75 Years Ago: TLC Reviews ‘The Bishop’s Wife’

This review was published in the December 21, 1947, issue of The Living Church.  

ONE of the most enjoyable treats of this Christmastide is the gift of a Jewish writer and a Jewish producer to the movie-going public – which includes most of us. The Bishop’s Wife is a delightful Christmas fantasy, taken from a book by Robert Nathan and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Already it has been mentioned by critics as worthy of the Academy award, and surely it is fully as deserving of that honor as was Going My Way. [The Bishop’s Wife was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won for Best Sound Recording.]

The plot is an extraordinary one. A certain bishop (David Niven) is so concerned about raising funds to build a cathedral that he has neglected both his wife (Loretta Young) and his spiritual duties. Indeed he is rapidly becoming a bundle of worldly frustration when, in answer to his prayer for guidance, an angel (Cary Grant) is sent to help him. Now we must confess that even the saintliest bishop would have his faith sorely tested by an angel who looked like Cary Grant and who, purely in the line of his angelic business, of course, paid such marked attention to the bishop’s wife. Indeed it might be said that, as an angel, Mr. Grant is almost too human!

Perhaps it is not surprising that a celestial visitor who has been about this earth for as many centuries as “Dudley” indicates that he has, should have managed to pick up the authentic Hollywood manner, which characterizes even his minor miracles. Nevertheless, despite a few gaucheries like “Reverend Miller,” there is nothing in the story that is the least offensive. Indeed it is as delightful a fantasy as Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and far more genuinely religious.

In short, The Bishop’s Wife is good entertainment and (allowing for the Hollywood touch) good theology, too. If you are (a) a bishop, (b) the wife of a bishop, or (c) anyone else, we strongly recommend that you see The Bishop’s Wife at your first opportunity, and preferably during the Christmas season.

And we take our hat off to Samuel Goldwyn for bringing the Christmas spirit to the screen in such a wholly enjoyable manner.

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