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'The Bishop's Wife'

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Christmas movie The Bishop's Wife

Cary Grant portrays an angel named Dudley in The Preacher's Wife (1947).

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Asking Spiritual Questions:

Can doubts actually lead to deeper faith if people respond by seeking God more? Do angels ever struggle with inappropriate feelings toward the humans they’re assigned to help? The classic Christmas movie The Bishop’s Wife (1947, RKO Radio Pictures) asks audiences those questions as it presents the story of an anxious bishop named Henry (David Niven) who needs to raise money to build a new cathedral, his discouraged wife Julia (Loretta Young), and an angel called Dudley (Cary Grant) who is sent to Earth around Christmas to answer their prayers.

Famous Angel Quotes:

“Angels come down and put ideas into people’s heads. And then people feel very proud of themselves because they think it was all their own idea.” – Dudley

“We’re everywhere, helping people who deserve to be helped. As you’re walking through these streets in the city, you may suddenly look into a strange face. It may be the face of a murderer, or, it may be the face of an angel.” – Dudley

Henry: “Are you sure you’re an angel?”

Dudley: “I know it isn’t easy for you, Henry. But you’ve just got to take me on faith.”


Henry: “What do you propose to do? Perform a miracle?”

Dudley: “If necessary.”

Henry: “Well, why don’t you? Why don’t you create the cathedral with one wave of your hand?”

Dudley: “You wouldn’t want me to do that, would you? How would you explain it? Tell the world you’re being visited by an angel? You can’t do that!”

The Plot:

Henry and Julia Brougham have been working hard trying to raise money for the new cathedral their parish needs, but they haven’t been able to motivate enough people to support the church. Their discouragement shows –- in their work, as well as in their marriage and family life. After they pray for help, God sends an angel named Dudley on a Christmas mission to renew their faith.

Dudley, who looks like a handsome man rather than a heavenly angel, reveals his identity to Henry when he arrives and convinces the stressed-out Henry to let him work as his assistant. Meanwhile, Dudley spends time with Julia, who Henry has neglected since he started focusing so intently on getting the new cathedral built.

By encouraging people and performing some small miracles (such as dictating an inspiring Christmas sermon for Henry and coaxing heavenly music out of a boy’s choir), Dudley nudges them to renew their faith in, and service to, God.

However, Dudley and Julia have so much fun together –- including a delightful ice-skating outing in which Dudley performs some tricks on the ice –- that Dudley finds himself attracted to her, despite his best intentions not to help her marriage rather than harm it. So when Dudley’s mission is complete (the new cathedral can finally be built, and people’s discouragement turns to encouragement), God erases all memory of him in the Brougham family’s minds –- but the stronger faith that Dudley helped them gain remains.

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

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