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The Bishop's Wife

The Bishop's Wife(1948)

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During the Christmas season, Dudley, an angel in the guise of a mortal, strolls around a small town and notices Julia Brougham, the bishop's wife, gazing wistfully through a store window. Dudley follows Julia to a Christmas tree lot, where she meets her old friend, Professor Wutheridge, and expresses her sadness that her husband Henry is too busy worrying about fund raising for a new cathedral to enjoy the season with his parishioners. The professor offers Julia a contribution of an ancient Roman coin from his collection. After Julia leaves for home, Dudley purposely bumps into the professor and makes inquiries about the Broughams. When Julia arrives home, she finds Henry in a tense meeting with several important parishioners, including Mrs. Agnes Hamilton, a wealthy widow, who insists that her large contribution toward the cathedral's construction guarantee a proper memorial to her dead husband. Henry is upset by Julia's tardiness and the meeting breaks up after Mrs. Hamilton threatens to withdraw her support unless satisfied. Julia mentions seeing the professor and gives Henry the ancient coin, which he angrily dismisses as worthless. Trying to make amends for his curtness, Henry asks Julia to have lunch with him the following day as they used to do, and she delightedly agrees. After retiring to his study, however, Henry is beset by messages and demands on his time. Dismissing his assistant, Mildred Cassaway, Henry prays for guidance, and a few moments later, Dudley mysteriously arrives and informs Henry that he is an angel sent in answer to his prayer. Henry is immediately skeptical, and when Julia comes in a few moments later, Dudley introduces himself as Henry's assistant, which pleases her and upsets Henry. The next morning Henry is dismayed to see that Dudley has returned and ingratiated himself with Mildred Cassaway, the maid, Matilda, and even the family dog, Queenie. Julia is disappointed that Henry has broken their luncheon date and sadly takes their young daughter Debby to the park. After Henry departs, Dudley follows Julia and Debby to the park and helps the little girl build her confidence during a snowball fight. Dudley offers to take Julia to lunch just as Matilda inexplicably shows up to relieve her of Debby. Dudley takes Julia to Michel's, which she reveals is her favorite restaurant and is where Henry proposed to her. When they are spotted by several parish ladies, Dudley wards off gossip by inviting them to join him and Julia. Walking home later, Julia and Dudley run into the professor, who is suspicious of Dudley, yet invites them to his tiny apartment, where he admits that due to a lack of inspiration he has not worked for some time on his manuscript about ancient Rome. Dudley, who has retrieved the ancient coin from the Brougahms', returns it to the professor and piques his interest by informing him of the rare and valuable coin's unique history. Meanwhile, Henry has rescheduled his appointments so that he can make his lunch date with Julia and is annoyed to discover that she has gone out with Dudley. The next day, Dudley tells Debby the story of David, who is helped by an angel, which only vexes Henry further. Later, Henry accepts an appointment to meet with Mrs. Hamilton, knowing it will conflict with his promised appearance at choir practice at his old parish. Despite Julia's pleas, Henry insists on seeing Mrs. Hamilton, and Dudley accompanies Julia to the rehearsal. At Mrs. Hamilton's, Henry agrees to all her demands in exchange for her complete support of the cathedral but, while hastening to leave to meet Julia, finds himself stuck to a recently varnished chair. At the church, meanwhile, Rev. Miller is embarrassed by the poor turnout, but Dudley reassures him and asks the couple of boys present to begin singing. Gradually all the boys arrive and give an inspiring performance under Dudley's direction. As the still-stuck Henry fumes at Mrs. Hamilton's, Dudley and Julia catch a cab into town where Dudley purchases a hat for Julia he knows she admires. Then Dudley asks the cab driver, Sylvester, to stop at a park where a crowd is ice skating and, with Dudley's guidance, both Julia and Sylvester skate enthusiastically. Dudley and Julia return home, where Henry angrily demands that Dudley leave for good. Henry's outburst depresses Julia, and the next day, Christmas Eve, the household wonders if Dudley will ever return. After Henry and Julia leave to make calls, Dudley arrives and rewrites Henry's Christmas sermon, dictating while the typewriter takes down the new speech. Dudley then transforms the Christmas tree over which Matilda has been laboring and departs to see Mrs. Hamilton. While waiting in the wealthy woman's drawing room, Dudley discovers a hidden piece of sheet music inscribed to Mrs. Hamilton from a man who is not her husband. Dudley plays the tune on Mrs. Hamilton's harp, and she confesses that in her youth she was in love with the tune's composer, but feared poverty and rejected him. In an effort to make up for not loving her wealthy husband, she has steadfastly tried to maintain his legacy. Later, when Henry and Julia arrive, Mrs. Hamilton thanks Henry for sending Dudley to her and tells them that he has inspired her to give her money to the needy rather than build the cathedral. Utterly dismayed, Henry tells Julia he will meet her at home and, wandering into town, stops by the professor's, where he confides that Dudley is an angel who has upset everything. He apologizes for rejecting the professor's coin, which the old scholar returns to him, declaring that it has inspired him and may help Henry too. When Henry sadly reveals he believes he has lost Julia to Dudley, the professor reminds him that he is human and Dudley is not and encourages him to fight for Julia. At the Broughams' home, while Dudley and Julia stand admiring the Christmas tree, Dudley tells her it is time for him to leave, but asks her to have him stay. Disturbed by his implication, Julia tells him that he must go and hastens upstairs just as Henry arrives to challenge Dudley. Dudley is pleased that Henry has finally acknowledged that Julia is the most important thing in his life and reminds the bishop that he never prayed for a cathedral, but for guidance. He wistfully adds that it is bad when an angel envies a mortal and informs Henry that after he goes, no one will have any memory of his existence. Henry then finds himself alone in his study praying before the painting of the cathedral, and abruptly races upstairs looking for Julia, who is putting Debby to bed. They embrace and then depart for St. Timothy's where Henry delivers Dudley's Christmas sermon. Dudley listens from the street, and satisfied, departs.