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December 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Bishop's Wife  
Music composed by Hugo Friedhofer
  Available on BYU (Brigham Young University) Film Music Archives (FMA-HF 109)
Running Time: 58:28
Amazon UK


  • “The Bishop’s wife was fun. It remains to this day one of my favourite pictures. It’s a very warm and very charming picture.”

    -Hugo Friedhofer recalling his score in 1974

    Hugo Friedhofer’s score for the 1947 Samuel Goldwyn production of The Bishop’s Wife won him an Academy award nomination just one year after he had won the Oscar for best score for The Best Years of Our Lives.  Friedhofer, it will be recalled, had orchestrated and arranged many, many scores for Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold over at Warner Bros.

    The Bishop’s Wife , starred Cary Grant as the angel Dudley, who comes down to earth at Christmastide to show Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) the error of his ways. Henry is too obsessed with the idea of building a new cathedral (sponsored by the rich Mrs Hamilton, played by Gladys Cooper, in memory of her husband) that he is tending to neglect his charming and loving wife Julia (Loretta Young) and their little daughter. The film also featured Monty Woolley, Elsa Lanchester and James Gleason.

    Friedhofer’s score is warm, joyous and enchanting. Much of the music has a Yuletide ring and an appealing mysticism, an ethereal quality such that it becomes an uplifting experience whether watching the film or just listening to it.  The Main Theme, associated with the good cheer that Dudley spreads around him, is heard at the outset of the film and is soon treated in a Bach-like chorale. Another equally important theme for Dudley is an upwardly curving, heavenly figure interestingly, reminiscent of Respighi’s ‘Nightingale’ music from that composer’s Pines of Rome.  It frequently incorporates a saxophone solo that suggests that Dudley is no common angel “but more like an earthly man with charm and sex appeal”  The theme for Julia is one of Friedhofer’s most appealing with that Max Steiner sweetness in the upper strings – it is particularly lovely in its Brahms-like final reprise. Much of the music, especially for those scenes associated with Dudley’s little miracles (like causing the Christmas to dress itself) are influenced by the French Impressionists, Debussy and Ravel.  One of the most charming cues is the extended track, ‘Central Park’ underscoring the scene where Dudley, Julian and taxi driver Sylvester go skating. Here the music glistens and glides. It is a medley of elegant waltzes interposed with one or two comic episodes.

    The sumptuous 36-page accompanying booklet gives track-by-track analysis together with a nicely sympathetic introduction by James D’Arc, notes on Friedhofer’s development of the score and a fascinating remembrance of The Bishop’s Wife by Karolyn Grimes who played the Bishop’s little girl, Debbie in the film. Also included are many clips from the film.

    An enchantment.

    Ian Lace


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