Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12 films of christmas: the bishop's wife

 The main trouble is there are too many people who don't know where they're going and they want to get there too fast!

Bishop Henry Brougham believes God wants him to raise funds to build a cathedral and in his single-mindedness, he has been neglecting his young wife and daughter.  Enter Cary Grant who is literally heaven-sent as the angel Dudley.

This 1947 film is not for everyone: it's sweet, sentimental and old-fashioned.  It also features one of the most unlikely love triangles: an angel, a bishop and the titular bishop's wife.    Perfect people are dull and I love watching Loretta Young as Julia grapple with her growing affection for Dudley.  And, of course, Cary Grant is dashing as an angel who may be enjoying his assignment a little too much.  It may be subtle by our standards but there's no denying the attraction between Dudley and Julia.  It's David Niven who holds the film together.  He is so sincere in his belief that he's answering a higher calling, you can't help but feel sympathetic even as he's messing things up.  And much as you love Dudley, you find yourself rooting for Henry to pull it together.

This film was remade in the 1990s as The Preacher's Wife.  It's not a bad film but it sacrifices a lot of the subtle sweetness of the original in pursuit of the bigger laughs and broader moments.

The Bishop's Wife is perfect when you need a quiet evening away from the Christmas chaos.

Fun fact: Hard to imagine now but filming began with Cary Grant as the bishop and David Niven the angel.  When the original director left the film his replacement viewed what had been shot and realized they two would be better if they switched roles. (IMDb)

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