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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bell, Book, and Candle

This week's witch movie is of the sexy witch, in the 1958 hit Bell, Book, and Candle. Directed by Richard Quine and based on a play by John Van Druten, it stars Kim Novak as the witch and James Stewart as her unwitting target of affection.

While witches have been metaphors for homosexuals or independent women, in Bell, Book, and Candle they are indicative of the counterculture. Novak and her brother, Jack Lemmon, are really part of the Beat generation. She owns an African art store in Greenwich Village, and is a bit bored. She finds Stewart, her upstairs neighbor, interesting, so she bewitches him (using her Siamese cat, Pyewacket).

This breaks up Stewart's engagement with his uptight fiancee (Janice Rule). But she starts to wonder if what she did was really ethical, and tells him the truth.

Lemmon is terrific as the bongo-playing warlock, and there is a subplot involving Ernie Kovacs as a writer who is investigating the world of witchcraft. But Kovacs seems strangely subdued for a comedian, and the film as a whole doesn't gel. Novak is very sexy--she has a smoky voice that works perfectly--but Stewart overdoes his tics so that he seems like someone impersonating himself.

The creator of Bewitched acknowledged that this film, along with I Married a Witch, inspired that TV show, and again it's an example of a witch only becoming happy when she gives up her powers. Anti-feminism, or anti-counterculture, ruled the day.

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