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The moviemakers have replaced this love story of tortured velleity with one of more baroque appealone scarcely, however, so recognizably Venetian, American, or, to name the spade, anything. Briefly, the movie niece (Susan Hayward) is young, has led a void life caring for the old lady (Agnes Moorehead), has compensated by poring over the poet's letters, has conceived a coy necrophilia for him. By day she is the cold spinster, by night ah! with her kitten and her finch and that sill ver oubliette which holds the letters (sweet counterfeits of passion!), she is indeed a very Mab of love. The publishing fellow (Robert Cummings), sniffing out the letters, blunders into her dream, effects a gentle transfer of her affects to his own living person and, though lose he must the literary remains, yet wins himself the woman of his heart.
The many who have not read The Aspern Papers will find the early reels of the film, in which horror crouches in the umbrageous palace like a beast in the jungle, divertingly atmospheric (though later the conviction abates); but the few who know James well, willsensing in the film only "the triumph of the superficial and the apotheosis of the raw" which he so dreaded and adumbratednot.
The Bishop's Wife (Goldwyn; RKO Radio) wishes she weren't. The bishop (David Niven) spends so much time laboring in the vineyard that there is none left for his own garden. It seems that nothing less than a miracle can salvage his marriage.
Nothing less than an angel, handsomely disguised as Cary Grant, comes to ease the bishop's burdens. The first thing the angel takes off his hands is the bishop's wife (Loretta Young). In vain does the bishop protest her having so many dates with an angel. Matters advance until the angel, feeling all too human about the lady, makes her what seems dangerously like a celestial proposition. This horrifies her, and the angel reluctantly returns to a heaven which,he indicates clearly, is a hell of a place as far as he is concerned.
Adapted from Robert Nathan's 1928 novel, The Bishop's Wife is Sam Goldwyn's and RKO's special Christmas cookie. It is a big, slick production. The only thing it lacks is taste. Some moviegoers may also be distressed by the lack of Christmas spirit in what is apparently the moral of the picture: you can't trust a soul with your wife.
Christmas Eve (Boqeous; United Artists), a less appetizing holiday confection, concerns an eccentric old gotrocks (Ann Harding) and her far-flung adopted sons (George Raft, George Brent, Randolph Scott). They surmount the world, the flesh and the devil to reach her side on Christmas Evejust in time to save her from the booby hatch for spending $500,000 on 500,000 dead rats. Producer Benedict Bogeaus spent considerably more on this dead rat.