A kindhearted angel comes to Earth to provide guidance
to a bishop who is on the verge of a crisis of faith.
The Bishop's Wife (1947)
Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Robert E. Sherwood and Leonardo Bercovici
Starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, Elsa Lanchester, Gladys Cooper, Sara Haden, James Gleason
Based on the novel by Robert Nathan
Oscar Wins - Best Sound Recording
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Hugo Freidhofer)
The Bishop's Wife is a charming, festive Christmas dramedy that excels thanks to the positively wondrous performance from Cary Grant. Sure, it borrows a bit from It's a Wonderful Life, but it takes the "angel saves Christmas" angle and makes something entirely its own. It's a film I had never heard of until now, and it will forever be a part of my holiday movie list. It touches on the same themes that most Christmas movies do. Goodwill toward men, appreciate family, don't be stingy with the inheritance, etc. But there's something just so meaningful in the way the message is told.
Bishop Henry Brougham (Niven) is in a bad place. He's being forced to abandon his principles in order to get a grand cathedral built, and he's neglected his wife Julia (Young) and his little girl in the process. He prays for answers, and is met by the kind, likable Dudley (Grant), who claims to be an angel. While at first a nonbeliever, Dudley convinces Henry and is influence makes everyone in Henry's household a better person. Everyone Dudley encounters is friendlier and more appreciative of their neighbors, apart from Henry, who thinks Dudley is making a fool of him. In truth, it's all a test of faith, not just in God but in family and love. And the journey is surprisingly hilarious, too.
I encourage everyone to check out The Bishop's Wife. It's the lesser known "angel saves Christmas" movie of the mid-40's, but it's every bit as strong and enjoyable. Cary Grant excels as Dudley, and the story is relatable but grandiose. I can't believe I had never heard of it. It's a masterpiece.