Christmas Can Be Cool – The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

13 Dec

Cary Grant The Bishop's Wife

The Bishop’s Wife is an overlooked classic you really should try to work into your Christmas canon. David Niven plays a bishop so consumed by the building of a new cathedral he’s lost focus on his wife (Loretta Young) and daughter (Karolyn Grimes, who must have been the go-to “cute Christmas movie kid” – she played Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life one year earlier). Enter the suave, debonair Cary Grant, an angel sent to lend Niven a helping hand (while also sorta-kinda stealing Young’s heart). Yes, that sounds like it was created by a Hallmark plot generator, but the movie treats its characters with respect and delicacy; Grant in particular is given depth and complexity rarely afforded to characters of the heavenly persuasion. (A potential explanation: Billy Wilder was brought in by the studio to do an uncredited rewrite.) The Bishop’s Wife works, in spite of a cheesy plot, because of top-notch performances and a surprisingly affecting ending.

(This film is currently out-of-print; Amazon lists a release scheduled for January, which makes absolutely no sense at all. However, it will air on TCM December 23 at 8:00. Netflix also has it available for physical rental.)

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