Bell, Book and Candle

Rating 2½

Directed by Richard Quine

Written by Daniel Taradash from the play by John Van Druten

Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, Hermione Gingold and Ernie Kovacs

Released in 1958, the same year as Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ‘Vertigo’, this frothy rom-com reunited James Stewart and Kim Novak. He was 50-years-old and she was 25. This would be the last time Stewart played a romantic lead in a film.

Novak plays a witch who casts a spell to make the man who lives in the apartment above her shop (played by Stewart) fall in love with her. However, when she in turn starts to fall in love with him she loses her magical powers. Jack Lemmon plays her brother and Elsa Lanchester (who is best remembered for her memorable turn in the 1935 Universal Pictures horror ‘Bride of Frankenstein’) is her eccentric Aunt Queenie.

All the right ingredients are in place, but the film never sparkles. Even the reliable supporting actors Hermione Gingold and Ernie Kovacs are unable to make much of the dull script and flat direction. Kim Novak certainly looks the part, but her wooden performance hijacks the film. James Stewart seems to be going through the motions, surely all too aware that he was now too old for light romantic roles. Perhaps his character should have been played by Jack Lemmon,
who would go on to make ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘The Apartment’ within the next two years, before eventually establishing himself as one of Hollywood’s greatest screen actors.

For anyone who has fond memories of the 1960s television show ‘Bewitched’, this film is probably worth watching once. Just don’t expect too much.

Screenwriter Daniel Taradash won an Academy Award in 1954 for ‘From Here To Eternity’. John Van Druten, who wrote the original play, also wrote the original theatre version of ‘Cabaret’ (I Am A Camera).

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