Urban Legend: Whitney Houston as Julia Biggs in ‘The Preacher’s Wife’

The Preacher’s Wife character Julia Biggs (portrayed to perfection by the late Whitney Houston) is a legend in urban culture.

Whitney_Houston_The_Preacher_s_WifeJulia is a former nightclub singer-turned-church choir centerpiece, and the neglected wife of Rev. Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance), pastor of a struggling baptist church in a poverty-stricken New York neighborhood. Henry is under intense pressure to sell the church to property developer Joe Hamilton (the late Gregory Hines,) while not so tirelessly spending time assisting the needs of his congregation as Christmas draws near. He prays for help, which arrives in the form of an angel named Dudely (Denzel Washington); the divine gift becomes an uncomfortably close companion to the lonely Julia.

A remake of 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife (adapted form Robert Nathan’s novel of the same name), this Penny Marshall-directed retelling brought more life to its leading actress. Based on a screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood, the challenges Julia faced brought Houston the 1997 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.

With Rev. Biggs off lending hands, Julia was left longing for her husband’s touch. The time they shared was tense and combative, testing the strength of their marriage. Simultaneously, Julia was preachers_wife_the_1996_18responsible for their son, Jeremiah, while dealing with church affairs in Henry’s absence; defending herself and her relationship to her outspoken mother, Margueritte (Jenifer Lewis); and trying not to let her newfound friendship with Dudley lose its heavenly grace.

Audiences connected with Julia because many could relate to her being caught in the middle, having both her heart and faith tested. With the added pressure of the holiday, she was forced to find joy before she could genuinely share it and share in it. Julia finally weathering these snowy life storms—and singing fervently about it—will continue to warm hearts and give chills for years and years to come.

—Mr. Joe Walker

Mr. Joe Walker is an urban and pop culture enthusiast. Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, the biographer, author, entertainment and celebrity journalist, and columnist is currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer of weekly classic hip-hop reviews for Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. He is also working on a book project with Liquid Arts & Entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog MrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.

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