Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Wicked Wednesdays: The Suavest Angel of Them All

The Bishop's Wife

(Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Each week for Wicked Wednesdays, I like to share something that I love, virtues as well as vices. Today, given that we are well in the midst of the holiday season, I’d like to talk about my favorite Christmas film: Samuel Goldwyn’s 1947 classic, The Bishop’s Wife, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. There are many wonderful Christmas movies from the “Golden Age” of Hollywood (Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn), but I think this is one of the unsung classics from the period.

The film tells the story of Henry Brougham, a cold-hearted bishop (Niven) too blinded by ambition to pay attention to his wife (Young), their daughter, or the people who have supported him. His goal — to build a glorious cathedral — consumes all of his passion and energy, and distracts him from his faith in god and everyone around him. In a form of “divine intervention,” an angel (Grant) is sent to restore the bishop’s faith, and set him back on the right path.

If the storyline sounds somewhat familiar, that may be because it was remade in 1996 as The Preacher’s Wife, starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. In my opinion, the remake was only so-so (although Denzel is mighty fine to look at). As with so many movies, there is nothing like the original.

There’s so much to love about The Bishop’s Wife. For starters, the cast is phenomenal — the leading actors bring quite a bit of star power with them, and the supporting cast, including Monty Wooley, Elsa Lanchester, and Gladys Cooper, add to the magic. Cooper is particularly memorable as the icy, materialistic Mrs. Hamilton, the wealthy widow who is helping the bishop to finance the cathedral, but who insists on using her financial contribution to micro-manage the project and control the bishop. Even better is the script, which manages to be funny and heart-warming all at once, without slipping into overly-saccharine sappiness.

Of course, it is Cary Grant who steals my heart, and given the strength of the cast, that’s saying a lot.  As Dudley, Grant is his usual suave, debonair self, inserting himself into the bishop’s household with easy grace and a twinkling smile. In many ways, Dudley reminds me of a male Mary Poppins, emerging out of nowhere to brighten the lives of everyone around him. In the opening scenes alone, he rescues a baby in a runaway stroller and helps a blind man cross the street, and the good deeds continue throughout the film.

A bit of eyecandy, because I cannot resist:

Looking too dashing for his own good (source: The Elegant Age)

Reading Loretta Young's palm (Source unknown)

As an angel, Dudley also helps to restore the faith of those around him. One wonderful example comes about half-way through the movie, with his story about divine inspiration and Psalm 23, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”

For those of you who enjoy classic Hollywood, I highly recommend watching this film. It is filled with many more gems, including the most charming ice-skating scene I’ve ever seen in my life. I could say so much more, but I’d rather not give away too many spoilers. However, I will leave you with this clip, which is probably my favorite moment in the entire movie: the performance by the real-life Mitchell’s Boys Choir, singing “O Sing To God” by French composer Charles Gounod.

What are your favorite films to watch during the holiday season?

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  1. I hadn’t heard of this, much less seen it, but I watched the first ten minutes and now I’m hooked 🙂
    Sarah Pearson recently posted..Contests and blogfests and corn, oh my!My Profile

  2. I’ve never heard of it either! I did see the remake and while Denzel is mighty fine to look at, didn’t love the movie. I’ll slip into my Netflix queue right away. It looks like it might be added to my holiday tradition movie list.
    Tameri Etherton recently posted..Dear Santa… All I Want For Christmas Is, HMS Ocean and Justin Timberlake?My Profile

    • I was really disappointed with the remake. I had really wanted to like it, but… ugh. It was just ‘meh’ all around.

      If you get a chance to watch it, I’d love to know what you think!

  3. It’s going into my Netflix queue, too. Thanks for the tip, Lena.
    Pat O’Dea Rosen recently posted..What NOT to Say at Holiday PartiesMy Profile

  4. I have never heard of this movie. But i’m definitely going to have to give it a look. thanks for bringing it to our attention.
    Louise Behiel recently posted..You Aren’t Imagining It: Life is Speeding UpMy Profile

  5. I love this movie! I really enjoy classic Hollywood films – and really, can you ever go wrong with Cary Grant? Looks like you can watch the whole thing on youtube if you’re patient. Great post. I’ll have to convince the kiddos to watch it with me this year.
    Lisa Hall-Wilson recently posted..Waving Your Freak FlagMy Profile

  6. I never heard of it either so thank you for adding it to my radar, looks perfect!
    Natalie recently posted..ROW80 – Round 4 – Check-in #21My Profile

  7. Some of my faves–It’s a wonderful life, miracle on 34th and A Christmas Story. My kids still like watching Home Alone also.
    Coleen Patrick recently posted..Book BaitMy Profile

  8. I can’t believe how many peeps haven’t heard of this movie! How great that you introduced them to it. I love this movie. And how about the skating scene where we’re supposed to believe it is CG!
    Old black&whites have a sort of innocence to them – even the noirs – that I adore. My husband calls them toy movies. And yet, there are many that reach the heart more effectively than the jaded current fare.
    My holiday faves same as mentioned, but adding Alistair Sims in Xmas Carol.
    Alicia Street recently posted..What Makes You Dance?My Profile

    • Haha, I definitely see what your husband means about “toy movies.” I love classic films so much, and while technology has advanced to amazing points, I still go back to my old black-and-white favorites. One of my favorite classes to TA is my advisor’s film history course. There’s nothing like exposing college undergrads to some of the great classics, and watching as they learn to appreciate them. 😀

  9. Oh, I adore this movie–and I’m with Alicia, it’s so wonderful that you have introduced it to so many people who had never heard of it!! It’s SO much better than the remake (well, other than Denzel-watching, of course).

    I am a massive classic movie fan; my boys asked me once if I ever watched a movie in color–so I made them watch Gone with the Wind, LOL.

    Wonderful wicked pleasure for a Wednesday!
    Elizabeth Anne Mitchell recently posted..Gratitude Part IIMy Profile

    • Whoo-hoo, someone else who knows this movie! I have to admit, I think I missed most of the films that came out in the 1990s (with the exception of all the Disney movies) because my parents raised me on black-and-white films. My friends thought I was unbelievably weird until we got to college and they started taking film courses, lol.

      Thanks for stopping by, ROWsis!

  10. I’ve never watched this movie but it seems like something I would definitely enjoy. We have a long list of favorites for the Christmas season. “It’s A Wonderful Life” with James Stewart is definitely on the top of that list 🙂
    Angela Orlowski-Peart recently posted..ROW80 Check-In Sunday, December 11, 2011My Profile

    • Yes, if you like “It’s A Wonderful Life,” I think you’ll definitely enjoy The Bishop’s Wife — they’re both lovely films with lots of heart. I actually think they were released in the same year, too.

      Thanks for stopping by, Angela!

  11. Okay, seriously, hello! It’s Cary Grant! That’s what I’m saying.

    I can see that great minds think alike! LOL!!!

    We both are recommending Classic movies in our posts!

    It’s just good taste, that’s all there is to it. 🙂
    Karen McFarland recently posted..Splendour in the GrassMy Profile

  12. I love this movie. Definitely a classic! My all-time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life. I also love Miracle on 34th Street. My hubby’s fav is A Christmas Story. I like that one, too!
    Lynn Kelley recently posted..Interview With a Pirate Rat!My Profile

    • Oh gosh, I think I still cry when I watch the original Miracle on 34th Street. Maureen O’Hara is wonderful, and Natalie Wood was so talented, even at that young age. All three of those are great films!

  13. I adore this movie also, Lena. I own it and watch it every year. Carey Grant did look so dashing! Ha.

    Another one I like is ‘Christmas Story’. ..And ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’…I like Jimmy Stewert, too.

    Are you close to finishing for the semester? Best of luck for a strong finish!
    Nadja Notariani recently posted..12 Days of Christmas Reading ~ Day 6My Profile

    • Yay, someone else who has seen this movie! I just love classic film stars (I may have to do a countdown of my favs — Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and Gregory Peck will all be on there).

      Yes, the semester is just about done — all I need is to write an intro and conclusion for my thesis, and I’ll be home free. Thanks for stopping by, Nadja!

  14. Ooh… I love finding fabulous holiday films I haven’t seen yet. Thanks, Lena! Adding it to my to-view list promptly. 🙂
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  15. It’s A Wonderful Life has to be one of my all time favorites. For years I’d come home from Christmas Eve service at church and it’d be playing on the TV, so I’d watch it until I fell asleep. I now own it on DVD, so if I fall asleep or miss the beginning, I don’t actually have to miss anything. I also love Muppet Family Christmas and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol though.
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  16. I really didnt like the preachers wife but I never realised it was a remake and I often find that a remake loses something of what the original offers and its for that reason that I am going to give this one a shot and see what I think even though I am not usually big on old films.
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  17. I have LOVED this movie since HS (I’m 55 now)- it is one of a handful of GREAT Holiday movies that I never miss seeing every yr. My fav list? Don’t know if you’re interested, but here it is: 1) Christmas in Connecticut(the original) 2) “The Bishop’s Wife” 3) “White Christmas” 4) It’s a Wonderful Life” 5) “Come to the Stable” 6) “Bells of St Mary’s” 7) “Miracle on 34th Street” 8) “Holiday Inn” 9) “An American Christmas Carol” 10) “The Man who came to Dinner”

    • Sorry, darn keys! Anyway, every film on my list is from the 1940s- except “White Christmas”(1954), & “An American Christmas Carol”(around 1980)- those are also the only 2 originally in color. I’ve seeb a few Christmas novies since then that aren’t bad(“Prancer”, “The night they saved Christmas”)- but most don’t compare to the ones I’ve listed!! Happy New Year all- getting back to “The Bishop’s Wife”- nite all!! 🙂

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