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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Bishop's Wife (1947)

This was a staple growing up. And watching it tonight, for the first time in many years, I realized how little I actually paid attention to it when I was a kid. It is far more progressive and even funnier than I remembered it being. Mostly I remembered it being about three incredibly attractive humans and also god(?). Which might be why I spent a good chunk of this viewing imagining the cast of The Mummy in the leads. John Hannah as the Bishop? Come. On.


How is the ice not just melting beneath them? They're so hot.


It's funny, though, how I recognize Cary Grant as the quintessence of handsomeness, but David Niven is more my type. Still incredibly handsome, but with furrowed brow instead of disarming charm. I am unsettled by Cary Grant's confidence.


I'm struck, here at the end of 2022, mostly by how this movie examines dissatisfaction. It hints that maybe the answer can be found through god, but the more powerful message (to me) is that the secret to understanding yourself is to return to the self you were when you were truly happy. Faith is something that I've struggled with in my adult life (god help me I just rewatched Angels and Demons yes again and Tom Hanks' line, "Faith is a gift I've yet to receive" really hit home), and it is so much more comforting to see the faithful depicting as wavering rather than stalwart. Dudley checking himself as he recognizes his envy of Henry is really very powerful. It's an invitation to check those things in ourselves rather than a decree from on high that We Must Have Faith.


I learned, in reading the IMDB trivia for this immediately upon credits rolling, that originally Cary Grant was the Bishop and David Niven was Dudley. WHAT!? Truly nuts. So glad they fixed that. I've always adored David Niven and the little ticks and beats he allows Henry to have are so good. The power plays with Dudley as they decide who's going to enter a room first. Cary Grant flaunting Matilda's scarf and David Niven being driven to distraction by it. I get the sense that these two actors are very old friends having the best time. And even if I wasn't getting a gentle reminder about faith and my sense of self, that camaraderie feels like Christmas all on its own. (HOW is it December??)


I feel like Julia is a little underbaked as a character, though. I mean, not to get all AP English on here (JUST KIDDING IT IS MY FAVORITE THING) but the title is The Bishop's Wife. No name. All we know is that she is in the possession of a man who is religious and has status. She is the bargaining chip in this movie and that kind of sucks. Mostly she seems lost and listless, waiting for her husband to show interest in her again. But I think it's huge and Important that she's the one who pushes Dudley away. It would be so easy for this movie to have him make the decision to step back (and they kind of try to play it that way - an angel saving face?) but it's her telling him to leave. She chooses her husband. She never really even thought about Dudley, just the fun they were having like she used to have with Henry. She's a lot stronger than the movie gives her credit for.


Marker on paper.


Takeaways:

-I love this one for its subject matter as much as I dislike it for its artistic achievement. Between a long, emotionally exhausting week and a movie that's charming but not exactly inspiring, I just didn't feel the spark of creation. I kept thinking about doing a vintage Christmas card of Ben and I ice skating but it felt false somehow. Sketches of the two of us in old timey garb, showing infinite grace and Hallmark movie romance just fell flat. And I couldn't decide on a medium. The ice skating scene in The Bishop's Wife is lovely and swoon worthy but it mostly made me think about one of the first dates Ben and I ever went on. I had never been ice skating before and was like Bambi on the ice. Ben took a couple spills too and while he remembers that night with embarrassment, I remember chatting as we shakily made our way around the pond. In hindsight, I recognize it as a rare moment of me allowing myself to be catastrophically imperfect, in a way I had a really hard time doing back then. Now, as we close in on our ten year anniversary in a few weeks, I realize that the best parts of our relationship exist in those stumbles and the willingness to stumble in various aspects of our life and help each other get back up. I would so much rather be flat on my ass with Ben than twirling with anyone else. Even Cary Grant.

-I bought some knockoff copic markers recently and like using them so much more than I expected to. I still have a lot to learn but as I plan on doing renderings for my next show with them, I thought this would be good practice, and that's ultimately why I went with markers. That's ultimately why I started this project!

-I am not cognizant of any issues I have with my forehead but gol-ly you'd think I hate it because any time I try to draw myself I eliminate any forehead at all. It's not a great likeness except for my very favorite embroidered leather motorcycle jacket.

-I wish I had done Ben better justice. He's so handsome. Such lovely eyes. It is so much harder to portray people we love.


Next week, A Christmas Carol. The George C. Scott one. Very curious to revisit it. But I gotta tell you, a version of Christmas Carol that runs 100 minutes? Very very appealing.


I hope this week provides, with all its scrapes and falls, a lot of laughter. We're all just awkward first timers on the ice, aren't we? We might as well laugh about it and give each other pointers and a steadying hand when and where we can.

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