The Bishop's Wife

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The Bishop's Wife
Theatrical release poster by William Rose
Directed byHenry Koster
Screenplay by
Based onThe Bishop's Wife
1928 novella
by Robert Nathan
Produced bySamuel Goldwyn
CinematographyGregg Toland
Edited byMonica Collingwood
Music byHugo Friedhofer
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • November 25, 1947 (1947-11-25) (Premiere)
  • December 9, 1947 (1947-12-09) (New York City)[1]
  • February 16, 1948 (1948-02-16) (United States)[1]
Running time
109 minutes[a]
CountryUnited States
Box office$3 million (US rentals)[4]

The Bishop's Wife (also known as Cary and the Bishop's Wife)[5] is a 1947 American supernatural romantic comedy film directed by Henry Koster, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. The plot is about an angel who helps a bishop with his problems. The film was adapted by Leonardo Bercovici and Robert E. Sherwood from the 1928 novel of the same name by Robert Nathan.

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


Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven), having difficulties funding the building of a new cathedral, prays for divine guidance. His plea is seemingly answered by a suave angel named Dudley (Cary Grant), who reveals his identity only to the clergyman.

Dudley's mission turns out, however, not to be to help construct a cathedral, but to guide Henry and the people around him spiritually. Henry has become obsessed with raising funds, to the detriment of his family life. His relationships with wife Julia (Loretta Young) and their young daughter Debby (Karolyn Grimes) are strained by his focus on the cathedral.

Everyone, except for Henry, is charmed by Dudley, even the non-religious Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley). When Dudley spends time cheering up Julia, though, an unexpected development occurs: he finds himself strongly attracted to her. Sensing this, Henry becomes jealous and anxious for his now unwelcome guest to finish and depart. He reveals Dudley's true identity to Professor Wutheridge, who urges him to stand up and fight for the woman he loves.

Dudley persuades a wealthy parishioner, the widowed Agnes Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), to contribute her much needed funds, but not to build the cathedral as Henry had hoped. Instead, he coaxes Mrs. Hamilton to donate her money to feed and clothe the needy, much to Henry's chagrin.

On several occasions throughout the film, Dudley reveals himself to viewers as an angel. He helps Julia and Sylvester (a taxi driver) ice skate like pros, redecorates the Broughams' Christmas tree in a few seconds, saves an old church by restoring interest in the boys' choir, dictates to a typewriter to magically produce Henry's new sermon—without Henry's knowledge—among other small things.

As the climax to the movie approaches, Dudley hints to Julia his desire to stay with her and not move on to his next assignment. Although Julia doesn't fully understand what he's talking about, she senses what he means, and tells him it is time for him to leave. Dudley tells the bishop it is rare for an angel to envy a mortal. When Henry wants to know why his cathedral plans were derailed, Dudley reminds the Bishop that he had prayed for guidance, not a building.

With his mission completed and knowing that Julia loves her husband, Dudley leaves, promising never to return. All memory of him is erased, and later that Christmas Eve at midnight, Henry delivers the sermon he believes he has written. Dudley observes from the street, satisfied that his work is done.


Niven was originally cast as the angel, Dana Andrews as the bishop, and Teresa Wright as his wife. However, Wright had to bow out due to pregnancy. According to Robert Osborne, Andrews was lent to RKO in order to obtain Loretta Young. Koster then brought in Cary Grant, but he wanted to play the angel, so the role of the bishop was given to Niven.


In markets where the original title was kept, the posters had a black text box added
In some US markets, the film was retitled Cary and the Bishop's Wife
Advertisement in the Ladies' Home Journal

The film's production faced several difficulties. Producer Samuel Goldwyn replaced director William A. Seiter with Henry Koster to create a completely new film. In early previews, audiences disliked the film, so Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett made uncredited rewrites. Though the premiere of The Bishop's Wife was acclaimed by critics as a success, the film did not initially perform well at the box office. Market research showed that moviegoers avoided the film because they thought it was religious. As a result, Goldwyn decided to retitle it Cary and the Bishop's Wife for certain US markets, while adding a black text box with the question "Have you heard about CARY AND THE BISHOP'S WIFE?" on posters in markets where the film kept the original title. By adding Grant's first name to the title, the film's business increased by as much as 25 percent.[5][6]

Location filming was in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[7] In the scene in which Dudley conducts the boys' choir, the Charles Gounod composition 'Noël: Montez à Dieu' ('O Sing to God') was performed by the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir.[8] Emil Newman and Herbert W. Spencer's melody, "Lost April," was given lyrics by Eddie DeLange and recorded by Nat King Cole.


The film was the second to be chosen for a Royal Command Performance and premiered at the Odeon cinema in London on November 25, 1947. Its American premiere was at the Astor Theatre in New York City.[9]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Bishop's Wife holds an approval rating of 84% based on 25 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Bishop's Wife succeeds thanks to the strength of winning performances from a stellar cast, which includes Cary Grant and Loretta Young."[10]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Motion Picture Samuel Goldwyn (for RKO Radio Pictures) Nominated [11]
Best Director Henry Koster Nominated
Best Film Editing Monica Collingwood Nominated
Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Hugo Friedhofer Nominated
Best Sound Recording Gordon E. Sawyer Won

Adaptations to other media[edit]

The Bishop's Wife was dramatized as a half-hour radio play on the March 1, 1948, broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven in their original film roles. It was also presented on Lux Radio Theater three times as an hour-long broadcast: first on December 19, 1949, with Tyrone Power and David Niven, second on May 11, 1953, with Cary Grant and Phyllis Thaxter and third on March 1, 1955, again with Grant and Thaxter.[12]

The soundtrack has been released on compact disc.[13]

The 1996 film The Preacher's Wife was a remake based on The Bishop's Wife.


  1. ^ 2013 release of Blu-ray from Warner Home Video is slightly cut.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Bishop's Wife: Detail View". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  2. ^ ""NOT a complete print!! Missing key musical footage!"". review
  3. ^ "Great movie, but terrible blu ray transfer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". review
  4. ^ "Top Grossers of 1948". Variety. January 5, 1949. p. 46.
  5. ^ a b Martin, Pete (February 19, 1949). "How Grant Took Hollywood". The Saturday Evening Post. p. 22. Retrieved December 5, 2021 – via
  6. ^ Dans, Peter E. (May 16, 2009). Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-7425-7032-0. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  7. ^ Filming locations for The Bishop's Wife at IMDb
  8. ^ Boys' Choir scene from The Bishop's Wife on YouTube
  9. ^ "'Bishop's Wife' Named Royal 'Command' Pic". Variety. October 22, 1947. p. 3. Retrieved January 15, 2024 – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ "The Bishop's Wife". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 7, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  11. ^ "The 20th Academy Awards (1948) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  12. ^ Kirby, Walter (May 10, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via
  13. ^ "The Bishop's Wife (1947)". SoundtrackInfo. Retrieved October 10, 2009.

External links[edit]

Streaming audio