141 of 149 people found the following review helpful
This genlte film, based on Robert Nathan's fine story, has the warmth of a cup of hot cider by the fireplace during a cold December day. There is something quiet and magical about it, like the hush of the world when it snows. Cary Grant and Loretta Young are a joy to watch together, their easy chemistry as welcome as popcorn balls and candy canes.
Directed by Henry Koster, with some nice photography from Gregg Toland, the screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Leonardo Bercovici captures perfectly the sentimental fantasy feel of all Robert Nathan's fine work. Cary Grant convinced producer Samuel Goldwyn to let him portray the role of Dudley rather than the bishop, and after seeing this film, it would be difficult to imagine it any other way.
Cary Grant always made everything look easy, but just how much work went into that illusion is exemplified by this film. Before shooting began, Grant could not ice skate, play the harp, or speak any French. By the time "The Bishop's Wife" was finished shooting, he could do all three. It was truly an accomplishment of heavenly preportions. The film itself was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture, and received another nomination for Best Director.
Henry Brogham (David Niven) is a newly appointed Episcopalian bishop trying to secure funds for a big cathedral he wants to build. He is selling out little by little to the demands of Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), who helped get him his appointment and has the money he needs to make his dream come true. But he has forgotten about his wife's happiness in his quest to build the massive church, and when he prays for direction from God, he gets more than he bargained for.
Cary Grant is the Angel, Dudley, who's been sent to help out. Cars stop for him and he knows the name of everyone he meets before they tell him. Dudley is quiet and charming, and very handsome. He has an easy way about him that makes everyone happy. Henry's maid, Matilda (Elsa Lanchester), is taken with him and he has a gentle effect on everyone he comes in contact with. Henry is not as ecstatic about Dudley, however, since one of those people is his neglected wife, Julia (Loretta Young).
Young looks beautiful framed by Gregg Toland's soft focus photography, and is marvelous as the sweet woman who misses the time Henry spent with she and their daughter, Debby (Karolyn Grimes), before he obtained his appointment. Dudley and Julia begin to enjoy the small and wonderful things a couple in love should share together, while Henry continues to fret over the cathedral. Henry has forgotten that he prayed for guidance, not a big church.
It is snowing all through this film, and there are many sweet moments between Dudley and Julia. Just the simple pleasure of a walk down the street and having lunch at a familiar place are given back to Julia, as she is made to feel appreciated again. She finally splurges and buys the hat she's been staring at through the shop window for weeks. It is a moment of self-worth, restored by Dudley's attention. There is a magical ice-skating scene as Dudley makes it possible for Julia to glide like an old hand over the ice.
There is humor as well, Dudley making Debby's snowballs hit their mark. He also gives Sylvester (James Gleason), the cab driver, the ability to skate. Dudley explains to Julia that the only people who grow old are those who are born old, but if you are born young, you will stay that way. Dudley and Julia restore Sylvester's faith in people.
Dudley's gentle effect on people, however, is not limited to Julia. His visit to Mrs. Hamilton will reveal a secret love from her past and change her plans for Henry's cathedral. His visit with Julia's friend, Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley), will inspire him to write his book and understand what he could not before. And all the time he is spending with Julia and Debby may make Henry angry enough to realize what is really important, if it is not too late.
There is a tender charm to this heartwarming classic. You will find yourself smiling a lot while watching it. Some nice music by Hugo Friedhofer and the Mitchell Boychoir add to a very special atmosphere. "The Bishop's Wife" is a reminder that it is people that matter, not a building, and the charity we give, should always begin at home, with those we love. It is a wonderful message we can heed all year long.
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 1999
This film is one of the best of the Christmas Classics. The Bishop's Wife tells a story of an angel (Cary Grant) who comes down to earth in answer to a busy Bishop's (David Niven) prayer. The angel helps the Bishop learn to adjust his priorities and comes close to falling in love with Julia, the Bishop's wife (Loretta Young). The movie includes a lovely Skating/ Dance scene that defies description. Make this movie a tradition for your family this year.
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2002
This movie is really quite good - nice for the holidays or for any other day, for that matter. It is very sweet, and features wonderful performances from three classic stars.
Essentially, The Bishop's Wife is the story of a bishop (David Niven) who becomes overly obsessed with getting funds for a new cathedral and subsequently neglects his wife and the things that really count. After he prays for help with his project, an angel named Dudley (Cary Grant), arrives to make him see that really counts in his life and to entertain his wife (Loretta Young).
An interesting fact about this movie is that, after the initial script was found too dull, several expert writers were brought in (uncredited) to improve the movie. And it worked, because this movie has many good lines and scenes. Most importantly, however, this movie depends on the great performances of its stars. Cary Grant is really the only actor who could have made a role like Dudley seem realistic and interesting, and he pulls it off with his characteristic style, elegance, and charm. Like in all his roles, he plays this one effortlessly and just right. Niven is excellent as the stressed out bishop, and Loretta Young does a nice job as the neglected wife. All in all, a sweet movie!
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2000
It's fun to dig into the vaults occasionally and come up with a classic that perhaps you've never seen, or haven't seen for a long time; and it's especially satisfying when you come up with a gem like "The Bishop's Wife," directed by Henry Koster and starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. It's trying times for Bishop Henry Brougham (Niven), who's trying to raise enough funds for the construction of a cathedral for his church; he has a patron, the widow Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), who will donate handsomely, but only if she is allowed to "call the shots" as it were. Henry has become increasingly distracted by it all, as well as distant, a fact which hasn't gone unnoticed by his wife, Julia (Young). When Henry prays for help, his prayers are answered in the form of an angel named Dudley (Grant), who announces himself to Henry and quickly manages to ingratiate himself with Julia. And with Dudley's help, Henry ultimately discovers what is truly important in his life. Koster has crafted a pleasing and thoroughly entertaining movie that examines the good and bright side of human nature, and how refreshing it is in an era when so many films explore the dark side exclusively. It's an elegant film with performances to match, with the charismatic Grant giving a relaxed and polished turn as the angel. He fairly oozes charm, seemingly effortlessly, with a presence that is captivating to the other characters as well as to the audience; and he brings a sense of peace and serenity to the proceedings that gives total credibility to Dudley. Grant makes it easy to believe that he's the angel he claims to be. Young, as well, is simply outstanding as Julia, lending a dignity to the role while managing to remain down-to-earth and totally accessible. There's an endearing warmth about her that makes her someone with whom you would like to spend more time; a gracious woman of classic beauty, both inside and out. And Niven, as Henry, strikes a countenance that defines class, and he exacts the sympathy of the viewer by making his character one with whom you can readily identify; his consternation becomes yours, and you breathe a little easier once you know Dudley is on the job. The supporting cast includes Monty Woolley (Professor Wutheridge), James Gleason (Sylvester), the terrific Elsa Lanchester (Matilda), Sara Haden (Mildred), Regis Toomey (Mr. Miller) and young Karolyn Grimes (Debby). Watching this film, it's easy to understand why it's been designated as "classic." Well written and stylishly delivered, "The Bishop's Wife" is an absorbing, memorable film that makes you realize (either again or, perhaps for many, the first time) why Grant, Young and Niven are considered "stars," and how much great character actors like Woolley, Gleason and Lanchester contributed to so many great films during their careers. For a satisfying movie experience, especially during the holidays, this is one film you should definitely check out; you won't be sorry.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2013
I love this movie. I have owned it on VHS, laserdisc, an old HBO DVD, and just today I received the new Blu-ray. Good looking copy. Nice contrast and sharp picture. There's just one problem - there's an authoring error that puts a few seconds of one scene in the middle of another. At about 18 minutes in as Dudley is trying to decide what to do with all of the donation letters he has, the image suddenly switches to a previous scene where Dudley and the professor are looking at the bishop's old church. The audio continues on as if the other scene isn't there, but the image is wrong. This lasts for about three seconds, then it returns to the right visuals. I was so disappointed that this wasn't caught. I would give it a 5 if it hadn't been the case. I'm just shocked that this kind of thing happens these days! Hopefully WB will correct this and offer a trade-in.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2003
"The Bishop's Wife" is one of the better Christmas movies out there. I wouldn't place it as high as "Miracle on 34th Street," but it's in that league, and certainly has a similar feel.
Henry Koster does a fine job of giving the film a leisurely pace without letting it drag, and the performances are uniformly solid. It is somewhat of a shame to see David Niven stuck in a part that doesn't allow him much room for humour, as he can be so funny. And I do have to admit that Loretta Young's allure alludes me somewhat. She doesn't seem very dynamic for two men (or should I say a man and an angel) to be making such a fuss over. But she's certainly more than passable.
One of my favorite performances came from Elsa Lanchester, in a minor role as the family maid.
This movie becomes magical only once---during the ice skating scene between Cary Grant, Young and James Gleason. That could have gone on for hours and I would have been transfixed. But not every movie can be magical, and this film is a very good (if non-magical) one.
Pop in on a snowy night, light the Christmas tree, make some hot chocolate, and enjoy.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2004
This is my favorite movie of all time. It has a wonderful cast, every one of them is so well suited for their role. It's even entertaining to watch them eat celery! The Angel choir throughout gives such a hopeful feel and reminds us who we're dealing with. I love the special effects as well. Without computers I am sure the film makers had to be very clever to make them work and they were done beautifully. I watch this every Christmas by the light of my Christmas tree. Buy it and share it with your family and friends!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2000
the may be my favorite holiday movie, easily beating out It's a Wonderful Life and edging out a Miracle on 34th Street (the Year w/o Santa is great fun, too with the Heat and Cold Measers, i bet those tunes are running in your head right now!).
the story is about the visitation of an Angel, 'Dudley,' (Cary Grant) to the local parish, in answer to the Bishop's (David Nivens) prayer. the Bishop's wife (Loretta Young), becomes a focal point on what is important but taken for granted.
i can't think of anyone else who could so admirely portray the role of Dudley. In a wonderfully low key performance and really good direction, Grant gives the subtle impression of someone always having an 'awareness' of things happening or just about to happen -- Grant never looks directly at those things that he is affecting, never drawing the attention of the other characters.
if you have never seen this movie, you are really missing out on a charming story that is never too preachy (the story of the shepherd's song and the last sermon are nicely delivered). if you have seen it, well ... you need no 'guidance'
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2003
This film is on the shortlist of my favorite holiday films. From the boy-choir scene to the skating rink, I can watch it again and again.
The casting is flawless. I especially love Elsa Lancester's performance, and the three leads work effortlessly together. I can't decide which performance I love the best. Niven, Grant and Young all seem to be at the top of their careers. Gotta love Cary Grant playing the harp, but then again there is Loretta Young buying her Christmas presents, and David Niven preaching his Christmas sermon.
Being an Episcopal priest, I enjoy the church politics and particulars presented so carefully.
Anyone who loves Christmas will probably love this film. If you don't, expect a visitation from a friendly angel. Just hope it's Cary Grant!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2002
Loretta Young deserved an Oscar and she got it the year this film was made, but for another role "The Farmer's Daughter" a comedy. While that was also a wonderful performance I can't help thinking that Academy voters were also thinking of this movie when they cast their vote for her to win against the odds on favorite that year, Rosalind Russell. In the first 15 minutes of the Bishop's Wife Loretta Young brought me nearly to tears twice the first time I watched this movie and many times since. Mind you the all star cast does not end with her alone, we have Cary Grant giving us a little piece of heaven right here on Earth. In addition, we have David Niven in a wonderful turn as a very believable (trust me I know!) Episcopal Bishop over-worked and harried trying to raise money for a new Cathedral. Monty Wooley, James Gleason and Elsa Lanchester were all wonderful. Gladys Cooper was also a scene stealer as the "selfish materialistic woman" that the Bishop must grovel to for funding. I wish they made wholesome faith-filled movies that still deliver a message of tolerance and inclusion during the Christmas season in this day and age. Well, I will go on wishing, but I recommend this DVD to watch for the time being.