Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas with Pyewacket

One last holiday movie review!

Tonight for the first time I watched the 1958 Bell Book and Candle, starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, and Elsa Lanchester.  It qualifies as a holiday movie because it starts on Christmas Eve and continues over the next few weeks.  Other than that, as Stewart's character says about the club the characters gather in, "It seems more like Halloween than Christmas."

Novak's character, Gillian Holroyd, and her family are practicing witches living in New York City.  When Shep Henderson (Stewart) moves into their building and Gillian realizes his fiancee is a woman she detested in college, she casts a spell to take him away from her.  I can't say too much about the rest of the plot without spoiling the story, but the storyline is not the only reason to see this film.  The sets are terrific, particularly the art gallery Gillian runs and the beat club where the witches and warlocks hang out (the film was nominated for a Best Art Direction - Set Decoration Oscar), and the dialogue is loaded with witty zingers.  The cast is full of famous and talented actors having a good time with the material, and cat lovers will also enjoy Pyewacket, Gillian's Siamese familiar, who plays a vital role in bringing the two main characters together - twice.

I'm glad that TCM decided to dust off this classic.  It's not full of deep inner meaning, but it is a lot of fun.  Even though it's not a traditional holiday film, I think I may make it part of my holiday traditions from now on.

"Merle Kittridge: Are you trying to say you're... *jilting* me?
Shepherd 'Shep' Henderson: W-well, that's a very heavy word, Merle. It's a very heavy word. Let's just say that we're... uncoupling."

~Bell Book and Candle 

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