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2.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe it's a top-of-the-line DVD!, Feb. 5 2002
This review is from: The Bishop's Wife (DVD)
Being a lover of old films, I am happy to read the glowing and enthusiastic reviews featured at Amazon. I have always felt that "The Bishop's Wife", for all it's charm and whimsy, is only an average story. What REALLY ELEVATES it into an altogether magical and heartfelt classic is, in my opinion, the incredible musical score by Hugo Friedhofer. In those scenes in David Niven's sombre study we hear shimmery, otherworldy sounds, the chorales which drift in and out, with the saxophone melody that symbolizes the appearence of the angel in human form...now THAT"S what great filmaking is about!
And yet, let's face it: David Niven's problems are really pretty insignificant compared to, say, what Jimmy Stewart faces in "It's a Wonderful Life".....here it's all vanity, wounded pride, confrontations with an arrogant old woman, etc....It's tough for me to get too concerned for a cleric who lives with his family in a fabulously lavish house and seem to have all the comforts of the rich and famous, right down to servants and cooks....the plot is really rather tedious in a way.
But still, I really enjoy the movie---it has a wonderful mood, especially in the scenes near the old church and in the professor's apartment, as Christmas Eve is growing near and we know the problems must all resolve themselves soon. I really like the final scene, where the old church is alive again, the boy's choir is singing its new hymn, the atheist professor is attending midnight mass...and everyone seems to be aware on some level that their lives have been touched by something magical...even though they don't CONSCIOUSLY remember Dudley's visit. Pretty cool.
I remember reading that Cary Grant really didn't care for the script and bascially walked through his role. I have always felt that way; for all of his charm, there's something cynical and jaded about his performance, if ever so slightly.
But there's that lovely skating scene---was that the way it really used to be in the "Old Days"?? A skating rink with a live band playing--how cool! Of course, all of the fancy skating is done by doubles, but there's that lovely closeup of Cary Grant and Loretta Young gliding together as James Gleason finally gets the hang of it---what a wonderful moment (again, Mr. Friedhofer's MUSIC really makes the scene work!). But WHY didn't they give us a final close-up of ALL THREE skaters--Dudley, Julia, and Sylvester---gliding together arm in arm----instead of all of those long shots which used professional skaters as doubles? It would have really capped the scene off beautifully. Oh well....
BUT NOW I MUST ASK----IS THIS THE BEST DVD TRANSFER THAT MGM COULD GIVE US FOR THIS FILM????? It's dark and gritty looking---lots of grain in the image...and the volume level is so LOW---I had to crank up my TV volume all the way to really hear it.
THE DVD transfer is a MAJOR BAD JOB; it's alarming to think that this release might represent the BEST AVAILABLE source material for this fine film. That would be a great shame. I hope that something better turns up and that MGM will re-release The Bishop's Wife and give it the treatment that it deserves.
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Location: Whiting, IN United States

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