The Bishop’s Wife tries hard to be an uplifting Christmas film like another post-war drama, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), but falls a bit short in its attempt to pull at the heartstrings. The script is not as tight, and the direction not as consistent as Capra’s perennial holiday favorite, but there is enough here to make a pleasant little film.
The story involves an angel named Dudley (Cary Grant) who is sent to earth to help an Episcopalian bishop (David Niven) who is frustrated in his attempts to raise funds to build a new church. Once the bishop is finally convinced that Dudley is an angel, he assumes he is there to help get his church built, but his true purpose is there to give guidance to a man who has lost touch with his wife and children, as well as his parish. Meanwhile, Dudley finds himself falling for the title character, played by Loretta Young. The plot isn’t exactly riveting, but there a plenty of diversions, such as getting to see Cary Grant ice skate and play the harp (both done with the help of doubles, but who cares?). And Elsa Lanchester shines in a small role as the family maid, who beams whenever Dudley enters the room.
It’s a Wonderful Life fans will get a kick of Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s youngest child Zuzu, pelting Robert J. Anderson, who played young George Bailey, with a snowball, through the help of a little divine intervention.