Starring: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven
Director: Henry Koster
Running Time: 109 mins
The Bishop’s Wife is an American film about an angel who is sent to assist a bishop struggling with his work building a cathedral, as well as his flailing marriage.
This is an absolutely lovely film. In a similar vein to It’s A Wonderful Life, it’s got quite a religious tone to it, however that doesn’t impede on the overriding message of bringing joy to all. With brilliant performances across the board, excellent direction and a heartwarming story, The Bishop’s Wife is the sort of film that can really put you into the full Christmas spirit.
Let’s start off with the most enjoyable part of the whole film, the performances. In short, Cary Grant steals the show, playing the perfect angel who begins to get on the bishop’s nerves as he treats the bishop’s wife to all manner of luxuries. Grant is as suave and cool as ever, whilst his comedic abilities make the irritation the bishop feels towards him very entertaining, but the one clincher is how delightful he makes his character.
The first scene alone shows Grant floating around a town centre doing all sorts of good deeds, something that continues right throughout the film. Sometimes, it makes for a good laugh, but on every occasion, it put a huge smile on my face, and didn’t feel cheesy or forced in the slightest.
Alongside Grant is Loretta Young and David Niven. Young plays the bishop’s wife particularly well, getting on like a house on fire on screen with Cary Grant, whilst also playing up her character’s delight at spending so much time with the angel, making the bishop’s jealousy and frustration all the funnier. And on that note, David Niven is also very good as the bishop himself. Although the character doesn’t always have so much to do, and it’s Grant’s angel that takes most of the attention of the story, Niven does well to interject the film’s sole degree of cynicism, and when that’s contrasted with Grant’s almost deliriously happy performance, it works very well.
Moving on from the performances, I want to talk about Henry Koster’s directing. The great thing about what Koster does with The Bishop’s Wife is that he makes it a Christmas tale that heavily emphasises Christianity, but still manages to mask it enough that it’s not quite as intrusive as you may think. Again, similar to It’s A Wonderful Life, there’s a lot about the film that looks at Christmas in a different way to nowadays, but it comes across in such a positive and warm-hearted light that it doesn’t make any difference, and even with the religious emphasis of the film, it’s a delightful watch for absolutely anyone.
Finally, the story. The film’s main success is making a delightful and heartwarming Christmas tale that’ll put a smile on your face, and although I have to say that the plot as a whole isn’t quite so great, it’s still entertaining throughout. Starting strongest with the delightful first act, the bishop’s irritation remains the best part of the film towards the latter stages, even though the lighter and funnier moments die out a little towards the end.
Overall, The Bishop’s Wife is an absolutely delightful Christmas movie, full of joy, spirit and Christmas cheer. With brilliant performances from all its leads, pleasant directing and an entertaining, although not always consistent, story, it’s a wonderful watch for anyone with a heart and a soul, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.