The Bishop’s Wife

Friday, December 23, AD 2016

 

A fine Christmas movie is 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 when undercover angel Dudley, Cary Grant, uses his powers to summon a tardy boy’s choir for an unforgettable rendition of O Sing to God:

 

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  • It never fails. When ever you present a clip from a movie from long ago and far away I inevitably go to the next one and the next and on. This is one movie I have long remembered and it saddens me not to see it presented on TV, especially during the Christmas season. Heart warming, refreshing, affirming reminder of how important the birth of The Child is, but so sad to see how commercial such an important day has become, beginning as far before as Hallowe’en. It is true that three wise men brought gifts, tokens appropriate for their time, but look at what has since happened; we prod children to compose wish lists, ask adults what they want. We were not put on earth to grant wishes. It has gotten so easy to just ‘buy’, often with little thought, finery and goods and toys that will eventually be long forgotten and sometimes not much appreciated. To give is a beautiful thing, I do it gladly, but I believe that gifts made by our hands with our hearts to God, promises to help make life sweeter and easier for another, are so much more meaningful, no matter how small, genuinely expressing personal thoughtfulness and love for the receiver. It saddens me each year to observe what we have done to Christmas, how we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

  • Bravo, Anna ! Live long and prosper !
    Timothy

Chain of Memory

Wednesday, October 14, AD 2015

 

My wife and I were watching the movie The Way Ahead (1944), shown as Immortal Battalion in a truncated version in the US, last night, the story of the transformation of a grumbling group of British civilians into soldiers, and I was struck by this speech given by the platoon commander after his unit intentionally messed up on maneuvers:

 

“When this regiment was formed our country was doing pretty badly. Napoleon’s armies were just across the channel getting ready to invade us, we’d had defeat after defeat, and a great many people thought we were finished. We weren’t… But, not because we were lucky.

When the first battalion of this regiment marched it was against Napoleon… Talavera, eighteen hundred and nine, that was the first battle they made their own, and they marched 42 miles in 24 hours of a Spanish Summer, and every man jack of ’em carried a sixty pound pack. Talavera, look at your cap badges, you’ll see the name on it, and the other battles too… Barrosa, Sabugal… At Sabugal, together with four companies of riflemen, they defeated five times the number of Napoleon’s troops… Salamanca, Orthez, Waterloo, Alma, Sebastopol, Tel el-Kebir, Mons, Ypres, Somme… Those are battle honours!

You’re allowed to wear that badge with those names on it to show that you belong the the regiment that won them, and that when the time comes you’ll do as well as they did. Last year that badge was in France, this year, in Libya. It hasn’t been disgraced yet… Now you’re wearing it.

I know what went wrong today, it so happens that Captain Edwards doesn’t. You needn’t worry, I’m not going to tell him, he’s quite depressed enough as it is to think that it was his company that let the whole battalion down. But, I just want to tell you this… If you ever get near any real fighting… I don’t suppose you’ll ever be good enough, but, if you do… You’ll find that you’re looking to other men not to let you down. If you’re lucky, you’ll have soldiers like Captain Edwards and Sergeant  Fletcher to look to. If they’re lucky, they’ll be with another company!”

The actor delivering the speech was the late David Niven.  It is a brilliant evocation of history to remind members of a unit that they are part of a chain stretching through time and it is up to them not to dishonor by their actions those who came before in that chain.   As we make our way through this Vale of Tears it is something to remember since we all belong to such chains:  family, church, nation, fraternal organizations, bands of friends, etc.   Our actions do not impact only ourselves.

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  • One of the many reasons your blog is my first read every morning. Thank you Donald. I have a son at the Air Force Academy and, while there, he has heard much about his responsibility to those who have gone before. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard this. He was raised to understand he was part of something bigger than himself and he owed his best, at all times, to others who were counting on him.

  • Agreed. Great post Donald.
    Life chain was two weekends ago.
    Our chain of silent soldiers stretched form the west end of our town to the eastern side.
    As long as the battle for the unborn is still being fought, we have 56 million reasons to speak up and defeat the barbarians of liberal thought. Until they respect life, the sanctity of life, we will be present and accounted for.
    Thank you for the reminder that nothing is lost as long as we stay together and March forward with the banner of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, indeed, have mercy on us.

The Bishop’s Wife

Thursday, December 19, AD 2013

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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15 Responses to The Bishop’s Wife

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 —

  • Oops, that should say…”Let US glorify Him!” Sorry for the typo.

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Cherished this movie the first time I ever saw it on TV late one night as a young man. Very eclectic cast. It addresses personal loss (Mrs. Hamilton) and family and the Great Gift.

The Bishop’s Wife

Wednesday, December 16, AD 2009

As we get closer to Christmas I am going to do a few posts on some of the more obscure Christmas movies I have enjoyed.  First up is 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:

 

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

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