An Episcopal Bishop, Henry Brougham, has been working for months on the plans for an elaborate new cathedral which he hopes will be paid for primarily by a wealthy, stubborn widow. He is losing sight of his family and of why he became a churchman in the first place. Enter Dudley, an angel sent to help him. Dudley does help everyone he meets, but not necessarily in the way they would have preferred. With the exception of Henry, everyone loves him, but Henry begins to believe that Dudley is there to replace him, both at work and in his family's affections, as Christmas approaches.Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
Although no denomination is mentioned in the film, the characters are clearly members of the Episcopal Church. See more »
Mrs. Broughman asks Mr. Maggenti to deliver the Christmas tree late on Christmas Eve so as to surprise her daughter. Maggenti confirms he will deliver the tree after "the little bambino" goes to bed. Bambino is an Italian endearment term for a baby boy, not a baby girl. It is okay to use bambino as a general term when the gender is unknown or unspecified, however Maggenti clearly heard that the child in question is a girl. Instead he should have used the term "bambina". See more »
At last here is an angel who really has fun just doing his job. Dudley (Cary Grant) brings a subtle joy to his interventions and interactions. The enjoyment factor is what makes "The Bishop's Wife" special. This charming and seemingly simple film that has been a Christmas holiday staple since its release in 1947.
But like "Groundhog Day", the surface simplicity is misleading, as this is an allegorical tale about the importance of getting outside ourselves and taking steps to escape the ruts of our day-to-day lives; i.e. finding a better way of living. Dudley works a few minor heavenly miracles but his real power is as a cheerleader and personal guide. No need to be an angel to exercise this kind of positive influence on others.
Dudley the angel comes to earth to help a Bishop (David Niven) juggle his professional and marital commitments, the conflict being that his priorities have changed since his promotion from the priest of a struggling parish. Only the bishop knows that Dudley is other than human and it takes most of the film before he is totally convinced. Meanwhile his wife and many others in the town are swept up by Dudley's charms. The Bishop is pre-occupied with securing funding for constructing a new cathedral but begins to catch on that Dudley and his wife are getting along so well that the unimaginable could occur-the angel stealing his wife.
If only one word could be used to describe "The Bishop's Wife" it would be subtle. The special effects are minimalist but effective, the careful framing and lighting of Gregg Toland's ("Citizen Kane") black and white cinematography, the tentative steps title character Julia (Loretta Young) takes as she starts to experience happiness again, and the slow realization by Bishop Henry of how far he has drifted from what matters the most.
The unity and subtlety is best illustrated in the scene of Henry walking up the sidewalk towards the Professor's (Monty Wooley) apartment. Although a few minutes from the end, this is actually the film's climax as Henry is finally confronting himself. As he walks forward the dark screen begins to get brighter; in step with his progress toward spiritual change and discovery is the end of his physical journey. He moves symbolically (and literally) toward the light.
Rounding out the strong cast are James Gleason (Max Corkle in "Here Comes Mr. Jordan") Elsa Lanchester, and Gladys Cooper. Henry and Julia's young daughter is played by Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu in "It's a Wonderful Life").
A nice thing is that while the film's "little" miracles are done on screen they are interwoven into the fabric of the story instead of dominating a scene. This casualness fits the tone of the film as does the occasional satirical line. The most memorable conversation is Cooper's demand (she is pledging money for the new cathedral) that the George figure in the proposed "St. George and the Dragon" stained glass window be made to resemble her late husband. Then Niven (deadpan) asks her whom she wants the dragon to resemble.
There will be a few who do not enjoy this film but I recommend it to anyone who wants a nice holiday film, or who is interested in a relatively deep allegorical tale of one's capacity to be a positive influence on others, or who just wants to see a truly awesome example of technical film-making.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
42 of 43 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this