Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Forgotten Christmas Movie

What is your favorite Christmas movie?  There are so many good ones.  I think if I asked my children, Elf might get the nod.

The unofficial list
Here’s an unofficial list from me:  It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out”), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street (two versions to choose from), Elf, Home Alone, The Santa Clause, The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, White Christmas, and of course Die Hard. Did I miss your favorite?  Since it is Christmas season, I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

A Hollywood angel and a touch of Billy Wilder
Maybe you thought of The Bishop’s Wife. Most people don’t think of this one; it’s a somewhat forgotten movie.

But it’s worth watching just to see Cary Grant play a charming angel who humanely terrorizes David Niven. Did you know that one of the four writers of the script was Billy Wilder, the same who won four Academy Awards and wrote Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, Double Indemnity, and Some Like it Hot!

In the movie, David Niven plays a Bishop who learns from Cary Grant that the people inside the cathedral are more important than the cathedral itself. In the end, Cary Grant writes the Bishop’s sermon for him. It’s a wonderful sermon, and it’s my message for this holiday season.

The empty stocking
“Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts.

“We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries.  We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells, and with gifts. But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled—all that is, except one.  

“And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most, and then let each put in his share: loving kindness, a warm heart, and the stretched out hand of tolerance.  All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”


  1. Wilder...Grant...Young...Niven..Elsa Lanchester, all wrapped up by Henry Koster for Christmas. Kind of takes one's breath away! I tend to think of Cary Grant first in debonair and dashing roles, but a role like this (along with "Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer") reminds me that he had a superb, light comic talent as well. "The true spirit of Christmas" is such a cliche, but "Bishop's Wife" gets it so that even the irreligious can connect.

    Made in 1947, my birth year! For those who find B&W too stuffy, there's the remake, "The Preacher's Wife" with Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, Courtney Vance, lots of gospel music, directed by Penny Marshal. My most astute and helpful Helpmeet found an interesting discussion thread comparing the two on Just last night, I mentioned that a David Niven movie would be fun, but there wasn't much of him in Netflix' streaming. But I did put "Bishop's Wife" in our disc queue. I'll move it to the top for Christmas, when the family is gathered from around the continent. Pastor-in-training Son #2 and his not-yet fiancee will be here.

    Thanks for the tip, Dave!

  2. Randy, some say The Bishop's Wife is one of David Niven's finest performances. I'm sure you're family will enjoy. Merry Christmas.