Often at the holidays people turn to their favorite classic movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “A Christmas Story,” come to mind.
At the holidays many people seem to want to steer away from blood and gore and stick to sentimental and sweet.
I watch classic movies year-round. Apparently I want something different from my entertainment than a lot of my contemporaries. I get enough harsh reality from reality itself. When I watch a movie I want to see a better world where everyone finds true love and success and everything happens just like it ought to.
After receiving extensive education in literature during my college years, I automatically look for metaphor and theme in every story. Can’t help it. These are qualities your spill-as-much-blood-as-possible and make-sure-the-women’s-legs-are-showing blockbusters generally lack.
My personal favorite holiday film is “The Bishop’s Wife,” starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven.
This is a pretty straightforward highly sentimental film. Not much hidden meaning – it’s all right there in the open.
Cary Grant plays “Dudley,” the angel, which is a brilliant bit of casting. I mean, what form would an angel on earth take? Cary Grant. No such perfect man ever lived off the screen unless he was an angel. I just hope that next time God sends me an angel he looks and speaks exactly like Cary Grant.
Anyway, the gist of the movie is pretty simple. The bishop, played by David Niven, is doing everything in his power to build a grand cathedral to glorify God. Unfortunately, he has completely forgotten everything important in his life – like doing God’s real work and paying attention to his family.
Meanwhile, his wife, played by Loretta Young, is feeling unhappy and neglected and his old church on the unfortunate side of town is closing due to lack of funds.
Enter Dudley the angel with soulful brown eyes – an answer to the bishop’s prayer for help. The bishop, of course, assumes that Dudley will help him get the cathedral built. What Dudley actually does is help him remember what is truly important.
Turns out God isn’t as concerned about the bishop building the cathedral as He is about the bishop helping the unfortunates in his community and taking care of his wife and family. Go figure.
The reason I like this movie so much, besides the obvious appeal of Cary Grant in a suit and tie doing good deeds and paying attention to a neglected woman, is because I think it has a message that rings true in a spiritual sense.
Seems to me that people too often mistake the will of their own egos for God’s will. I know I can use a reminder of that from time to time and the holidays are as good a time as any.
The movie ends with the bishop and his wife feeling happy and optimistic, even without the new cathedral.
I would like to wish everyone in this community and beyond a Happy New Year.
And if you are feeling pessimistic about these uncertain times, might I suggest a classic holiday movie to lift your spirits? A little optimism never hurt anyone.