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Bell, Book and Candle

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 24-09-2010


Product Description
Novak is a witch who casts a spell on a book publisher (Stewart) to make him fall in love with her. He is most unhappy when he finds out what happenedAmazon.com
Staid, secure publisher James Stewart leads a quiet life until he meets his bewitching downstairs neighbor, Kim Novak. John Van Druten’s lighthearted Broadway comedy becomes a lush if lightweight romantic vehicle for Stewart and Novak, who would reunite for Hitchcock’s Vertigo the next year. Novak… More >>

Bell, Book and Candle

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Adapted from the stage comedy of the same name, Bell Book and Candle stars Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, fresh from their successful teaming in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Novak plays Gillian Holroyd, a genuine, bonafide witch who runs a south seas antiquities shop. Falling in love with her neighbor, publisher Sheperd Henderson (Stewart), Gillian casts a spell on him. With help from her aunt (Elsa Lanchester), she obliges him to dump his fiancee, and ex college rival, and rush to her side. All of this goes against the grain of Gillian’s Endora-like mentor Mrs. DePass (Hermione Gingold), who does her best to counterract the love spell. Meanwhile, Gillian’s wacky warlock brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon) courts disaster by coauthoring a book on black magic with Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs). Legend has it that a witch can neither cry or fall in love. If she falls in love, she will lose her powers….can you guess what happens?

Rumor has it that this is the inspiration for the televisions series Bewitched. There are several striking, undeniable similarities. This film was released in 1958, and I find it just as enjoyable today as I’m sure it was then. Memorable performances by Novak as the icy-cool Gillian and Stewart in his last “romantic leading man” role drive the film. Jack Lemmon and Elsa Lanchester add a lot of quirky flavor as Gillian’s spell casting family. Fast pacing, clever writing, great costumes and fabulous eye-popping technicolor make this a film worth watching over and over. It’s sure to cast a spell on you too.
Rating: 5 / 5

Shepherd “Shep” Henderson (Jimmy Stewart) is a nice, normal, everyday kind of guy. He is a publisher with everyday problems and works in an everyday kind of office. His fiancé, on the other hand, is much less than everyday, being the beautiful, and slightly obnoxious, Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule). When Shep’s neighbor Gilliam “Gil” Holroyd (the always stunning Kim Novak) becomes irked with Merle, she decides to cast a spell on Shep to make him fall in love with her. Be careful what you ask for, sometimes you get it.

At the beginning of this movie Merle acts in a way that makes the audience generally dislike her. While we have yet to like Gil, we know that Merle is a manipulator. Thus, we find it easy to accept what Gil does to Shep and indirectly to Merle. Unfortunately for Gil, the more she is around Shep, the more she grows to like, and then love him. Of course, there is the inevitable heart breaking scene when Shep discovers, and believes, that she is a witch. There are moments near the end of the movie where you want the two to get together, but you wonder whether it can possibly happen. Kim Novak’s Gil is perfectly played in the closing moments, where all of us want to smack Shep and tell him to wake up to the fact that Gil truly loves him and that love has changed her forever.

This movie features an excellent cast of supporting characters. Jack Lemmon is Gil’s brother Nicky Holroyd. Nicky is the kind of warlock who enjoys doing little things, such as turning lights off and on, and tricking people. However, Nicky is humorously harmless. Hermione Gingold is Bianca de Passe, a rival witch to Gil, who has a more traditional approach to witch craft that appears relatively old-fashioned compared to Gil’s modern sophistication. Shep turns to Bianca to help remove the spell Gil has cast on him. Elsa Lanchester is Queenie, a slightly bumbling witch who admires, assists and may be slightly afraid of Gil. Ernie Kovacs is writer Sidney Ridlitch who has been working with Nicky on a book about witches. Gil will never allow the book to be published, so the scenes with Sidney are an exercise in humor and futility.

Then there is Pyewacket the cat, Gil’s familiar. The name comes from an interrogation by witch finder Matthew Hopkins in England during the 17th century. The name seemed to fit witches’ cats, and other such cats have been name Pyewacket since, though Hopkins did not record what kind of animal Pyewacket was to have been.

The words “Bell, Book and Candle” refer to an exorcism. The movie opens with striking the bell, opening the book, and lighting the candle. The movie ends with striking the bell, closing the book, and blowing out the candle, which is supposed to be how to remove a witch’s powers.

This movie was Jimmy Stewart’s last appearance as a romantic lead. His costars were getting younger, with some half his age, and Jimmy felt the pairing was inappropriate. For the final third of his career he played father figures or average Joes.

“Bell, Book and Candle” is a charming romantic comedy that is interesting from several viewpoints. It is an interesting artifact of sophisticated New York, and the highly idealized way New York society appeared to be in the 1950’s. The treatment of witches is somewhat different from other portrayals, where witches are often old hags bent over a cauldron in a smelly cave or broken-down hovel. The hip Zodiac Club had avant-garde music with a strong beatnik flavor. Few movies captured the essence of the beatnik style, with this movie being one of them. Jack Kerouac could easily have been in the audience.

This movie is a winner that showcases Kim Novak’s talents even more than Jimmy Stewart’s. Most of the movie is lightly humorous, but the end of the movie is emotionally powerful as Kim Novak’s emotional performance pushes the light comedy aside. This movie is a wonderful treat from an era when sophistication still meant high style, and we could still be amazed by happy endings even when we expected them.

Rating: 4 / 5

If watching unpredictable films are your cup of tea, Bell, Book and Candle is the one to watch. The teaming of James Stewart and Kim Novak is excellent. The supporting roles from Elsie Manchester and Jack Lemmon bring a touch of comedy to the movie. And the sloppiness of Ernie Kovacs as the snooping author brings dimension to the story.

A scene at the Zodiac Club where Lemmon bangs on the bongos with his combo brought the atmosphere of the counterculture of the late 1950s in Greenwich Village. It was hilarious when the band blared their tune of “Stormy Weather” and speeded it up in front of James Stewart’s character’s fiance. You could feel the tension between Kim Novak and the woman since Novak’s character was a witch, and was falling for Shep(Stewart) she got Nickie(Lemmon) to get the band to annoy Novak’s rival. I thought this scene stood out.

Though some make think the movie is outdated, it is not at all. I loved the wintery street scenes of New York during Christmas time and the swurling colors of purple, pink,and green throughtout the film. The soundtrack was good too.

An excellent romance film, but also a film of relationships of characters from different worlds.
Rating: 5 / 5

This is a delightful film with Jimmy Steward and Kim Novak that tells story of a family of witches in modern day (1950s) America. Kim Novak is the aloof young witch who makes it her task to take Stewart away from his snooty girlfriend who just happens to be an ex-college friend of Novak’s. Casting a spell over Stewart is initially easy but Novak soon falls foul of her own powers when her act of revenge becomes an act of real love for her hapless victim. Unfortunately witches who fall in love, loose their powers, and Novak soon finds she can no longer control her cat familiar Pyewacket who is the source of her powers. This causes her real heartaches as she strives to gain Stewart’s love by mortal means and there are many rib ticklingly funny moments as the young witch learns that human love can be painful as it is wonderful. Jack Lemmon in one of his earlier roles plays her nutty but likable Warlock brother who spends most of his time in a nightclub banging out funky rhythms on his bongo drums and Ernie Kovics is great as an eccentric author drawn into the plot by his interest in the supernatural. This is a gentle fun film that sparkles even forty years on, with its wry wit, superb photography and cracklingly good music score that has your feet tapping long after the film has ended. Well worth watching if you like a romantic, supernatural comedy.
Rating: 5 / 5

A few months after they made ‘Vertigo’ together, Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart made ‘Bell, Book and Candle.’ Two movies could hardly be more dissimilar, but this one shines as brightly as the Hitchcock film, in a very different way.

Kim’s a witch, and Jimmy’s a publisher with whom she falls in love. Complications set in when it becomes obvious that Kim is becoming humanised by the experience, and is beginning to lose her witchly powers. Will she give them up? Of course she will, but not without a fight- and it’s the battle that’s such comic fun to watch.

‘Vertigo’- in a class by itself- aside, this is Novak’s most complete and engaging performance. She’s gorgeous, she’s funny, and she’s a woman you’ll remember for a long time. It probably helped that she’d learned to adore and respect Jimmy Stewart when they worked for Hitchcock; her comfort level with him is highly evident. It probably also helped that she was doing her first Columbia film after the death of her boss and nemesis, Harry Cohn. Kim was calling a lot of shots on this one, and you can see her blossoming. Her touch is perhaps most evident in her spectacular Jean Louis wardrobe; her most beautiful dress is severely high-necked in front, but completely backless. It’s a WOMAN’s idea of sexy, not Harry Cohn’s, whose tastes ran more to the frontless.

Stewart’s impeccable touch with comedy is every bit as awe-inspiring as his dramatic work for Hitchcock. How did one actor get so much talent? He’s backed up with a terrific supporting cast, too. Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchester are two witches, Jack Lemmon is Kim’s warlock brother, and Ernie Kovacs is a tippling writer trying to sell Jimmy an idea. Lemmon is especially good here; this movie was one of the performances that made him a star.

The George Duning score is one of the chief delights of 1950’s film; it’s what we think Kerouac-era beatnik jazz was- and probably wasn’t. Jazz fans will recognise the playing of Pete and Conte Candoli, hired specially for this movie, in the combo playing in the Zodiac nightclub Kim uses for a hangout. For those who appreciate truly esoteric performances, there’s also French singer Philippe Clay performing his famous “Assassine”, with Hermione Gingold providing a hilarious- and accurate- translation. One of the few disappointments around ‘Bell, Book and Candle’ is the fact that its soundtrack is not currently available, despite the enormous popularity of the old LP version-used copies sell for a fortune. Rhino owns the rights, I believe, and they could do a lot worse than to do a CD release (hint, hint).

From its witty opening- full of a king’s ransom worth of African and Oceanic art used to symbolise the cast members in the title sequence- to its end, this one is sheer elegant delight. At the film’s close, Kim gives up her powers in favour of her romance with Stewart, and I’ve heard a few people say that maybe that was a 1950’s cop-out. I see it differently- all her friends want her to be a witch, and Kim chooses what she wants instead of meeting anyone else’s expectations. The power of choice trumps mere black magic, and that, to me, is as it should be.

What you should choose is to see this charming artifact of a time when Hollywood still knew what it was doing. “Bell, Book and Candle” has gorgeous people, places and things, it’s got wit and heart, and it effortlessly merges art both high and low. See it as soon as you can- you’ll be very glad you did.
Rating: 4 / 5

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