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Wayback Wednesday: The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Of course Cary Grant plays an angel. Of course. 

Christmas may have come and gone, but I hope you’ll indulge me in reading one more holiday-themed review before the new year rolls around. Oooh, maybe to ring in 2019 I’ll  review the terrible Love Actually (2003) rip-off, New Year’s Eve (2011). Oh God, I don’t know if I could sit through the whole thing. But if enough if you guys wanted it, I’d do it. That’s how much I love you. Anyway, for my last Christmas-themed review, I wanted to do a movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood and decided that it would be too cliché to do It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Eventually I settled on The Bishop’s Wife (1947).

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 10.14.40 AM
Credit: / RKO Radio Pictures

Starring screen legend Cary Grant, The Bishop’s Wife tells the story of Bishop Henry Brougham and his wife Julia, as their relationship is troubled by the former’s task of funding the building of a new cathedral in town. Praying for guidance, Henry is visited by an angel named Dudley, played by Grant, seemingly to help him build the cathedral. Instead, Dudley grows close to Julia and shows Henry how much he’s been neglecting his wife as well as his daughter and friends.

Maybe my brain’s just overloaded on this type of thing, but after reviewing Mary Poppins (1964) and Mary Poppins Returns (2018) – both of which you can check out here – it was alarmingly evident to me that Dudley is the 1940s equivalent of the flying nanny. I mean, he comes in, bonds with the wife and kids, performs miracles, and shows the father figure what he’s missing out on. Very Poppins-esque. Okay, so I need to talk about Cary Grant. I think he may be my favourite classic actor. Well, except maybe for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), To Catch a Thief (1955), North by Northwest (1959)…Grant is amazing. If you haven’t seen any of his movies, I encourage you to check them out. Not only is his range as a dramatic actor incredible, but Grant has a wit and charm that just make him impossible not to fall in love with. All of those talents are on display in The Bishop’s Wife. This is Grant’s movie and that’s just a fact. He steals every scene he’s in, which is most of them, and there’s no other word for his performance than “angelic.” He’s so convincing, I believe Cary Grant legitimately is an angel sent from Heaven who ended up with a career in show business. Cheerful, cheeky, and at times, emotionally moving, Grant transforms himself into Dudley and delivers one of the most heartfelt performances of his career. One of the highlights of this movie is just how many times Dudley shades or gets the last laugh on Henry. I’m telling you, even when he’s pulling pranks on clergymen, Grant’s wit and charm have you firmly on his side.

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 10.51.22 AM
Credit: / RKO Radio Pictures

As the title character, Loretta Young gets to play with all the toys in the toy box and guess what? She’s fantastic at it. In the movie’s beginning when the strained relationship between her and her husband is made apparent, Young is utterly convincing as a woman whose marriage is on the brink of collapse. She perfectly captures the subtle sorrow and desperation that any woman with a workaholic and inattentive husband experiences. What’s even more impressive is how she’s able to completely change her character at the drop of hat. Once Dudley enters their lives, Julia becomes more joyful, exuberant, and gains a greater appreciation for her life and the people in it. Hey, wouldn’t you do the same if Cary Grant took you out for lunch, shopping, and skating? Speaking of, props to Julia for being a faithful wife throughout the whole movie. Granted, she doesn’t know Dudley is an angel, but still, you know the kind of dedication and loyalty it takes not to be wooed by Cary freaking Grant? Julia is great. It’s so enchanting to watch her life go from negative to positive and find the joy in the holiday season.

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 4.10.16 PM / RKO Radio Pictures

The Bishop’s Wife succeeds in an area I find most important with Christmas movies, and that’s getting a heartwarming message across without hitting the audience over the head with it. Instead, The Bishop’s Wife continually repeats the sentiment that you should appreciate you loved ones, coupled with the notion that treating your fellow man with love and consideration is a necessity for the holiday season. Which by the way, it totally is. Oh my God, there’s even a line where Julia mentions how stressed out the holiday season has made her and Dudley simply responds, “things could be all right if people learned how to behave like human beings.” You guys, 1947 knew what was up. This movie is full of great writing, but I think my favourite line comes at the movie’s close when Henry is addressing his congregation and says the Christmas is not only the time of giving, but also Jesus’ birthday and therefore we would be amiss to not give Jesus the gifts he wants. What does he want? Simply, “loving kindness, warm hearts, and tolerance. Let’s deliver it.” Things this movie did: that.

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 4.42.30 PM
Credit: / RKO Radio Pictures

The Bishop’s Wife is a hidden treasure amongst holiday movies that while less mainstream than others, can be just as beloved if given the opportunity. If you’re still looking to binge some yuletide movies, or already compiling your “must-watch” list for next year, do yourself a favour and take a chance on this classic movie. It’s guaranteed to keep that holiday feeling warm and strong well into the new year. Ah, the power of Cary Grant.

Have you seen The Bishop’s Wife? Are you a fan of Cary Grant?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!



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