One aspect of the Bible that never emotionally resonated with me is angels.
This is what angels feel like to me:
“I am the Lord. I’ve been here since before time. I can do anything. I can speak to people directly if I please; I did it with Moses. There are no other gods. In fact, my biggest pet peeve is when people worship other supernatural beings.”
“… Also, there are a bunch of other immortal supernatural beings called angels. They work for me. Except for the ones who quit to join the other team.”
Theologically, angels don’t make sense. Emotionally, I can’t get my head around them. Fortunately, Cary Grant can.
Grant is Dudley: a very handsome angel. He has come to earth to help Henry Brougham (David Niven), a put-upon Episcopalian Bishop. We are told that he used to be a happy man and a doting husband. Now he only thinks about the church; specifically, the new cathedral he is raising money to build.
On the face of it, Dudley is there to be the Bishop’s assistant to help him get his cathedral built. But the angel’s interactions with the Broughton family take some unexpected turns.
Raising money from rich widows is easy enough for Dudley. Helping the sourpuss Bishop appreciate his wife Julia (Loretta Young) is more of a challenge.
So the angel starts taking Julia out on dates. Each date gets more magical and less innocent.
Cary Grant is magnificent: Dudley is a unique character. The angel cares deeply about the people he is trying to help. But he has the bemused detachment of a creature who has witnessed human frailty for countless centuries.
Dudley is a deeply holy being. There is a magnificent scene where he tells the story of David and the lion as if he was there watching the fight.
But the angel suffers from a touch of ennui from the grind of living forever without being able to form permanent human attachments.
Eventually, Dudley is able get some obvious lessons through Bishop Brougham’s scroogey skull, just in time for Christmas. The bishop learns that caring about material things – even a house of God – is unchristian. And he learns that Julia is a great wife; and if he doesn’t spend quality time with her, someone else will.
“The Bishop’s Wife” is overshadowed by “It’s a Wonderful Life” but it deserves to be seen. The Bible never gave me an understanding or appreciation for angels. Cary Grant absolutely did.
I was blown away by Cary Grant. I’d say there is a 94% chance that this is one of the great performances of cinema history. And a 6% chance that Grant is actually an angel.