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Film / The Bishop's Wife

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Usually only regular human men will hit on a guy's wife.
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The Bishop's Wife is a 1947 comedy-fantasy directed by Henry Koster, starring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young.

Bishop Henry Brougham (Niven), newly promoted to his position, is stressed out with the pressure from raising funds to build a new cathedral for his diocese. His work stress is putting pressure on his marriage to Julia (Young). A distraught Henry prays to God for guidance, and his prayer is answered with the appearance of Dudley (Grant), an angel sent to help Henry find his way. However, Dudley starts proving a little too helpful, especially with all the attention he pays to lovely Julia, causing Henry, the only person who knows what Dudley is, to become jealous.

This film was given a Race Lift in 1996 and remade as The Preacher's Wife, with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston playing the parts originated by Grant and Young.

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Tropes:

  • But Now I Must Go: Those are the rules for a guardian angel once they've completed their task. Dudley is pretty sad about it, because he's grown tired of wandering and he's become attached to Julia.
  • Dance of Romance: A variant when Dudley takes Julia ice-skating.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: Sylvester gets so involved in talking to his back-seat passengers that he nearly drives their cab into a truck. Dudley has to use his angelic powers to save everyone else in the cab from death.
  • Exact Words: At the end, when Dudley's machinations have resulted in Mrs. Hamilton deciding to spend her money on the poor, Henry asks why the cathedral is being cancelled when he prayed for help to build a new one. Dudley reminds Henry that Henry prayed for guidance, not a new cathedral.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Dudley makes a suitably spooky entrance when he materializes in Henry's study with his face framed in this way.
  • Get Out!:
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    • The bishop, driven into a jealous fit and reeling from Mrs. Hamilton's decision to rededicate her donation to more charitable purposes, tells Dudley to leave and never come back.
    • Julia also tells Dudley to leave and never return when he confesses his attraction to her.
  • Good Shepherd: Henry is trying to be this, in any case, but his fixation on building the cathedral is obviously distracting him from what a bishop really should be doing. Dudley steers him on the right course.
  • Gossipy Hens: Mean old Mrs. Hamilton and her old lady friends, who start getting judgmental after seeing Dudley and Julia at lunch. Dudley disarms them by inviting them over.
  • Grande Dame: Mrs. Hamilton, the haughty old widow who demands that the cathedral be built her way—as a gaudy memorial to her late husband—or not at all. But see Hidden Depths below.
  • Guardian Angel: Dudley. It seems that guardian angels are case workers, sent to answer prayers, moving on when they are no longer needed.
  • Hidden Depths: Dudley discovers that Mrs. Hamilton actually didn't love her husband. The only man that she loved was a composer, a poor man who died young after she rejected him to marry rich Mr. Hamilton instead. This guilt over not loving her husband is what was driving her to demand the gaudy cathedral.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Dudley has a bad habit of addressing people by their names before being introduced. When Sylvester the cabbie catches him on this Dudley plays it off by claiming he saw Sylvester's name on his cab license.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: When Dudley leaves, he erases everyone's memories of him, leaving them with Character Development they can't quite account for.
  • Love Triangle: A rather odd one, since one of the three is an angel.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Why does an American Protestant bishop sound like an Englishman? Well, if you're David Niven, why not?
    • Then again, if he's a married bishop he's likely Episcopalian, which is a branch of Anglicanism. Or he could have immigrated and held on to the accent.
  • Operation: Jealousy: An altruistic, third-party version: Dudley's innocent but eyebrow-raising attentions to Julia are what it takes to make Henry realize how much he has been neglecting his marriage. Or, as he puts it, "Since you wouldn't let me represent you with Mrs. Hamilton, I represented you with your wife."
  • Preacher's Kid: Sweet little Debby, the Broughams' young daughter. The neighborhood kids assume that as a bishop's daughter she'll be too goody-goody to play snowball wars, so Dudley gives Debby some supernatural assistance in winging a snowball.
  • The Professor: Professor Wutheridge, who is trying and failing to write a book after being fired from the university.
  • Snowball Fight: Debby gets allowed into one after some divine assistance from Dudley.
  • Talent Double:
    • No, Cary Grant wasn't an expert harp player. Those are the hands of a professional harp player in the scene where Dudley is playing the harp for Mrs. Hamilton.
    • The skaters in the skating sequence are pretty clearly not the main cast either, although artful lighting helps to conceal that fact.
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