Everyone knows It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A Christmas Story (1983), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and the many versions of A Christmas Carol (1938, 1971, 1984). Â But far too few people have seen The Bishop’s Wife (1947). Â Sometimes, when I mention the title, people will say, “Oh, the Denzel Washington movie?” Â That picture –Â The Preacher’s WifeÂ (1996) – is a remake of this one. Â I’m recommending the original, starring David Niven (as the bishop) Loretta Young (as his wife, Julia), and Cary Grant.
What’s the film about? Â The trailer is deliberately elusive:
In keeping with the film’s trailer, I don’t want to give away any of the film’s surprises, but I do want to praise both the screenplay and the performances. Â Even the supporting characters have a full history – they seem to be as “real” as the three main characters. Â There’s Monty Woolley as Professor Wutheridge, James Gleason as cab driver Sylvester, Gladys Cooper as wealthy widow Mrs. Hamilton. Â Grant, Young, and Niven are of course magnificent, too. Â Sure, since it’s from 1947, you’ll find a few “dated” portrayals (the Italian shopkeeper, the Cockney maid), but those moments are few and mild. Â In other words, don’t worry: no blackface! Â The problems of Holiday InnÂ (1942) are conspicuously absent.
The themes of The Bishop’s Wife certainly remain resonant and appropriate. Â Do yourself a favor: don’t read any more about the film. Â Just rent it. Â To take a break from grading, I’m planning on watching it again this evening.