By Jeff Westover
If only all prayers were answered so.
The story unfolds as an angel is sent in answer to a Bishop's prayer. The Bishop was praying for help in funding a new cathedral a task that so overwhelmed his life that he was beginning to neglect his wife and family. Naturally, the angel helps in ways unanticipated and unappreciated -- by the forlorn Bishop. What unfolds is a delightful tale of love, chivalry and holiday cheer.
The black and white film, crafted in 1947, stars Cary Grant as the angel, David Niven as the Bishop, and Loretta Young as the Bishop's Wife.
As the angel Dudley, Cary Grant seems from the outset to be somewhat miscast. But as the story develops this thought is erased as the angel seems to delight in turning the lives of those around him upside down and stirring up trouble between the Bishop and the Bishop's wife.
Where the Bishop does not have time to devote to his wife, due to pressing concerns with building the cathedral, Dudley has all the time in the world. In a series of heartwarming scenes depicting the holiday season in the most Rockwellesque ways, Dudley charms the Bishop's Wife into falling in love with him (how big of stretch is that for Cary Grant?), inciting a jealous fit by the Bishop.
This film includes a supporting cast of memorable characters who almost steal the film from the stars. James Gleason plays the cab driver Sylvester who mistakenly assumes that the Bishop's Wife and the angel are married. They embark on a delightful scene set in a snowy outdoor ice skating arena that has got to be one of the best holiday sets of all time.
Monty Woolley's role as Professor Wutheridge is often overlooked in reviews of this movie -- yet his scenes are the most poignant and usually the most funny. The character of Professor Wutheridge is the one piece that holds this movie and it's cast together and gives the film it's heart.
In a series of scenes depicting miracles performed by the angel, the famed Mitchell Boys Choir makes an appearance that will fill your screen with holiday magic. Cary Grant shed his miscast label in this scene. In fact, this role as the angel Dudley was one he campaigned for and anyone can see why from scenes such as this. (Know who else wanted the role of the angel? None other than the man playing the Bishop David Niven).
A 1996 attempt to remake the film by Penny Marshall was entitled "The Preacher's Wife". Drab and heartless, the remake does a dishonor to the 1947 holiday classic.
My advice: buy the classic and watch it about a dozen times between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy it by the fire, memorize every line. The lessons of this movie are obvious and much of what will transpire can be anticipated. But it is told with such charm and with such old world love of values, I never tire of it.