Monday, April 14, 2014

Bell, Book and Candle: What Wizardry is This?

This post is part of the James Stewart Blogathon hosted by Classic film & TV Cafe. You can view the complete blogathon schedule here.

Bell, Book and Candle (1958)


Okay, I know this film is not that great, but I have to count it as a guilty pleasure. I've seen it more times than many worthy classics and I confess, I am under its spell. Maybe it's the Greenwich Village ambiance (I would have loved to go to the Zodiac Club), maybe it's the witchy theme (I was a fan of Bewitched, too) or maybe it is the comfy and familiar supporting cast. I vote "yes" for all of the above, but mostly it is the great tinsel town chemistry of James Stewart and Kim Novak.
Jimmy mainly looks shocked throughout the film
We know they sizzled in "Vertigo," but I like them better together here. It is light, and  fun and nobody falls off of a bell tower. While Stewart carried the Hitchcock film, Novak is the center of attraction here. While she may not have been the best or most versatile actress, she was bewitching and just perfect as the restless, other-worldly Gillian Holroyd. With her bare feet and lavender hair, she needed no special powers to attract a man. But, she worries that she can't keep one without those powers. Enter "Shep" Henderson, the man upstairs.

Gillian and Pyewacket
Stewart is clearly too old for the part (this was his last role as a romantic leading man), but in Hollywood in the 1950s almost all of the leading men were too old for the leading ladies. That being said, he and Novak have such an easy chemistry. She melts nicely in his arms and they exchange a few hot kisses. Stewart is a bit of a pill here, but he often played the irksome guy you wanted to smack. He ignored Grace Kelly in "Rear Window," dumped the superior Barbara Bel Geddes in "Vertigo" and was a general pain in the ass (albeit a cute one) in "The Philadelphia Story." Shep should have been falling all over Gillian, as he did when under her spell, but eventually love clobbers him over the head (after Gillian has given up her witchy ways and resorted to selling sea shells instead of African art). If I were Gillian, I would never have surrendered my powers (but I digress).

The supporting cast is aces. Although Jack Lemmon was not happy about being cast in the supporting role as Kim's mischievous brother, Nicky, it's always good to have him around. Elsa Lanchester makes for a charming eccentric aunt Queenie and Ernie Kovacs and Hermione Gingold are around for the fun.

A super swell supporting cast
And fun it is. No need to over analyze here. It is a delightful Hollywood product of the 1950s with star power to spare. And, just for the record, Jimbo was a swell kisser!
Jim and Kim mush noses

23 comments:

Inge Gregusch said...

Love this film. Great choice for a post! Great post! Kim was never more chic--gowns by Jean Louis. What's not to love?

Caftan Woman said...

I too am a repeat viewer although I'd never bring up the title as a favourite. If I hear the opening theme from George Duning then I am hooked. It's like a magic spell!

Both the play and film lag in spots, so you really need that appealing cast to pull it off, and the movie certainly has that. Poor Janice Rule!

toto2 said...

"Bell, Book and Candle" is a tour de force for Kim Novak. Her costumes and makeup are breathtaking and she mesmerizes in every scene. James Stewart and the audience are putty in her hands. Excellent choice for the blogathon!

vienna said...

Nice review. I've always liked this movie.Cant really compare it with Vertigo, completely different.
Great cast.

Rick29 said...

Surprisingly, it took a few years for this film to grow on me. But I finally came around and I think that's because I became a Kim Novak fan and learned to appreciate her on-screen vulnerability. It seems like James Stewart's character should be younger, but there is no denying the chemistry between the two leads. Like you, I can see why Stewart decided it was time to stop playing romantic leads. By the way, I adore George Duning's magical soundtrack.

Kevin Deany said...

I echo what everyone said about the George Duning score. Just sublime. It may not be a great film in Stewart or Novak's filmography, but it sure is one of their most pleasant. A great addition to the blogathon.

DorianTB said...

Marsha, BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE were charming and likable and endearing, for my money, with that delightful cast, including Team B fave Elsa Lanchester like in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. Ernie Kovacs, and young Jack Lemmon. Maybe it's not an all-time classic, but I enjoyed it, especially seeing Stewart and Novak in a more lighthearted story. I think he ditched the romantic lead roles just in time; Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn worked better that way in CHARADE anyway. Anyway, I very much enjoyed your post for the James Stewart Blogathon, Marsha, as always! :-D

girlsdofilm said...

I'm so happy to see this charming film getting so much love. I'd always felt like I loved it a little to much - but clearly it's an affliction many suffer from! I do have a problem with the age gap (and agree that it probably worked better with Grant/Hepburn) but both leads are so good that you can forgive it. You'd have thought Hollywood would've grown out of that affliction, but it still seems to happen now!

portraitsbyjenni said...

Great film and fun. Havent' seen it in years and one I want to revisit. Thanks for a great write up about it!

The Lady Eve said...

Well, I love this movie, too, and I would love to find myself in the glamorous/kooky world it depicts - and wearing the dreamy wardrobe Jean Louis designed for Kim Novak!

I had the pleasure of seeing BB&C at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre last weekend where it was screened (to a packed house) as part of the TCM film festival. It's even more fabulous on the big screen.

Great choice, Chick, and thanks for another smart and entertaining review!!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Ibge - Kim is just delicious in this film. Maybe not her best or most serious film, but it was a part she was made for.

FlickChick said...

CW - poor Janice Rule is right! Jimmy is a real tool to her (even if she was a b----).

FlickChick said...

toto2 - yes, I, too am putty in her hands.

FlickChick said...

Vienna - oh, no comparison at all with Vertigo - except that the leads had great chemistry.

FlickChick said...

Rick - yes, the score was a great compliment to the beatnik/witchy theme. And Kim does grow on you - she was the real deal.

FlickChick said...

Kevin - just another guilty pleasure I freely own up to!

FlickChick said...

Hi Dorian - I agree Cary & Audrey were sublime in the May/November category, but Kim was a witch for the ages!

FlickChick said...

girlsdofilm - I so agree. I was just watching Sunset Boulevard today and much is made (negatively) of the age gap between Swanson & Holden. As we know, if it was the other way around, not a peep.

FlickChick said...

Jenni - thanks for stopping by. I know in my heart it's not great, but I can't stop watching!!!!

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - oh, how wonderful to see it on the big screen. I saw the interview with Kim Novak and I love this lady more and more. Bravo to her for calling out her bullies. She still can cast a spell.

said...

There are times when I wish I had studied LESS and watched more movies in high school, when local TCM showed these gems. I grew fonder of Jack Lemmon recently, and it'd be great to see him here. As for Kim and Jimmy, there is no way to do wrong!
By the way, I'm a fan of Bewitched, too.
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
Kisses!
http://www.criticaretro.blogspot.com.br/2014/04/ouro-do-ceu-pot-ogold-1941.html

Ginny said...

It's nice to have some go-to guilty pleasure movies when you're in the mood for one, especially if they involve cool locations or visuals. I have a few myself. Although I prefer Stewart and Novak in Vertigo, one of my favorite movies, I agree that this one is a lot of fun!

Christian Esquevin said...

I really like this film too Flick Chick. Kim Novak was perfect for the part - very bewitching tho Stewart was too old as you point out. I liked Ernie Kovacs too, a really funny guy who died too young.