The same year that James Stewart and Kim Novak starred together in Hitchcock’s classic ‘Vertigo’, they also starred in this romantic comedy. Kim Novak is Gillian Holroyd, a beautiful young woman who hates her publisher neighbour Shepherd Henderson’s (James Stewart) fiancee, so casts a spell to split them up. But then Shepherd falls for Gillian, unaware that she is a witch. Jack Lemmon also stars, as Gillian’s adorable warlock brother Nicky.
Although the storyline might be considered a bit corny, the stellar cast of Novak, Stewart and Lemmon, who are ably supported by Ernie Kovacs, as an author of books about witches, who is a bit too fond of bourbon (or whisky, or whatever else is on offer) and Elsa Lanchester as Gillian’s aunt Queenie, who is also a witch, raise the standard of this film. Let’s be clear – the witches are above all endearing and definitely not frightening (nor are they intended to be!) Lemmon is just adorable – but when isn’t he? – as Nicky, and Novak is, if you’ll excuse the expression, completely bewitching. It’s hard not to imagine Shepherd falling for her with or without the use of witchcraft to move things along.
James Stewart pretty much stopped playing the romantic lead type role after this film, feeling that he was too old for it. He was indeed 25 years older than Novak, but somehow I hardly seemed to notice – they had great chemistry together. The story was amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny (the funniest parts were courtesy of Lemmon and Lanchester), and very sweet. Special mention for Gillian’s familiar, the lovely cat Pyewacket (Novak ended up adopting the cat after filming was completed). The ending is fairly predictable, but there are a few surprises in store along the way.
All in all, I would say that this is not the best film in the back catalogue of any of these actors, but it is an enjoyable and heartwarming story, and a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.
Year of release: 1958
Director: Richard Quine
Producer: Julian Blaustein
Writers: John Van Druten (play ‘Bell, Book and Candle), Daniel Taradash
Main cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, Ernie Kovacs, Janice Rule