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Bell, Book and Candle

Richard Quine's direction gets everything possible out of the screenplay and the cast. But with Kim Novak the central figure, the picture lacks the spontaneity and sparkle written in by playwright John Van Druten.

Richard Quine’s direction gets everything possible out of the screenplay and the cast. But with Kim Novak the central figure, the picture lacks the spontaneity and sparkle written in by playwright John Van Druten.

The offbeat story is concerned with witches and warlocks (male gender of the broomstick set) operating against today’s world of skepticism and realism. James Stewart is the straight man thrust by chance into a group of people, headed by Novak, where incantations, spells and sorcery are accepted as realities as commonplace as processed foods. Novak literally weaves a spell on Stewart to make him fall in love with her.

There are some wonderfully weird proceedings here, including Elsa Lanchester and Hermione Gingold as rival witches, and Jack Lemmon as a clean-cut, bongo-beating warlock.

The hazard of the story is that there is really only one joke. This was sustained in the play by Van Druten’s witty dialog. It is undercut in the picture by the fact that the backgrounds are too often as weird as the situations.

1958: Nominations: Best Costume Design, Art Direction

Bell, Book and Candle

  • Production: Phoenix/Columbia. Director Richard Quine; Producer Julian Blaustein; Screenplay Daniel Taradash; Camera James Wong Howe; Editor Charles Nelson; Music George Duning; Art Director Cary Odell
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1958. Running time: 106 MIN.
  • With: James Stewart Kim Novak Jack Lemmon Ernie Kovacs Hermione Gingold Elsa Lanchester
  • Music By: