The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

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Sometimes angels rush in where fools fear to tread. Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) is struggling to raise funds to build a cathedral and beseeches heaven for guidance.  He is visited immediately by Dudley (Cary Grant), who claims to be an angel. Henry is septical, then gets annoyed when Dudley ingratiates himself into the household as his assistant – and worse, wins the attentions of Henry’s kind wife Julia (Loretta Young). When Dudley continues to intervene in Henry’s struggles, the bishop decides to challenge heaven as he now has to repair his marriage too … I was praying for a cathedral./ No, Henry. You were praying for guidance. Adapted by Leonardo Bercovici and Robert E. Sherwood (with uncredited additions by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder) from Robert Nathan’s 1928 novel, this is an irresistible seasonal fantasy. It’s about faith and love and the blend of stars is unexpectedly successful – a surfeit of charm and wit combine to lend weight and wit to the more spiritual aspects. This, after all is about how to become more human. To quote Loretta Young in the trailer, It’s quite the most unusual film Sam Goldwyn has ever made. A beautiful film for a special time of year. And if that’s not enough, it’s got Monty Woolley as Professor Wutheridge with Gladys Cooper, Elsa Lanchester and Regis Toomey bringing up the rear. Did I mention that it’s beautifully shot by Gregg Toland? This is classic Christmas charm. Enough said. Directed by Henry Koster.  Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most… and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.

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The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941)

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Yes I know it’s a Christmas movie. But, Sometimes it snows in April … as my idol Prince once wrote. Julius and Philip G. Epstein (yes, the Casablanca guys) adapted the Hart and Kaufman hit for the screen.  It tells the story of noxious self-important radio star Sheridan Whiteside (a play on well-known Alexander Woolcott’s waspish personality, well acted by Monty Woolley) who gets stuck in the Stanley household over the holidays after slipping on their icy front stoop whilst on tour in the dread Midwest. His secretary Maggie (Bette Davis) joins the household and has to watch while diva Lorraine (Ann Sheridan) arrives and sets her sights on local journo Bert (Richard Travis) whose play Maggie loves: she has a thing for him, too. The house is besieged by unwanted gifts, prisoners and penguins. Whiteside sets the cat among the pigeons by encouraging the children to do as they please while mom Billie Burke wants to please him and hubby Grant Mitchell wants him gone. Whiteside continues faking his injuries and blackmails him over his sister’s involvement in an axe murder! Davis’ role is very minor but this is an A-list Warners production and veteran William Keighley does an excellent job holding together what is essentially a chamber piece. Some very funny lines.