Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

A young bishop (David Niven) is struggling to get his cathedral built and it’s affecting his marriage. He prays for guidance and in walks Dudley (Cary Grant) claiming to be an angel. But instead of focusing on the cathedral, he concentrates on what really matters.

The movie began production with Grant in the bishop role and Niven as the angel. When the director was replaced, the new director reversed the roles and recast the part of the Wife. Also, the Bishop’s daughter was the daughter in It’s a Wonderful Life. You know the one: “TeaCHER says, evRY time A belLL rings …” But I want to talk about Loretta Young.

Amazingly adorable in her early roles, here she is quite charming. The story of her illegitimate child with Clark Gable frequently comes up. He was married, and she hid the pregnancy from the media. She put the girl into an orphanage for a year, then “adopted” her. I thought this was heartless for quite a while but a few details had escaped me. One, both of their contracts likely would have been terminated had this gotten out, and Loretta would not recover as she traded on her good girl image. Also, she was only 22 when Judy Lewis was born. Gable was 34, the pig! I’ll remember to cut her a little slack from now on.

The Bishop’s Wife is a film likely saved by studio interference. First by changing directors and the role reversal, but also by bringing in Robert Sherwood and Billy Wilder to fix a few scenes after initial filming had wrapped. That couldn’t have hurt. The end result may have gone way over budget, and released two months too late for Christmas, but it is quality Holiday fare. It has humor and heart. Elsa Lanchester was, again, wonderful in a supporting role. Also look for the obvious stunt doubles in the ice skating scene. AMRU 3.5.
“For some time now, every time I pass the cemetery, I feel as though I'm apartment hunting.”

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