This is a five-part series of reviews of classic live-action Christmas films that are on my must-watch list every holiday season.
I love Cary Grant. I love his chisled good looks, his mid-Atlantic accent, his ability to play both suave and screwball convincingly. I am a happily-married woman, but if I am allowed one great celebrity crush in my life, I pick Cary Grant. He has made my heart pound since I was about 15 years old, and he is at his most delectible in the late ’40s in general, and this film in particular.
The Bishop’s Wife is the second of my three films featuring a supernatural holiday being (following Miracle on 34th Street‘s Kris Kringle), and the first of the two that will feature an angel. The angel, appropriately enough, is Cary Grant. He’s sent when overworked Episcopal Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) prays for help building a cathedral. But cathedral funds and the unreasonable demands of committee members aren’t Henry’s only problems. His wife, Julia (Loretta Young), and their young daughter Debbie have been sorely neglected as he runs from meeting to meeting, trying to please everyone else but them. Dudley the angel, though, has no trouble fitting Julia and Debbie into his schedule. He takes Julia out for lunch, tells Debbie stories, and pays compliments to their household staff. Henry gets jealous (who wouldn’t if Cary Grant was romancing your wife), but insists on going to cathedral meetings himself. As Dudley puts it, “If you asked me to stand in for you at the meeting with Mrs. Hamilton, I would have. Instead, I’ll stand in with your wife.” But Dudley can’t have everything he wants either, and must find a way to restore the Brougham’s marriage instead of tearing it apart.
Cary Grant makes this movie. His angel is flawed but sincere, mischievous but dashing. He helps all those around him because that’s the essence of who he is, but he develops feelings he shouldn’t have in the process. And really–he’s gorgeous all the way through.
One thing that has always bothered me about this movie, though, and those who’ve seen it feel free to comment: Julia seems to be a loving mother, but she’s forever running around with Dudley or by herself and leaving her daughter to be cared for by the housekeeper. Not to say a mother can’t have some time to herself, but multiple times, she’s been out all day and comes in just in time to kiss her child good-night. If the child is that “in the way” of the story, why is she there in the first place? But this could just be me…