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The Bishop's Wife
Selection for the Weekend of
The 1940's was full of great movies about angels. It's a Wonderful Life, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, A Guy Named Joe and Angels in the Outfield (OK, that one is from 1951, but play along with me) all featured angels who helped the lead characters overcome a great challenge. Maybe it was the War and the Depression that made audiences want to believe in angels and a higher power. Maybe the country just needed some hope that the death, destruction and poverty they endured was for a reason or would end. Anyway you put it, these movies touched audiences in a special way. The Bishop's Wife is one of them.
David Niven stars as Bishop Henry Brougham. Only recently appointed to the position, and considered a little young for the job, Henry is desperately trying to prove himself by spearheading the construction of a new, ornate cathedral. Unfortunately, the job is much harder than he thought and it is having an adverse effect on his marriage to Julia (Loretta Young).
Julia is concerned that Henry is changing and not spending enough time with his family at Christmas time. She feels he spends too much time placating the rich and powerful in an attempt to solicit funds for the cathedral. In particular, Henry is being forced to compromise his integrity in an effort to get funding from Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper) - a wealthy widow who believes the cathedral should be built to her specifications and stand as a monument to her and her deceased husband. Unless she gets her way, Mrs. Hamilton will not donate the $1 million needed to complete the project.
Henry is at his wits' end and prays to God for help. He gets it in the form of Dudley (played by Archibald Alexander Leach, we know him best as Cary Grant), an angel sent down to help Henry with the cathedral and his marriage. However, trouble brews when Julia starts to fall for Dudley.
Will Henry get the cathedral built? Will he lose his wife to Dudley? Can Dudley resist temptation?
The Bishop's Wife, remade in 1996 as The Preacher's Wife starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington (also a good movie), combined the efforts of three of Hollywood's leading actors to become an immensely successful and loved film. While the movie does not provide any great acting challenges for the three legends, it gave each one a chance to do what he or she did best.
Cary Grant shines as the charming angel. After starting out playing befuddled and exasperated leading men in comedies, Grant grew into the role of a dramatic leading man full of confidence and slick bravado. That ability is showcased in this role as Dudley always seems to be one step ahead of everyone else and guides each character as if they were puppets on a string.
Loretta Young is fine as the loving wife facing instability in her marriage and family. Young is able to show that Julia still loves Henry, but fears that he is not the man he once was and that he has sold out his principles - principles that made him so attractive in the first place. Niven completes the cast as the bishop who thinks he is doing the right thing for his family and the community, but forgets what's important as he chases after the goal. Watch him closely as Henry starts to suspect that Dudley may be getting too chummy with Julia. It's his best work in the film.
Rent The Bishop's Wife, gather the family together and enjoy one of the holiday's best treats.
Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Robert E. Sherwood
Cary Grant .. Dudley
Loretta Young . Julia Brougham
David Niven Henry Brougham
Monty Woolley .... Professor Wutheridge
James Gleason . Sylvester
Gladys Cooper . Mrs. Hamilton
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