The Bishop’s Wife (1947) starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, & David Niven

The only people who grow old were born old to begin with. -Dudley says to Julia

Episcopal bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) has been working for months on plans for a cathedral which he hopes will be paid for by his wealthy new parishioners, including cranky widow- Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper). He is losing sight of his family, wife Julia (Loretta Young) and young daughter, Debbie. Dudley (Cary Grant), an angel who everyone seems to admire (incl. Matilda- the family housekeeper), comes to assist Henry w/ his work. Julia tells Dudley about when the family lived in a different (more humble) neighborhood, where Henry was connected w/ the people; she misses their life in that parish. They go on outings together and become friends (though Dudley begins to wish it were more). Dudley even manages to warm the heart of Mrs. Hamilton by uncovering something from her youth. Henry begins to believe that Dudley is trying to replace him!

We all come from our own little planets. That’s why we’re all different. That’s what makes life interesting. -Dudley explains to Julia and Prof. Wutheridge

This movie was remade as The Preacher’s Wife (1996) starring Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, and Courtney B. Vance. I thought that Julia (Houston) was much more interesting; she performed charity, sang in the choir, and (eventually) decided to take in her young son’s friend. Loretta Young’s character doesn’t really get to do much; she is a pretty, elegant woman who is kind to others. 

Originally Grant played the bishop and  Niven the angel. When original director left the film, Henry Koster replaced him, then realized that the actors were in the wrong roles. Grant wanted the title role of the bishop; he eventually accepted the change and his role as the angel was one of the most widely praised of his career. Robert J. Anderson, one of the kids throwing snowballs in the park played young George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Debbie is played by Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life).

[1] The special effects are wonderful for a time when special effects were pretty much in their infancy.

[2] …Niven gets to showcase his British stiff upper lip while at the same time display some very funny slapstick pratfalls. It’s a charming movie that has lots of holiday atmosphere. 

[3] …its presentation of the characters, especially Dudley and Henry, ring true. You can believe that Henry, underneath his bitterness and myopia, really loves his wife. He’s just… forgotten his direction in life, is all. 

[4] Cary Grant is so underrated, but here he does some fabulous acting even when he’s not speaking. His face is even more expressive in his younger years which works to his advantage and is a sign of good directing as well.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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One thought on “The Bishop’s Wife (1947) starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, & David Niven

  1. I’ve never seen the remake, but I saw this version on TCM this time last year — reasonably entertaining, Grant is funny, and not ridiculously sentimental. I liked it 🙂

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