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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Christmas 1947 Brings a Goldwyn Package


The Bishop's Wife Becomes a Holiday Standard

Goldwyn's 1947 Yule log, opened December 25 at Carthay Circle in LA, which meant everyone else got the gift into '48 and after ornaments had been taken down. So many patrons unwrapped holiday gifts in the spring, a consequence of run/zone/clearance policy that hoarded season-specific shows to urban first-runs and left subsequents to faded tinsel. My own Liberty ad searches found Meet Me In St.Louis and White Christmas in similar circumstance, but then, maybe we were lucky to get them at all. The Bishop's Wife was troubled in production. First director William A. Seiter got the hook when Goldwyn was displeased with rushes, then effort was made to lure Howard Hawks, who would at the least have given us something new in Xmas giftery, but he passed and workmanlike Henry Koster took over.


The story had angel Cary Grant doing what angels presumably do, but with too-perfect charmer Grant wearing wings, you wonder (or hope) he's up to dark mission along Hitchcockian lines, Koster as director the assurance of all turning out conventionally right. Parts of The Bishop's Wife do light up, Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder having been hired over a frenzied weekend to punch up dialogue where needed. There is too a femme Scrooge in the person of Gladys Cooper who is similarly redeemed. Speaking of punch-up, The Bishop's Wife got one in ads redubbed as Cary and The Bishop's Wife, the extension thought necessary to put spice in Goldwyn's eggnog. In fact, the yarn does become a triangle between Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven, the latter which might actually have been more effective as the angel. In any event, it was a part Niven wanted and was piqued not to get. He was always better at charming than priggish, the latter which he is here. Production has benefit of Goldwyn super-sheen and there's a nice Hugo Friedhofer score. The Bishop's Wife is of a polished sort that benefits from Blu-Ray presentation, lately tendered by Goldwyn-handling Warners.

4 Comments:

Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I enjoyed the post about THE BISHOP'S WIFE, John.
David Niven recalled in his autobiography that he was originally cast as the angel, with Cary Grant as the troubled pastor. They switched roles, and if Niven was upset about it I don't recall him saying so in print. Howard Hawks was news to me; according to Niven, Goldwyn felt Seiter's scenes needed a lighter touch, and so Koster was recruited.

You make an excellent point about Christmas merchandise having somewhat less sparkle by the time it got to the neighborhood houses. How many seasonal movies were victimized on their first runs? The 1935 SCROOGE opened in New York in late December to excellent notices, only to flatten out completely after the holidays.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Your post may move me to finally play the Blue Ray I received as a part of a generous gift package last Xmas. Never really cared that much for this one. I know the concluding moral of the average Hollywood holiday fantasy is usually thin as wrapping paper, but Cary the Angel's 'lessons' don't even seem to meet that standard! Oh, well... Maybe I'm the Scrooge!

4:06 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Interesting that the print ads do everything in their power not to let you know that Cary Grant's playing an angel.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Love this movie. And boy, could Cary and Loretta ice skate. LOL

3:32 PM  

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