(Original version published Nov. 12, 2007)
It turns out that two of my favorite movies also are my favorite Christmas movies: “The Bishop’s Wife” and “Die Hard.” At first glance, these pictures separated by a span of more than four decades have nothing in common — but both celebrate the power of faith and redemption in subtle and entertaining ways.
In 1947’s “The Bishop’s Wife,” clergyman David Niven believes that heaven-sent angel Cary Grant is the answer to his prayers for help in squeezing millions from an obnoxious old matron to build a cathedral whose construction she’s micromanaging. But Niven’s marriage to Loretta Young is headed into stormy seas, and he gets more than he bargained for when Grant charms everyone from a comic-relief agnostic to the bishop’s wife — played by professional Catholic Loretta Young.
Their faith restored, the agnostic turns to religion, the matron gives her millions to the poor, and Niven realizes that his wife has the power to give him heaven on earth.
Another marriage is on the rocks in 1988’s “Die Hard,” in which New York cop Bruce Willis travels to Los Angeles to attend a Christmas party in the skyscraper headquarters of a Japanese multinational where his estranged wife Bonnie Bedelia is a top executive. When terrorists take over the building, several characters are forced to find faith in themselves.
A cop who has been afraid to fire his gun since accidently killing a kid becomes a hero, a desk-flying police chief learns to respect street cops and Willis and Bedelia symbolically reaffirm their marriage vows when they must snap open the clasp on a Rolex watch she’s wearing to drop villain Alan Rickman to his death.
Cerebral use of Christmas music ranging from Run DMC to Beethoven to Sinatra adds greatly to the holiday spirit.
If you want “Peanuts” with that, check out “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown.”