Film Flick: Bell, Book, and Candle

Friday, October 18, 2013

There would be more to follow in its footsteps, some, arguably, much better. But Bell, Book and Candle is more than just a way to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church. It is also nineteen fifties rom-com perfect for your Halloween season. How could it not be, when it is a story of witchcraft and love?

A community of witches, warlocks and magic co-exists, unknown to most mortals, right alongside us, even (or perhaps most especially) in New York City.  Gillian, as well as her aunt, brother and a whole host of crazy characters, are just a few of this mostly unseen community in hip Greenwich Village. Since magic (literally) cannot pay the bills, Gillian (Kim Novak) spends her days, tending to her shop of African fetishes, and nights at the magic community's favorite hang-out, The Zodiac Club. It all feels very same-old, same-old to Gillian until one night the trio of family members runs into some unexpected company at their nightly haunt. A despised, former classmate of Gillian's and her fiance, Shep (Jimmy Stewart),  wander in from the cold only to be befuddled by the beatnik and downright witchy atmosphere in the place. Seeing a moment for revenge, Gillian- with the aid of her familiar- casts a love spell to draw Shep's attention. But is it only a spell if both are falling in love? She might not have time to find out, since her brother's helping write a book that could expose them all. Can love and magic really co-exist?! And just what does happen to a witch in love?

Novak's character was sultry, cat-like, and aloof- and sometimes this left me a little cold towards her. No doubt this characterization was a deliberate way to show she is a witch, and that there is something uncanny about her. However, it can at times make it hard to connect with. And a sixties film about a woman not being able to Have It All- well, let's just remember The Feminine Mystique had not yet been written! Opposite Novak was Jimmy Stewart in what was to be his last romantic lead (he had been contracted to do this Colombia film in exchange for Novak being lent out earlier that year for Hitchcock's Vertigo). The twenty-five year age difference shows much more in this film than Vertigo. But then, it is not fair to compare a thriller like that to this lighthearted fare. Ironically, another favorite of Hitchcock's, Cary Grant (who was older, but looked younger), campaigned unsuccessfully for the role. The real acting chops in this film belong to the large host of secondary characters though, who all excel at comedic beats. Jack Lemmon played Gillian's bongo-playing brother Nicky, Ernie Kovacs dons a ridiculous mustache as a writer trying to find witches, and both  Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchaster give great turns as dotty, old witches. 

Overall, Bell, Book and Candle might be nothing to write home about, exactly, but it is also nothing to turn one's nose up at either. It is fun, holiday fare with filled with some mild laughs, lots of smiles and even a few jibes at beatniks. Go ahead and watch- it will make your Halloween a little more witchy and a whole lot more fun!


  1. great!!!
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    just let me know

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  2. Oh, I've never heard of this one!

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    1. It is a fun Halloween treat. Hope you take a look at it.

  3. What a CUTE post:) I like old movies and cats haha and your blog makes me happy.

    Check out my new post..Before-after pics of a cute beach house:)

    Have a fab week dear

    LOVE Maria at inredningsvis - inredning it's, Swedish for decor :)

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