12 Films of Christmas 2013: The Bishop’s Wife


The first film of Christmas covered animated film Arthur Christmas, the second switched gears with Bill Murray comedy Scrooged, and now here we are on the third film of Christmas, which is undoubtedly a blast from the past. Though I haven’t seen nearly as many as a proper movie lover should, I have a fondness for old black-and-white films. Psycho, On the Waterfront, and The Maltese Falcon are just a few of my favorites, and I had hoped to add this one to my top classics, too, but…well, it isn’t quite what I thought it’d be. It’s still a solid enough Christmas film and a worthwhile watch, yet much like the gift of a fruitcake, it’s not really what I wanted it to be. However, for the third film of Christmas my local library gave to me…The Bishop’s Wife!

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

bishop's wife

Synopsis: “A bishop trying to get a new cathedral built prays for guidance. An angel arrives, but his guidance isn’t about fundraising.” –www.imdb.com

The Holly Jolly:

  • Cary Grant. One of the big stars of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Grant quickly became an old pro at the “charming gentleman” role. No exception here. As angel Dudley, Grant is the epitome of a charming gentleman, yet he’s a little cheeky to boot. It might be a role he plays a lot, but it’s a role we love to see him in.
  • The lighthearted tone. When I checked this out, I was under the impression that it was a drama, but there’s plenty of warm, good-natured humor throughout. Definitely appropriate for a family film.
  • There’s a scene where a boys’ choir sings, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Later, there’s also a lovely ice skating scene. It’s all very stereotypical 1940s family film stuff, which some people may find cheesy, but I find it pretty enjoyable in this instance.
  • Though the effects are very low-tech for the 21st century, I imagine they were fairly impressive for 1947. All of the effects involve very fun tricks that Dudley pulls—tricks that only make him that much more charming.
  • This is a very silly thing to point out, but there is a big, lovable St. Bernard in this film and I WANT it! I have an irrational fondness for large doggies…

The Lumps of Coal:

  • The relationship between Dudley the angel and the bishop’s wife, Julia, is kind of…weird. There’s an unspoken but obviously mutual crush between them, and that’s kind of troubling for a cheerful ‘40s Christmas film. The ANGEL is flirting with the wife of the man he’s supposed to help? Not cool! That said…
  • The bishop is kind of a jerk, and he doesn’t get much of a chance to redeem himself. Played by David Niven, Henry the bishop is almost always in a sour mood, and he’s quick to turn on Dudley when things don’t go exactly as he wants them to. Yet somehow in the last five minutes of the film, Henry has suddenly learned his lesson and is perfectly fine. That’s just a little too easy for my taste.
  • There are about a million near car crashes. One is fine, two is pushing it, but three or more is venturing into the realm of the ridiculous. Who taught these people how to drive?
  • Julia (played by the lovely Loretta Young) has an obsession with an ugly hat, and it bugs me. Like, aren’t there more important things going on here than you and a silly ol’ hat?
  • Here’s a question: Why is this film called “The Bishop’s Wife”? Though Julia is certainly an important character, Dudley is pretty much the focus of the story. Julia doesn’t really do much. Except, you know, be the bishop’s wife. I would like to petition for a new title. “The Bishop’s Angel”? Just “The Angel”? Or maybe “Cary Grant Charms the Pants Off of Everyone”? Not literally, of course. As I said, it’s a family film.

In a Nutcracker’s Nutshell: The Bishop’s Wife is a good film—just not a great one. But there’s enough in it to get you in the Christmas spirit, and if you enjoy the classics, it’s worth a watch. If you’re a Cary Grant fan, I would upgrade that to a must watch.

My Glad Tidings: B

Here’s a funny thing: I was supposed to go see Frozen last night. The reason I didn’t? My road is frozen with seven inches of snow on top of it. Ironic, no? Even the movie theater shut down. We’re walkin’ in a winter wonderland and then some. However, being trapped at home will give me time for the stack of Christmas DVDs begging for my attention, so that probably means the 12 Films of Christmas will continue very soon! I’ll be back faster than a one-horse open sleigh. 😉


27 thoughts on “12 Films of Christmas 2013: The Bishop’s Wife

  1. @ I was supposed to go see Frozen last night. The reason I didn’t? My road is frozen with seven inches of snow on top of it


    • The shoveling was glorious. Simply glorious. Lol. Doing a little more today actually! As for the film, you could probably skip it. Like I said, if you’re a big Cary Grant fan it’s probably a good one to watch, but it’s not as great as I’d hoped it’d be.

  2. Nice review. I’ve never watched this but I should check it out sometime. Yeah, these black & white classics don’t always work as well these days… I’ll stick with Miracle on 34th Street & It’s A Wonderful Life as my B&W Xmas films. 🙂

    • Well I’m glad you feel that way, Roger! This one was actually kind of a letdown for me, though I liked it well enough. For me, it’s hard to beat It’s a Wonderful Life when it comes to Christmas classics. 🙂

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