Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Days of Christmas: The Bishop's Wife

Snow fights and skating and shopping with Dudley
Lunch at Michel’s and a choir quite Godly
Divinely decorated Christmas tree
Done in one minute with angelic glee!
When the harp sounds
When the chair sticks
Think you’re feeling sad?
Then just think of Cary Grant smiling at thee
And then you will feel real glad!

(sung to the music of “My Favorite Things”)

I love this film! It is an endearing reminder to live giving thanks for the many blessings we have been given and a perfect movie to visit and revisit during the Christmas season.

David Niven portrays Bishop Henry Brougham, a man who thinks he must build a new cathedral, regardless of any cost. He needs help and an angel is sent to him named Dudley, a role tailor-made for Cary Grant. Everyone who meets Dudley is enchanted by him, except Henry. The Bishop’s wife, Julia, charmingly played by Loretta Young, is delighted that Henry will have an assistant because he spends too much time away from his family.

The supporting cast helps provide some of the movie’s most delightful moments. Monty Woolley plays Professor Wutheridge, a man lacking faith in himself as well as God. James Gleason is Sylvester, a cab driver who spends a wonderful, reaffirming day with Dudley and Julia that includes ice skating. Gladys Cooper plays the widow, Mrs. Hamilton, who mourns alone in her elegant mansion after a lost beau she once turned away for a wealthy husband. Elsa Lanchester shines as Matilda, the housekeeper in the Brougham household. And the Mitchell Boy Choir provides lovely vocals when they heed Dudley heralding them in after they have neglected to show up on time for practice.

This lovely picture from 1947 was unfortunately remade as The Preacher’s Wife almost 40 years later, lacking any semblance of the warmth of the original and once again making us question why anyone should tamper with a classic.

(If you're a Loretta Young fan, click on her name in the Labels to read Toto2's review of Come to the Stable and Sazball's tribute to The Loretta Young Show.)


  1. You are so right, toto, this is a lovely picture. I was unaware of it until around 1980 and fell in love with it. It's one of my Christmas favorites. It's a joy to watch Dudley charm everyone he comes into contact with, especially Agnes Hamilton (Gladys Cooper). One of my favorite scenes takes place in Bishop Brougham's foyer...Matilda (Elsa Lanchester)and Mildred Cassaway (Sara Haden) hover around Dudley - both enchanted and happily smiling at him ...when he leaves they notice each other and revert to character...Thanks, Toto, nice work...

  2. Toto, this is one of my favorite Cary Grant films. I love watching the change in Monty Woolley after Duddly's vist to his" Digs" and "The Sherry," and old coin,and his exchange with Henry after. The Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Leonardo Bercovici from the Robert Nathan Novel is just about perfect and Henry Koster's direction can't get any better.
    As for the remake. As much as I like some of Penny Marshall's other work, WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? Denzel (OK,but he's no Cary or even Tom Hanks) Whittney ? Give me a break.

  3. Wonderful review of a wonderful movie, Toto! THE BISHOP'S WIFE ranks alongside WHITE CHRISTMAS and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE as my favorite Christmas films (A CHRISTMAS STORY is knocking on the door of that exclusive club). Like Eve, I didn't see THE BISHOP'S WIFE until the late 1970s and was surprisingly enchanted. And Paul mentioned one of my favorite scenes, the one with Monty Woolley. So I'll comment on David Niven, who gets less press than Cary and Loretta for his performance. But he's quite good...and the movie doesn't work without viewers simultaneously liking his character, but questioning his motives in building the cathedral. Thanks for including this classic during the holiday season, Toto.

  4. This is my mom's favorite Christmas movie, so it was seen often in my house growing up. What a cast! Loretta Young, Cary Grant, & David Niven in the leads. But then add Gladys Cooper, Elsa Lancaster, & Monty Wooley and now we've got magic! Loved your review & choice of film.

  5. Great review, toto. You must be a big Cary Grant fan!

  6. Wonderful tribute, Toto, to one of my favorite movies. I really liked your poem/song -- very clever and shows your love for this movie!

  7. This is such a sweet film. Loretta Young was charming as the bishop's wife and Cary Grant was the sexiest angel ever.

  8. Toto, This is one of my favorite heartwarming classic Christmas movies. One of those films that puts a smile on your face. "The Bishop's Wife" is a wonderful reminder not to take for granted those we love.

  9. Eve, that was a great scene. I imagine being around the charming Dudley would bring out the best in most of us!

    Paul, it is heartwarming to see the change in Monty's character. When we see him attending the Christmas church service it is truly lovely.

    Rick, I too am quite fond of David Niven. He wrote a number of interesting books that I read years ago. He is a very talented writer and performer.

    Gilby, I didn't see this movie until I was an adult. How lovely to have experienced this at a younger age!

    Sark, guilty as charged! I really do admire Archibald Leach and think his name change was a good idea, too!

    Becky, thanks for noticing the little song! I wrote it effortlessly so it must have wanted to be written. :)

    Kim, I think the word "charming" really does describe Loretta Young well. Cary was quite disarmingly handsome.

    Dawn, I couldn't have said it better myself. :)

    Thank you all for your kind comments!