The story behind “The Bishop’s Wife”

22 Nov
This blog post will help you enjoy the December 9, 2010 “Meet Me at the Movies” screening of The Bishop’s Wife (1946). The film was a critical and financial success when it was first released, but it was originally imagined with a different cast and director. In spite of its troubled beginning it has endured as one of the favorite Christmas movies of all time.

Loretta Young taking a break from filming

How The Bishop’sWife (1946) came to the big screen is almost as interesting as the movie itself. Based on a novel by Robert Nathan, the film was nominated for Best Picture in 1947. The story about a young bishop and his crisis of faith, while trying to build a new cathedral during the Christmas season, struck a chord with the American film-going public. Today it has become a perennial Christmas classic along with Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and It’s a Wonderful Life. But the original cast and director for The Bishop’s Wife went through a few changes before the final film was released.

Cary Grant (foreground), Young and Niven (background)

Producer Samuel Goldwyn originally slated Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright, fresh from their success in Goldwyn’s The Best Years of Our Lives, for the roles of the bishop and his wife respectively, with David Niven cast as Dudley the angel.

Unfortunately, for the production, Wright became pregnant and had to drop out. Andrews, according to Robert Osborne from Turner Classic Movies, stayed on board to get Loretta Young’s services. Andrews eventually dropped out and Cary Grant was set to play the bishop, but he really wanted to play the angel. Grant was a big enough star that he could pretty much get what he wanted; Grant became Dudley the angel and Niven was recast as the bishop, much to Niven’s dismay. Goldwyn was not happy with original director William A. Seiter so he replaced him with Henry Koster.

When the movie was released, the casting seemed perfect to audiences and critics alike. The Bishop’s Wife was a huge box-office hit and was nominated for five Academy Awards: direction, editing, music, sound recording, and the aforementioned best picture of the year. It won the award for sound recording.

After more than fifty years, The Bishop’s Wife with it’s message of love, faithfulness, and faith remains as fresh and inspirational as when it was first released.

To learn more about classic movies, visit the Classic Movie Man blog.

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