The Bishop’s Wife

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) has been so involved in his plans for the church, that he has left his own family alone most of the time. He works around the clock to secure more funds and finalize plans, all so he can ensure the construction of his church’s new cathedral, which should be most impressive. Henry used to love his calling and his family, but of late he has forgotten what is really important to him, thanks to all the countless hours of work. Even with Christmas right around the corner and the season’s spirit in full bloom, Henry hasn’t been perked up in the least. It seems unless something happens soon, he might lose his loving wife, Julia (Loretta Young) and perhaps even his faith. But when divine intervention comes in the form of Dudley (Cary Grant), the world ends up turned on its side. Dudley is a handsome and powerful angel, but he works in strange ways, which confuses some folks. Henry sees the good deeds being done, but he fears Dudley has come to replace him, both within the church and inside his own home.

As MGM expands their DVD release schedule, they have begun to group certain films together under banners, in this case Vintage Classics. I admit the disc is lax on extras, but the film is terrific and has a very affordable price, so I hope to many more discs in the series. I think The Bishop’s Wife is an almost classic picture and it has some real emotional content, which we don’t see a lot of these days. The cast is impressive and includes such names as Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young, all of whom seem in fine form here. I didn’t care for the remake, The Preacher’s Wife, but this one has never failed to entertain and inspire. I don’t think this belongs as high on the all time list as say, It’s A Wonderful Life, but I still think it is a terrific movie and well worth a look. I am very pleased to have The Bishop’s Wife on our beloved format, even if in such basic form. I do wish some sort of extras were included, but since the basics are in order and the price is low, I think this is a fine release and well worth a recommendation.

This film has a solid overall cast, but as usual with his movies, Cary Grant seems to steal the show here. Although he was to play the role of the bishop before the film started, Grant insisted on the angel’s role and I think it worked out better this way in the end. I’m sure he could have handled either part with ease, but it seems that this was the better of the two for him. His usual charms and such are put to good use here, although I don’t think this role allows him the range he was used to. But he still works well within the character and while this isn’t his finest performance, I think he turns in a more than adequate portrayal. Other films with Grant include An Affair To Remember, Notorious, The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby, Arsenic and Old Lace, North By Northwest, and That Touch Of Mink. The rest of the cast includes David Niven (The Sea Wolves, Death On The Nile), Loretta Young (The Farmer’s Daughter, A Night To Remember), James Gleason (The Night of The Hunter, Tales of Manhattan), and Monty Wooley (Irish Eyes Are Smiling, The Man Who Came To Dinner).

Video: How does it look?

The Bishop’s Wife is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the film’s intended aspect ratio. Although the case states the film has modified, it hasn’t, unless you count the move from 1.37:1 to 1.33:1, which I don’t. I had hoped for a terrific transfer here and as luck has it, MGM delivers and then some. This film was made in 1947, but looks much younger here and aside from some minor issues, this is a stunning presentation. The black & white image looks sharp and well defined, thanks to dead on black levels and a clean source print. The print shows some grain at times and some small marks, but nothing serious in the end. A clean, razor sharp transfer here leaves to score this one well, kudos to MGM for this one.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included mono track handles the dialogue reliant material well, with no real issues to discuss. The music and sound effects never need much more than simple presence, which even this mono option can allow, so I never felt like this was that limited at any time. I suppose a new surround mix would liven things up, but I think the original mono is more than sufficient in this case. The main focus here is dialogue, which comes across in crisp and consistent form, no volume errors to report either. This disc also houses both mono tracks and subtitles in Spanish & French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.

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