Bell Book and Candle (1958)
Reviewed on 2008 July 16
Good, funny movie from 1958, complete with Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, and one of the world’s cutest cats. My only complaint is now I want to recreate Kim Novak’s wardrobe.
Gillian Holroyd (Novak) is a young and beautiful witch (on the outside anyway; she probably knows spells Estee Lauder would have given her eye teeth for) living in New York. She is a gifted sorceress, more skilled than either her Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) or brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon), and lives a fairly sweet if superficial life. She haunts beatnik bars at night and lives in a great apartment with some swank mid-century furnishings many designers covet today.
It sounds good, but something is missing. Gillian feels a bit lonely, even though she seems close to her witchy family. One night she meets Shep Henderson (Stewart) and decides to give herself a Christmas present: she is going to make him love her. To say she gets more than she bargained for is an understatement.
This is a well-cast and fairly faithful adaptation of John Van Druten’s play, with screenwriter Daniel Taradash keeping some of Druten’s interesting subtexts woven throughout the story. Novak is very aloof in this and it works perfectly here, both for her character and a nice contrast to Stewart’s everyman portrayal of Shep. Using the ’50s pre-hippy beatnik scene as a backdrop for a subculture of witches is brilliant, not to mention a great excuse for some cool set designs.
Three chocolate morsels.