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Cary Grant's The Bishop's Wife (1947): Movie Trivia & Fun Facts

RKO's The Biishop's Wife debuted in on December 9, 1947. Amazing The Bishop's Wife move trivia and fun facts encompass Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Karolyn Grimes, Lux Radio Theater, Its a Wonderful Life, The Preacher's Wife and Elsa Lanchester.

RKO Radio Pictures' The Bishop's Wife drifted into movie theaters in 1947. Suave, dapper Cary Grant plays Dudley, a guardian angel sent from "up above" who comes to the aid of Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) and his wife Julia (Loretta Young) during the holidays. Here are 25 The Bishop's Wife movie trivia items and fun facts...

1. The Bishop's Wife is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Nathan (1894-1985), first published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1928.  

The Bishop's Wife one sheet style A movie poster - Heritage Auctions

2. German-born Henry Koster (1905-1988) directed The Bishop's Wife. His other directorial credits include The Rage of Paris (1938), It Started with Eve (1941), The Luck of the Irish (1948), Harvey (1950), No Highway in the Sky (1951), The Robe (1953), My Man Godfrey (1957), Flower Drum Song (1961), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) and The Singing Nun (1966). William Wyler had been producer Samuel Goldwyn's first choice, but he turned it down. Director William A. Seiter had worked on the production for two days before being removed and sent packing with full salary.

3. As originally cast, Cary Grant and Teresa Wright were to play Henry and Julia Brougham, with David Niven as Dudley. Wright was forced to withdraw because of pregnancy and was replaced by Loretta Young. Also, Grant quickly realized that it was he who should play the dapper guardian angel, and thus he and Niven swapped roles.

4. Prior to filming, Sam Goldwyn decided that the interiors of Bishop Brougham's parsonage weren't reverential enough. Thus, he ordered that the old sets be demolished and subsequently rebuilt, adding $700,000-800,000 to the already ballooning budget.

5. The crack Hollywood writing team of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder was brought in to clean up three crucial scenes in the film. They were given one weekend to complete their task and offered $25,000 for their work. The two writers accepted the challenge but turned down the $25K, as the additional money would have simply caused them more problems due to California's strict tax laws at the time.

6. It was not a good shoot for Cary Grant and Loretta Young, who did not work well together on The Bishop's Wife. Grant was well-known for his penchant for perfection while Young possessed her own quirky working habits. During one take, Grant accomplished his own version of “cut,” asking aloud, “If it’s supposed to be cold outside, and the house is nice and warm inside, why isn’t there any frost on the windows?” Filming was then halted until the prop men could artificially frost the windows.

7. Under pressure throughout the production was David Niven, who had earlier lost his wife, 28-year-old Primula Susan Rollo, in a bizarre accident at actor Tyrone Power’s home. While playing an adult version of Hide and Seek, Rollo had opened a door and stepped inside what she believed to be a closet. It turned out to be a steep set of stairs leading to Power’s basement, with Rollo falling and severely injuring herself. The next day, May 21, 1946, Rollo died of her injuries, leaving behind a husband and two young sons, David Niven Jr. and Jamie Niven.

8. The Bishop's wife was filmed from February to July 1947 in both Hollywood and Minnesota. The famous snowball fight was shot at Minneapolis' Loring Park.

9. There's no mistaking The Bishop's Wife as a holiday picture. The movie opens in snowy New York City with a stirring rendition of “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!”

10. Sara Haden plays Mildred Cassaway, a wealthy widow who has pledged a cool $1 million for Bishop Brougham's new cathedral.

11. Cary Grant's Dudley pays a visit to Bishop Brougham in his study, introducing himself: "I'm an angel. No wings at the moment but..."

12. Dudley and Julia repair to a restaurant called Michel's for lunch. Spying three gossipy donors for the cathedral, Dudley invites the women to join them, ordering Stingers for the trio. A Stinger is comprised of brandy and creme de menthe.

13. Dudley's story to Debby Brougham (Karolyn Grimes), the young daughter of Henry and Julia, involves the 21st Psalm - The Lord is My Shepherd, which he recites for the child.

14. Karolyn Grimes, who also played Zuzu Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946), reported that David Niven didn't want children around him and was told to keep her distance. Both Cary Grant and Loretta Young, however, welcomed youngsters.

Karolyn Grimes and Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife (1947) - RKO Radio Pictures

15. During the production delay, five-year old Marcia Anne Northrop, who was to play Debby Brougham, Dame May Whitty and Elsa Lanchester were forced to withdraw because of previous commitments. Only Lanchester, in the role of Matilda, was able to return to the set, bumping her replacement Edith Angold.

16. An actual skating rink was built on the set, where Cary Grant would skate and pull Karolyn Grimes on a sled during lunch breaks. Of course stunt doubles wearing rather phony-looking masks were used for stars Cary Grant and Loretta Young for the more difficult maneuvers in the fabulous ice skating sequence.

17. The Bishop's Wife features two actors who had appeared in It's a Wonderful Life (1946): Karolyn Grimes and Bobby Anderson. Anderson, who is billed as Defense Snowball Captain in The Bishop's Wife, had played young George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.

18. The Bishop’s Wife was featured on the following radio productions: The Screen Guild Theater, March 1, 1948, with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven; Lux Radio Theater, December 19, 1949, with Tyrone Power as Dudley, Jane Greer as Julia and David Niven as Henry; Lux Radio Theater, May 11, 1953, with Cary Grant as Dudley and Phyllis Thaxter as Julia; Lux Radio Theater, March 1, 1955, with Cary Grant as Dudley and Phyllis Thaxter as Julia.

19. The Broughams' big St. Bernard is named Queenie. Movie dog lovers remember that!

20. Mr. Gail Laughton instructed Cary Grant for the famous harp-playing scene. Laughton also recorded the actual soundtrack.

21. The Bishop's Wife opened at New York City's Astor Theater on December 9, 1947. Reported Bosley Crowther of The New York Times (12/10/47): "...Smoothly and with artful invention he [director Henry Koster] has induced Mr. Grant to give one of his most fluent and beguiling performances as the angel, 'Dudley,' who fixes things. And he has got out of David Niven a deliciously dexterous and droll characterization of a sorely pressed young bishop who can't quite cotton to this messenger from on high. Elsa Lanchester, too, is encouraged in an exquisitely faceted role of a twitterly little housemaid who flirts with this angelic gent, and Monty Woolley is actually human as an old dodo who is morally re-inspired. James Gleason, Sara Haden and Gladys Cooper are rich in smaller parts. Weakness is only evident in Loretta Young's unctuousness as the bishop's wife. She is the one artificial, inconsistent and discordant note.”

22. The Bishop's Wife earned five Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Recording (won) and Best Music - Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

23. The trailer for The Bishop’s Wife is rather unique. Titled “It Couldn’t Happen Anywhere…But in Hollywood!” it features Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven strolling together at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood. While discussing how best to make a trailer for the film, they are stopped by a vigilant security guard. They then agree that making an actual trailer takes the fun out of the picture!

24. The Bishop's Wife was remade in 1996 by Buena Vista Pictures as The Preacher's Wife, starring Denzel Washington (Dudley), Whitney Houston (Julia Biggs)  and Courtney B. Vance (Reverend Henry Biggs). Penny Marshall directed.

25. Deceased cast members for The Bishop's Wife include Cary Grant (1904-1986), Loretta Young (1913-2000), David Niven (1910-1983), Monty Woolley (1888-1963), James Gleason (1882-1959), Gladys Cooper (1888-1971), Elsa Lanchester (1902-1986), Sara Haden (1899-1981), Bobby Anderson (1933-2008), Tito Vuolo (1893-1962) and Regis Toomey (1898-1991).

Top Image

  • The Bishop's Wife cast, l-r: Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young - RKO Radio Pictures

Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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Comments (4)

This is one of my favorite films. I had no idea David Niven lost his wife in the making of this film. Your information has made this a very interesting article.Thank you.

When I think of Cary Grant movies, the first one that comes to mind is "High Noon."

High Noon, Jerry? Are you maybe thinking of Gary Cooper?

Correction needed for item 10: Gladys Cooper played the wealthy donor Mrs Hamilton; Sara Haden played Mildred Cassaway, the Bishop's secretary.

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