Bell, Book And Candle (1958 with James Stewart and Kim Novak)

USA / 1958

Director: Richard Quine
Writer: Daniel Taradash, from the play by John Van Druten

Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, Janice Rule, Philippe Clay

Daniel Taradash steers clear of any attempt to explain the supernatural goings-on at the centre of this tale of modern-day magic. The fact that witches and warlocks are on the loose in contemporary Manhattan is simply taken for granted. James Stewart is cast as the publisher who lives in the flat above Kim Novak’s curio shop. Meeting her and her aunt Elsa Lanchester, on Christmas Eve, Stewart feels impelled to postpone his marriage to Janice Rule, unaware that his sudden change of affection is due to the fact that Novak is a witch and has put a spell on him.

The situation is further complicated when Novak’s mischievous warlock brother Jack Lemmon co-authors a book on magic with drunken writer Eddie Kovacs, which Stewart is to publish. As the book reveals the secrets of the coven, Stewart learns the truth behind his spellbound infatuation and consults veteran witch Hermione Gingold, swallowing a foul potion to release him from Novak’s spell. However, a feline familiar intervenes to reunite Stewart with Novak and her tears testify that she has now become a mere mortal…

Stewart employed his familiar slow-talking persona to excellent effect and Novak gave one of her best performances but despite the superb leads, the film was nearly stolen from them by the delightful display of character acting from Lanchester, Lemmon, Gingold and Kovacs.

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