A dapper gentleman strolls serenely through the streets of the city, admiring the Christmas decorations and the smiling faces of children. He seems to be wandering around doing good deeds for others, almost magically appearing at the right place and time. When he observes the beautiful but sad Julia (Loretta Young) converse with her old friend Prof. Wutheridge (Monty Woolley), he takes a serious interest in helping her. Feigning an old acquaintance, he gets more information from the professor, who's unsure if they've ever really met, but guardedly tells the gentleman about Julia's troubles. As they part, Wutheridge wonders who the fellow really is.

When she arrives home, Julia finds her husband Henry Brougham (David Niven) the bishop of the local diocese, in a heated argument with the chair of the cathedral committee, Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), a wealthy but domineering old woman. Henry has a dream of building a new cathedral, and has come to depend on Mrs. Hamilton's financial support. Unfortunately, she demands that the cathedral be built as a monument to her late husband, a situation Henry cannot accept. Later, he argues with Julia, and it's obvious that their marriage is strained. Harried and harrassed, Henry is at his wit's end, and retiring to his study he prays for guidance. Turning to leave, he is surprised to find that the dapper gentleman has somehow appeared in his study. Telling Henry that his name is Dudley (Cary Grant), he reveals his true nature: he's an angel, and he's come in answer to Henry's prayer.

Despite Henry's doubts, Dudley quickly charms his way into Henry's life, becoming a favorite of his maid, his daughter, and even his wife Julia, all the while preventing Henry from telling anyone what Dudley claims to be. Julia begins to enjoy Dudley's company, being completely charmed by his ability to do seemingly everything well. Meanwhile, Henry gets no closer to building his cathedral, and becomes increasingly angry with Dudley for taking over his family. A confrontation looms, and Henry decides to submit to Mrs. Hamilton's demands in order to speed things along, get his old life back, and get rid of Dudley.

Confronting him, Henry tells Dudley he can leave; his prayer had been answered. Dudley's not so sure however. What does Henry really want: the cathedral, or Julia's happiness? Enraged, Henry demands that he get out of his life at once, and as Dudley departs with a smile, he admonishes Henry not to let Julia see him this angry. Later, visiting Professor Wutheridge, Henry confesses that he's probably lost Julia to Dudley, and is surprised to find that he can actually tell the professor about Dudley's true nature. Wutheridge reminds Henry that he has an advantage over an angel: he is a mortal man, and Julia is a mortal woman.

Oscar
5 Nominations
1 Award
Best Sound

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
One of the most beloved of all Christmas films, “The Bishop's Wife” is a delightful combination of witty dialogue and charming performances. The polished finished product is all the more remarkable considering its troubled production history.

William Seiter originally directed the film, with Cary Grant in the part of the bishop and David Niven as the angel. The film's notoriously short-tempered producer Samuel Goldwyn was furious with Seiter's finished product, fired the director and started from scratch. He hired Henry Koster to re-direct, but initial audience previews went poorly, and several new scenes were written (some from an uncredited Billy Wilder).

When Niven was originally cast as the angel, the role of the bishop went to Dana Andrews, with Teresa Wright as his wife. However, Wright had to bow out due to pregnancy, so then Andrews was lent to RKO in order to obtain Loretta Young. Koster then brought in Cary Grant, but after filming began, Grant said he wanted to play the angel, so the role of the bishop was given to Niven. Once all roles were set, they filmed the whole movie over again right from the beginning, with a stellar cast.

One of the most charming, elegant, and likeable of Hollywood leading men, Cary Grant created a light, comic style that many have tried to imitate but none have surpassed. In 72 films made over four decades, Grant served as both a romantic ideal for women and a dashing role model for men. Never self absorbed, he even poked fun at himself with statements such as, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant—even I want to be Cary Grant!”

For Niven, re-shooting “The Bishop’s Wife” from the beginning, was not only strenuous it was also very emotional. Shooting began shortly after Niven lost his first wife. Primula, whom he called Primmie, died at age 28, only six weeks after moving to the U.S. of a fractured skull and brain lacerations from an accidental fall in the home of Tyrone Power. While playing hide and seek, she walked through a door believing it led to a closet. Instead, it led to a stone staircase to the basement. Niven recalled this as the darkest period of his life, years afterwards thanking his friends for their patience and forbearance during this time. He later claimed to have been so grief-stricken that he thought for a while that he'd gone mad. Following a suicide attempt involving a handgun that failed to go off, he eventually rallied and returned to filmmaking, the first being “The Bishop’s Wife”.

Few actors have enjoyed the professional longevity of the stunning Loretta Young and even fewer in three media - motion pictures, radio theatre, and television. Her remarkable career, begun as a child extra during the Silent Era of motion pictures, extended through the Golden Age of Hollywood. She attained star status on film as well as on the radio, even though she had no theater or dramatic school instruction. Young ended her film career to become a pioneer of the Golden Age of Television. She was the first actor to win both an Academy Award and an Emmy. Except for absences for serious illness and the births of her children, she was continuously before the cameras from age 12 through the early 1960s, making more than 250 film performances and appearing on more than 300 television programs.

The end product shows none of the problems that plagued the film, and it was rewarded with five Academy Award nominations, including one for Koster (Best Director) and one for Goldwyn (Best Picture), eventually winning one for Best Sound. “The Bishop's Wife” became one of the most cherished Christmas movies ever -- strangely enough, it would be released within two years of the other perennial favorites “It's a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”.