Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review: The Bishop's Wife

There is one scene from The Bishop's Wife that I've seen dozens of times (when Dudley, the angel, helps Mrs. Brogham's daughter, Debby, join a snowball fight [1]). But until this year I've never actually watched the movie all the way through. As it turns out, it is not, for the most part, about snowball fights.[2] It's about an Episcopalian bishop (played by David Niven [3]) who has too much on his plate. When he pleads with God for some help, that help arrives in the form of an angel (played by Cary Grant) who manages to charm everyone. Everyone, that is, except the bishop—the man he's sent to help.

My verdict: I was somewhat disappointed in the film. Every character in this film comes across as good-natured and well-intentioned, except the bishop. He comes across as not very Christian at all—he's petulant, jealous, distrusting, and a little bit mean. Are we really to believe that those who lead us are the least qualified to do so? That hypocrisy is rife in the clergy? Surely not. Dudley finally sets everything right, but with little character growth on the part of the bishop. I do not believe that God sends angels to fix our lives for us—and especially our character flaws—only to scrub it from our memories.[4] Dudley's sudden move to seduce Mrs. Brogham also didn't feel right to me. In fact, his courtship of her in the first place didn't feel right. Bravo to Mrs. Brogham, though, for refusing to even consider it when Dudley finally makes his pass. I'm also impressed that the film concludes with a Christian moral—a good Christian moral, at that: that Christmas should be more about being good Christians and less about getting presents and treats.


[1] The actress who plays Debby appears in another Christmas favorite: she's Zuzu in It's a Wonderful Life (read my review here) Not only that, but the boy who refuses to let her join the snowball fight (and who subsequently takes her angel-guided snowball on the chin) played the young George Bailey.

[2] That scene (along with Disney's animated short, "Donald's Snow Fight") always made me want to build my own set of snow forts in order to have an epic snowball fight. Alas, I never made it happen.

[3] David Niven was originally cast as the angel, but when Cary Grant was brought on board, he insisted on playing that character, instead and Niven was relegated to playing the bishop.

[4] I suspect the filmmakers were counting on us making the association with Heb. 13:2.

Image attributions:

Cathedral with Flying Buttresses is by Stefan Karpiniec, available at 

No comments:

Post a Comment