully nostalgic that they achieve their desired effect of delivering warmth but stopping before they become too schmaltzy.
What also helps "The Bishop's Wife" to be such a great movie is some spot on casting even though David Niven was originally cast as Dudley and Cary Grant cast as Henry. Grant is absolutely brilliant as the smooth and charming Dudley turning on that legendary charm at every opportunity and delivering those looks of knowing which just make you laugh. And it has to be said that David Niven delivers an equally good performance as the stressed out Bishop Henry finding the light hearted humour in this character but not over doing it to make him to irreverent.
But whilst David Niven and Cary Grant deliver two very strong performances it is the wonderful Loretta Young as the Bishop's Wife Julia Brougham which takes us on the journey. In those early scenes Loretta delivers every aspect of the loyal wife who undeniably loves ans supports her husband but is feeling neglected due to his dedication to his work. Yet you watch the life flow back into her as she is charmed by Dudley rediscovering the fun in life which had vanished. It's a beautiful performance from Young and really makes "The Bishop's Wife" more than just an amusing movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Bishop's Wife" is a wonderful, feel good movie which radiates amusement and warmth. It is much better than the 1996 remake and through a lovely storyline, some equally lovely performances and by capturing a bit of Christmas magic it will leave you feeling satisfied, entertained and happy.
Tags: Christmas Movies
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