Beating the bishop

The Bishop's Wife

The Bishop's Wife (1947) is an RKO romantic comedy feature film starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven in a story about an angel who helps a bishop with his problems. The film was adapted by Leonardo Bercovici and Robert E. Sherwood from the novel of the same name by Robert Nathan, and was directed by Henry Koster.

The film won the Academy Award for Sound, and was nominated for Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture and Best Picture.

It was remade in 1996 as The Preacher's Wife starring Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, and Courtney B. Vance.

Plot

Bishop Henry Brogham (David Niven) prays for divine guidance with the troubled building of a new cathedral. His plea is seemingly answered by a suave angel named Dudley (Cary Grant), who reveals his identity initially only to the clergyman.

However, Dudley's mission isn't to help with the construction of the cathedral. He is there as a guide to Henry and the people around him. Henry has become obsessed with the building of the new cathedral, to the detriment of his duties and marriage with his neglected, unhappy wife, Julia (Loretta Young). Everyone, except for Henry, is charmed by the newcomer, even the non-religious Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley). Dudley finally and easily persuades the wealthy parishioners, particularly Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), to contribute the needed funds, but not to build the cathedral. He helps Mrs. Hamilton come to the decision to give her money to feed and clothe the poor and needy--much to Henry's chagrin.

When Dudley spends time cheering up Julia, there is an unexpected development: Dudley finds himself strongly attracted to her. Sensing this, Henry becomes jealous and anxious for his unwelcome guest to finish and depart. Eventually, he stands up to the angel. With his mission completed and knowing that Julia loves her husband, Dudley departs, promising never to return. All memory of him is erased.

Production

Production was not without troubles. Producer Samuel Goldwyn replaced director William A. Seiter with Henry Koster to create a completely new film. Niven was originally cast as the angel and Grant as the bishop, but Koster had them switch parts. In early previews, audiences disliked the film, so Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett made uncredited rewrites.

Although no denomination is mentioned in the film, the characters are clearly members of the Episcopal Church.

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