Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bell Book and Candle (1958)

Hot witch Gillian (Kim Novak) is bored and wants to meet her elderly neighbor Shep (James Stewart). When she learns that he is soon to marry a hot mortal, she uses magic to intervene.

Lovers meet, lovers love, lovers part with hard feelings, lovers reunite through grand gesture. Roll credits. The Rom Com formula is like clockwork. You can set your watch by it. The key to its success is how much we believe in the romance, and how much we like the characters. While Novak’s Gillian is mostly emotionless (witches can’t cry, you understand) and her interest in twice-her-age Stewart is somewhat confounding, we do become invested in their story.

Jack Lemmon was at his prime as Gil’s somewhat mischievous brother. Elsa Lanchester was great as her batty aunt. Hermione Granger .. I mean Gringots ...I MEAN GINGOLD was also delightful. Janice Rule played the young woman Gil had to steal Shep away from. I remembered her from a Twilight Zone episode.

One functional complaint of the movie is that we aren’t to sympathize with the undeserving girlfriend. See Susan Hayward’s shrewish and tragic bride-to-be in I Married a Witch. She was both beautiful and wonderfully unsympathetic. Here we are told why Rule’s character isn’t nice, but we don’t actually see it. I felt sorry for her.

Enigmatic comedian Ernie Kovacs was understated as an author of books on witchcraft. His unconventional and sometimes controversial comedic style made him a legend with comedians, but because much of his television work was lost, he is all but forgotten by audiences today. He died in a car accident less than four years later, and ten days before his 43rd birthday.

Beautifully filmed, well acted, visually stunning, very charming, and amusing when it needed to be, Bell Book and Candle (no commas!) is delightful. It was, along with I Married a Witch, a principle inspiration for Bewitched. AMRU 4. Elizabeth Montgomery was hot. Ask your dad.
“Shep, you just never learned to spell.”

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