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



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.

production details
USA | 106 minutes | 1958

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

Jack Lemmon as Nicky Holroyd
Ernie Kovacs as Sidney Redlitch
Elsa Lanchester as Aunt Queenie Holroyd
Hermione Gingold as Bianca de Passe
Hans Moebus as Club Patron (uncredited)
Gail Bonney as Betty – Merle’s Maid (uncredited)
Kim Novak as Gil Holroyd
James Stewart as Shep Henderson
Janice Rule as Merle Kittridge
Philippe Clay as French Singer at the Zodiac Club
Bek Nelson as Tina
Howard McNear as Andy White
Fred Aldrich as Mover (uncredited)
Leon Alton as Club Patron (uncredited)
Monty Ash as Herb Store Owner (uncredited)
Alex Ball as Club Patron (uncredited)
Joe Barry as Exterminator (uncredited)
Wolfe Barzell as Zodiac Club Proprietor (uncredited)
Don Brodie as Cab Driver (uncredited)
Robert Haines as Club Patron (uncredited)
James Lanphier as Waldo (uncredited)
Perk Lazelle as Club Patron (uncredited)
Ted Mapes as Gillian’s Customer (uncredited)
Ollie O’Toole as Elevator Operator (uncredited)
John Truax as Cab Driver (uncredited)