The Bishop’s Wife

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Continuing our look at Advent and Christmas movies:  The Bishop’s Wife from 1947.    David Niven is an Episcopalian Bishop of a struggling diocese;  Loretta Young (ironically one of the more devout Catholics in the Hollywood of her time) is his wife;  and Cary Grant is Dudley, one of the more unimportant angels in Heaven, sent by God to lend the Bishop a hand.  The film is a graceful comedy which effectively and quietly underlines the central importance of faith in God as we see in this little scene:

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The film is a gem and it is a joy to watch at Christmas time.

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  1. Pingback: Repairs Begin on Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity - BigPulpit.com

  2. A good movie, enjoyable, although I was a little creeped out by the angel’s attraction to the wife of the bishop. It’s not something that ruins the movie though. The movie also reaffirmed for me how prudent it is to have celibate clergy.

  3. I don’t think Dudley was really attracted to the Bishop’s wife. He allowed her to be attracted to him as part of his mission to show the Bishop that his priorities were fouled up, which included him neglecting his wife and taking her for granted.

  4. Andre,
    Christ is born! Let is glorify Him!
    I’ve not seen the movie, so I have no comment about the content. I did want to mention, however, that ordaining married men to the priesthood is a longstanding & legitimate tradition (small “t”) of the Eastern Catholic Churches. God bless –

  5. Well noted, Patricia. I didn’t mean to imply that it is imprudent for clergy to marry, but it created (at least in this movie) a whole other set of issues, a divided heart, as our Lord stated. I don’t know how some men manage both.

  6. Donald, I agree that the angel let her be attracted to him. And truly any heavenly creature, exuding the love of God, even if they weren’t Cary Grant would be considered attractive certainly by the goodness and holiness they radiate. But this passage from the movie, perhaps you interpreted it differently than I. (There was some novel theology in this movie…)

    (From IMDB :)
    Henry Brougham: Dudley, if we should need you again, will you come back?
    Dudley: Not I. I shall ask to be assigned to the other end of the Universe.
    Henry Brougham: Is that because I was so difficult?
    Dudley: Oh, no. This difficulty was in me. When an Immortal finds himself envying the Mortal he is entrusted to his care, it’s a danger signal. Take her in your arms and hold her tight.
    [Coming]
    Dudley: Kiss her for me, you lucky Henry!

    Dudley envies the bishop for being married to this woman, so much that there is a “danger” that he needs to be “assigned at the other end of the universe”.

  7. A good point Andre, unless the statements are also part of Dudley’s plan to make the Bishop realize what a treasure he has in his wife. It is interesting that all the females in the film, the maid, the Bishop’s secretary, the wealthy benefactress, in addition to the Bishop’s wife, are attracted to Dudley. The main emotion that is usually elicited when angels appear in the Old Testament is one of fear, unless they are in disguise. Then again, those angels were not portrayed by Cary Grant!

  8. The author of Hebrews suggests we are higher than the angels in Christ, who is highest of all. I wonder if the angels envy us. We know the fallen ones did. Angels watch us. They have greater powers, but they quite significantly lack humanity.

  9. Well, it’s light, heart-warming entertainment. I doubt that Hollywood screenwriters were ever your go-to people when it came to the finer points of theology :-)

    I watched this movie about a week ago, and the suave, charming Cary Grant “angel” made me think of Clarence, the chubby, not-so-suave angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Clarence was hardly the smoothie Grant was, but he managed to earn his wings by keeping the Jimmy Stewart character from succumbing to despair and suicide.

    As enjoyable as Grant was to watch (and, being female, I have always greatly enjoyed watching and listening to Grant :) bumbling old Clarence is still my favorite movie “angel.”

  10. PS: I recently read an article about Grant, who was born poor and always joked that when he spoke his native dialect, he sounded like Eliza Doolittle before she met Professor Higgins.

    He was no angel in his personal life, but what struck me about him (and many of the stars and entertainers of that time) is how many of them, born in wretched circumstances, aspired to have “class” and sound educated and refined. That was the cultural ideal then. Quite different from today, when many from upper and middle class homes aim for trashy behavior. I was reading that Obama’s “pajama boy” is from the posh Chicago suburb of Willmette (I believe the garbage-mouthed mayor of Chicago hails from the same wealthy ‘burb). Pajama boy is quite proud of the fact he has “no morals.”

  11. No, Hollywood never gets it right. And when it comes to the finer points, they’re completely off the mark. As inspiring as their stories often are, they usually entail implausable elements if viewed from an orthodox perspective. But I guess Hollywood has to sell a story that appeals to everyone, even when it revolves around Christian themes.

  12. Jon, Re “The author of Hebrews suggests we are higher than the angels in Christ, who is highest of all. Angels watch us. They have greater powers, but they quite significantly lack humanity.”
    Several years ago our parish priest in a homily said that humans are higher than angels, which surprised me. With the Son of God being human and divine we have a connection that the angels do not. Thank you. I will read Hebrews.

  13. To paraphrase a Cary Grant quote about his screen persona, “Everyone wants to be like Cary Grant, even I want to be that Cary Grant.”
    Re Donna’s comment on middle to upper class (I would use “income” vice class”)households: I have seen this so often in teens from comfortable suburban homes who talk, dress, and act like they are from the ghetto. Of course they don’t have a clue how hard life is in those real circumstances, but they sure get attention from their parents. It’s some attention even if it’s negative.