The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Directed by Henry Koster B&W, 109 minutes
This Christmas season, turn off the multi-colored stories of red-nosed reindeer and talking snowmen, put the younger kids to bed, and rent The Bishop’s Wife, which can be found in the classics section of many video stores.
The Bishop’s Wife tells the story of a young Episcopalian clergyman (played by David Niven) who has become so obsessed with building a new cathedral, and with the cultivating of the wealthy that this requires, that he is in danger of losing both his vocation and his wife (a glowing Loretta Young). The story unfolds at Christmas in an unnamed city, possibly New York—an unbelievably clean, safe, civilized, and rosy-cheeked New York. (It wasn’t so long ago.)
Cary Grant, never more charming, is the bishop’s new young assistant, who, it turns out, is an angel sent to readjust Niven’s attitude. He succeeds in this—and in brightening the lives of everyone around him—without the need for any expensive special effects. Imagine, if you can, a film that affirms the power of prayer, the wisdom and benevolence of the Almighty, and the value of civilized life and manners. A film which teaches against materialism without preaching socialism. A film which recognizes the attraction between men and women without descending into vulgarity’. The Bishop’s Wife will make you regret the decline of American civilization and long for the return of Christmas Past.
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