The Bishop’s Wife is a Samuel Goldwyn romantic comedy feature film from 1947, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven in a story about an angel who helps a bishop with his problems. The film was adapted by Leonardo Bercovici and Robert E. Sherwood from the 1928 novel of the same name by Robert Nathan, and was directed by Henry Koster.
Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven), troubled with funding the building of a new cathedral, prays for divine guidance. His plea is seemingly answered by a suave angel named Dudley (Cary Grant), who reveals his identity only to the clergyman.
However, Dudley’s mission is not to help construct a cathedral, but to spiritually guide Henry and the people around him. Henry has become obsessed with raising funds, to the detriment of his family life. His relationships with wife Julia (Loretta Young) and their young daughter are strained by his focus on the cathedral.
Everyone, except for Henry, is charmed by Dudley, even the non-religious Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley). Dudley persuades the wealthy parishioners, particularly widowed Agnes Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), to contribute needed funds, but not to build the cathedral. He coaxes Mrs. Hamilton to donate her money to feed and clothe the needy — much to Henry’s chagrin. To save time, Dudley also redecorates the Broughams’ Christmas tree in a few seconds, saves an old church by restoring interest in the boys’ choir, and dictates to a typewriter to magically produce Henry’s new sermon — without Henry’s knowledge.
When Dudley spends time cheering up Julia, though, an unexpected development occurs: Dudley finds himself strongly attracted to her. Sensing this, Henry becomes jealous and anxious for his unwelcome guest to finish and depart. He reveals Dudley’s true identity to Professor Wutheridge, who urges him to stand up and fight for the woman he loves.
Dudley indicates a willingness to stay, but Julia, sensing what he means, tells Dudley it is time for him to leave. Dudley tells the bishop it is rare for an angel to envy a mortal. Henry wants to know why his cathedral plans were derailed. Dudley reminds the bishop he prayed for guidance, not a building.
With his mission completed and knowing that Julia loves her husband, Dudley leaves, promising never to return. All memory of him is erased, and later that Christmas Eve at midnight, Henry delivers the sermon that he believes he has written. Dudley observes from the street, satisfied that his work is done.