The Bishop’s Wife (1947) Classic Movie Review 52

The Bishop's Wife (1947)

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Ah, I am at my most serious when I'm joking.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) is a wonderful and beloved Christmas movie. This movie has a great cast of many English and American actors

Rough Script The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

The Bishop's Wife (1947) poster

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) poster

Today’s movie is a Christmas favorite features some great stars. The film is The Bishop’s Wife (1947). This movie was remade as The Preacher’s Wife (1996) with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. Quite frankly I have never watched the remake failing to see how they could improve on the original.

Cary Grant played angel Dudley. Grant was born in England in 1904. At the age of 14 he left home and joined a comedy troupe. In 1920, he was selected to perform on Broadway. He stayed in the US. His first film was This is the Night (1932) and his last film was a great comedy Walk Don’t Run (1966). In between he made so many great movies from comedies to drama. I will hit just a few of the highlights.

These films include: Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katherine Hepburn, Gunga Din (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), My Favorite Wife (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Destination Tokyo (1943), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946) with Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains, The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), I Was a Male War Bride (1949), People Will Talk (1951), To Catch a Thief (1955) with Grace Kelly, spy thriller North by Northwest (1959) made with Eva Marie Saint, Operation Petticoat (1959), The Touch of Mink (1962), Charade (1963), and Father Goose (1964).

At the age of 62 he retired from film and started raising a family. He died in 1986 at the age of 82.

Loretta Young played the role of Julia Brougham, the Bishop’s wife. Young was born in Utah in 1913. By the age of four she was working as a child actor. She made her first films in 1917 and made another in 1921. In 1927, she had a small part in Naughty But Nice (1927). Through the 20s and 30s she was making 6 to 9 films a year.

In 1935, the beauty was in The Call of the Wild (1935) with Clark Gable. Young became pregnant by Gable who was married at the time. The whole thing was kept from the public and she had her most important role to date with Kentucky (1938).

In 1947, Young won the Best Actress Oscar for The Farmer’s Daughter (1947). That same year The Bishop’s Wife (1947) came out. In 1953, Young retired from film. She was on television through 1962. Young enjoyed her retirement and died in 2000 at her sister’s home. Her sister was married to Ricardo Montalban.

English actor David Niven played Henry Brougham, AKA the Bishop. Niven attended Sandhurst Military Academy which is the equivalent of West Point, and he served for two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. He started making movies in 1932. He obtained large roles in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), and The Dawn Patrol (1938). When World War II broke out Niven joined the English Army. During the war he made two wartime propaganda films: Spitfire (1942) and The Way Ahead (1944). After the war he continued to make great movies. Some of the highlights are: Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), My Man Godfrey (1957), Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960), The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Pink Panther (1963), 55 Days in Peking (1963), Casino Royale (1967), Murder by Death (1976), The Sea Wolves (1980), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).

Niven died in 1983 at the age of 73.

Monty Woolley played down and out Professor Wutheridge. Woolley was born in 1888 in New York. He studied at Harvard and Yale and became an instructor at Yale. Woolley was extremely active in the theater. In 1936, at the age of 47, Woolly left academia to work professional on the stage and film. Woolley made films from 1937 to 1955. However, his two best are arguably, The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) and The Bishop’s Wife (1947). Woolley was active in radio and on television following his film career. He died in 1963 at the age of 74.

James Gleason played a small role as Sylvester the taxi driver. Born in New York in 1882, Gleason fought in the Spanish-American War. Following that war he worked in stock theater. When. World War I broke out he enlisted again. Following that war he started appearing on Broadway and writing. In his career he had 163 film and television credits. He is probably best known for his role in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) which has been remade several times with different names. Gleason died in 1959 at the age of 76.

Gladys Cooper played the hostile widow Mrs. Hamilton. Born in 1888, Cooper began working on stage by 1906. During World War I she was a pin-up favorite. Here first full length film was in 1917. She had 73 television and film credits. She jumped between film and state. Her last film was in 1969 and she died in 1971 at the age of 82.

Elsa Lanchester played the slight off beat maid Matilda. We covered Lanchester in Episode 7 Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Sara Haden played the role of Henry’s secretary Mildred Cassaway. Haden was born in 1899 in Texas. She has 116 movie and television credits. The only movies I will mention besides The Bishop’s Wife (1947) are The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and She-Wolf of London (1946). Haden died in 1981.

Robert J. Anderson was born in 1933. He was in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and then The Bishop’s Wife (1947) as a child. He had a total of 27 acting credits and worked in production for movies such as Demolition Man (1993) and Passenger 57 (1992). He died in 2008.

Erville Alderson had a small role as Mrs. Hamilton’s butler Stevens. Alderson began his career during the silent years in 1918. One movie that I remember his from is Sergeant York (1941) His last movie was The Spirit of St. Louis (1957). He died in 1957 at the age of 74.

Karolyn Grimes played Debbie Brougham, daughter of Julia and Henry. She also played Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).


On a snowy night, near Christmas, the coolest guy in the world walks the streets of New York. The first time you see him he is framed against the Angels in the department store window. As he enjoys seeing the happy people he does good deeds. He helps a blind man across the street by stopping cars. He saves a baby in a runaway buggy and nicely lectures a mother on safety.

He sees a very attractive woman admiring a fancy hat in a store window. She seems very sad and alone. . She crosses the street hear the voice of Prof. Wutheridge (Monty Wooley). He greets the woman as dear old friend Julia Brougham (Loretta Young). The professor says he has no religion but getting a tree reminds him of his childhood. The Prof asks about Henry. Julia seems sad and replies that he is very tired. The Prof. Comments about the Cathedral Henry is trying build and Julia asks about the book on Roman history that the Prof. is writing. As they part the professor gives Julia an old Roman coin for the cathedral fund. Julia starts crying and says she wished they were back in the old neighborhood where they were happy. When she leaves the coolest guy in the world I standing behind the professor. He introduces himself to the professor like they are old friends. He says he knows Julia and that she is unhappy. They see Henry’s old church and it is about to shut down. As they part the professor is still not sure he knows the man.

When Julia gets home the door is opened by the maid Matilda (Elsa Lanchester). She finds her husband, Henry Brougham (David Niven), an Episcopalian bishop. He is in a meeting with the cathedral committee which is really the rich widow Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper). Mrs. Hamilton is obsessed with make the cathedral a monument to her late husband. Henry is opposed to this glorification and Mrs. Hamilton leaves and threatens to not fund the cathedral if she can’t have it her way.

Julia and Henry start arguing about the cathedral and it is apparent that the marriage is strained. The bishop’s personal secretary Mildred Cassaway (Sara Haden) informs him that he has an important call even though the couple is already very late for their dinner. Julia gives Henry the coin from the professor and he tosses it aside with contempt and calls his old friend a fool. He snaps at Julia and they sit down to dinner in a very sad mood. Henry makes a date with his wife for the next day including lunch at Michele’s. Henry goes to the phone and Ms. Cassaway reminds him he has appoints all day and then she leaves for the night. Henry bows his head before a painting of the proposed cathedral and prays for help. The painting glows and Henry hears the door open but when he looks there is no one there. When he turns back the coolest man in the world is standing below the picture with his face hidden in darkness. The man tells him he has come in answer to his prayer and he is an angel. He introduces himself as angel Dudley (Cary Grant). Julia comes in and Dudley introduces himself as Henry’s assistant. She says she has been praying for that as well. When Julia meets Dudley she immediately becomes happy. When Henry turns his back Dudley disappears.

Matida and the other maid talk about Henry having a rough night and not wanting to eat his breakfast. Henry comes down the stairs looking hungover and when he sees Ms. Cassaway she lets him know that hardly any money is coming in for the cathedral. Matilda opens the door and Dudley acts like he knows her already. When Ms. Cassaway comes by he knows her as well. The two ladies are charmed by him. Julia comes down and Henry breaks the date. Julia suggest Dubley stand in for him at the meetings but Henry says no. Julia lets Matilda have the day off to shop for Christmas and agrees to take care of her own child. Wow. Dudley asks if Henry wants to cathedral or Julia’s happiness.

After Henry leaves Dudley meets Julia and Henry’s daughter Debby (Karolyn Grimes). Dudley pockets the professor’s Roman coin and uses magic to do the filing. As Dudley gets ready to go out Matilda fawns over him giving him the bishop’s scarf to wear.

Julia is watching the kids snowball fight in the park and Debbie comes back crying because they won’t let her play. Dudley shows up and has he pitch a magic curve ball snowball knocking defense captain (Robert J. Anderson) off the hill winning a spot on the team. When I read the iMDB listing for an attack captain and a defense captain I thought I had forgotten some Civil Defense part. You know I am a child of the Cold War. I expected it to be something like in The Time Machine (1960) when the air raid marshal was ordering everyone underground before the mushrooms started sprouting. But alias, it was just about the snowball fight.

Matilda comes back having finished all her shopping in record time. She takes Debbie to the house while Dudley and Julia have the date that Henry and Julia should have had. Dudley takes Julia to Michelle’s and they are having a great time. Some church ladies are at the other table starting to gossip. Dudley goes over and charms them as he invites them to join the pair.

Henry cancels his appointments and comes home to find out the Julia is out with Dudley. He is pissed.

Julia and Dudley end up at the hat store and the professor comes by and meets them on the street. The professor invites the two up for a drink of sherry. Dudley keeps using magic to refill the glasses. The professor admits he hasn’t written anything in 20 years. He laments the sadness of his life. Dudley pulls out the coin and explains that the coin is last of 100 coins Julius Caesar used to pay for Cleopatras’s lodging and Caesar’s wife had all the others melted into jewelry for herself. Dudley tells the professor he will write this new information and finish his book before he dies. When Julia and Dudley leave the bottle of sherry refills.

Dudley and Julia come in and Henry is still cranked. Henry takes Dudley into his office and locks the door with a skeleton key. I know you have heard the term peeping through the keyhole which is impossible to do. But these older locks could be opened or locked from either side. Henry demands proof that Dudley is an angel. Henry says he thinks Dudley is a demon and not an angel. Dudley walks over and opens the locked door leaving Henry behind. When Henry gets to the door it is still locked and he has to use the key. Dudley joins Julia and Henry for dinner and even Henry’s dog has gone over to Dudley.

The next morning Henry tries to tell Julia that he loves her but he can’t get the words out. She reminds him that he is supposed to go to St. Timothy’s for choir practice that evening. Dudley is downstairs charming Debbie and the older women with his tales of the Bible. Henry sets up a meeting with Mrs. Hamilton. When Dudley ask to come along Henry refuses. Julia says the appointment will interfere with the choir practice.

Henry goes to Mrs. Hamilton’s house and gives her everything she wants concerning the cathedral. She even ask that Saint George on a stain glass of him fighting the dragon be made to look like her late husband. When Henry tries to leave his pants are stuck tom the chair.

At Saint Timothy’s the preacher is nervous because only a few boys have shown up. Dudley uses his powers and the boys enter in two’s and three’s and create the most beautiful sound. Julia and Dudley leave the church. Dudley hails a cab driven by Sylvester (James Gleason). Julia sees the hat in the shop being purchased. Dudley convinces a fat lady not to buy the hat so Julia can have it. Julia asks to be driven through the park and Dudley saves the cab from hitting a truck. Julia, Henry, and Sylvester stop by the skating ring. This part is really well done and you can’t see the professional skaters slip in to replace the actors.

When Julia and Dudley get home Henry is pissed again. Henry tries to send Dudley away but he won’t go. Dudley asked if Henry ask Mrs. Hamilton to give the money to the poor instead of building the cathedral. Dudley leaves and Henry rages at Julia again.

On Christmas Eve day all of the females in the house are sad that Dudley is not there. Henry ask Ms. Cassaway to work late typing his sermon as he and Henry head out for Christmas Eve visits. Sylvester is waiting outside with his cab. Dudley appears behind Ms. Cassaway. He says he will type the sermon so she can go home. Dudley burns Henry sermon and uses his power to make the typewriter pound out a different one. Dudley then uses his powers to decorate the tree for Matilda.

Dudley arrives at Mrs. Hamilton’s house before Julia and Henry. The butler Stevens (Erville Alderson) tries to stop Dudley but Dudley uses the Jedi mind trick to get past. While Dudley is waiting the harp plucks a few notes while he unlock a box and finds some musical manuscript with a love note from a man that was not Mrs. Hamilton’s husband. Dudley puts the sheets back and then plays the music on the harp as Mrs. Hamilton arrives. She tells Dudley that it was written by the only man she ever loved and that she only married her husband because he had money. She starts crying on Dudley’s shoulder and before she is done she has decided to give the money to the poor. When. Julia and Henry get there Mrs. Hamilton is like Scrooge on Christmas morning. Henry is mad that Dudley has been there.

Henry leaves the two ladies and ends up at the professor’s home. The professor shows the refilling bottle and it says it cause inspiration and not drunkenness. The professor can now read ancient languages. The professor says Dudley is not a mortal man and Henry confirms that he is an angel. Henry tells the professor that he is worried about losing Julia to Dudley. The professor reminds Henry that he is the cause of the problems in his marriage and that he has an advantage over an angel: he is a mortal man, and Julia is a mortal woman and he should fight for her.

Dudley implies to Julia that he has fallen for her. She immediately sends him away. Dudley and Henry face off for the final time. Henry says Julia means more to him than his life. Dudley smiles and says good, now he will be leaving. Dudley also says no one will remember him ever being there. Dudley says that Henry’s prayer has been answered. Henry states that he “prayed for a cathedral.” Dudley replies “No Henry, you prayed for guidance; “That has been given to you.” Dudley says he had been envying Henry and that is a danger signal and that he must never come back. As Dudley leaves the picture of the cathedral lights up again. All memories of Dudley are erased leaving only a Christmas angel behind for Debbie. Henry shows true love for Julia at last.

Julia and Henry go to Saint Timothy’s where Henry delivers Dudley’ sermon. The professor looks into the smiling face on Dudley on the street but does not recognize him. Henry/Dudley’s sermon ends with fill Jesus’s stocking with gifts of “loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance: all the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”

World-Famous Short Summary – Angel uses trickery to force a man to do the right thing

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Beware the moors

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