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Wayback Wednesday: Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

I know a lot of hardcore astrology girlies who would kill to get into that zodiac-themed club.

After last week’s review of The Fog (1980) – check it out, here – I told myself that despite how much of a horror kick I’m on right now, I would not cave and review another horror movie. And I didn’t! Okay, Bell, Book and Candle (1958) may be about witches but it is the furthest thing from horror imaginable. This charming romantic-comedy is a lighthearted and fun little romp that is sure to be an unexpected delight for anyone with an admiration for all things witch-like. As a lover of not only all witch-related media but the glamour and style of the 1950s as well, for me Bell, Book and Candle was a glorious amalgamation of two of my favourite aesthetics. Before I had watched the movie I was getting the pictures for the review and my only thought was, “damn, this movie looks fierce. Even if it turns out to not be so great, I am so here for this ‘spooky meets fashion’ aesthetic!”

Credit: / Columbia Pictures

Bell, Book and Candle tells the story of Gillian Holroyd, a modern-day witch who is bored with her everyday life. When she puts a spell on her neighbour, Shepherd Henderson, to make him fall in love with her, the two begin a passionate relationship that soon has Gillian questioning if her feelings for Shep might not be the result of a spell after all. 

Even before watching this movie, I for obvious reasons hoped and assumed that this movie was going to give off Bewitched (1964 – 1972) vibes. Let me tell you, I was not let down AT ALL. The movie wastes no time getting good and witch-y, indulging in all the silliness, secrecy and sorcery that any fan of the classic TV series will recognize and adore. In fact, the movie feels like the spiritual precursor to the series, crafting a winning blend of witchy-y hijinks and rom-com charm. I was so on board from the minute I saw that Gillian had an ADORABLE cat who not only serves as her familiar, but hangs off her shoulder, answers her with meows and wears a cute little bell! That’s a big ol’ yes from me! In every generation there are those special, campy, cult-y, cool, unique movies that have a certain inexplicable, magical (pun not intended) charisma to them. Movies that “get it,” y’know? Most of my favourites are from the 1990s, like Soapdish (1991) – check out my review, here – or Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997). I’m always thrilled when I find those kind of movies from even earlier generations. Like, Auntie Mame (1958) or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Bell, Book and Candle is undoubtedly one of those special movies. 

The funny thing about Bell, Book and Candle is that it unexpectedly takes place at Christmas. Well, to be more exact, it’s like While You Were Sleeping (1995) – check out my review, here – in that the main action takes place on Christmas and the rest of the movie happens within the following days. And I count that as a Christmas movie so I count this as one too!  Yep, I’m going to have to go ahead and add this to my annual Christmas viewing list. In fact, had I known such a large portion of this movie took place during the holiday, I would have saved it for a December review. Hey, at least it’s not as cliché as other Christmas movies and bonus, it’s about witches! Look, all I’m saying is that if you’re going to watch a James Stewart Christmas movie, make it this one and not the severely overrated and quite frankly, dull, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Thankfully though, Stewart is as capable a leading man in Bell, Book and Candle as he is is in the holiday classic. Capable in that he fulfills his purpose of being the straight man for the wonderful witchiness the rest of the cast gets to act on. 

In addition to Stewart, Bell, Book and Candle also stars Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon and Elsa Lanchester (the Bride of Frankenstein herself!) and I am obsessed with this trio of lovably kooky witches. Novak stars as Gillian and I have no trouble at all believing that this woman practices witchcraft. Hello, her voice ALONE is by far the most enchanting thing about this movie. Listening to her speak, who could possibly resist being put under her spell? I was also obsessed with the way her eyebrows are PAINTED on, bitch! About as obsessed as I was with her and Lanchester’s wardrobe. 

Lemmon has such an expressive face and just the sight of it makes me giggle and smile. And him playing a silly witch man? LOVE! Lemmon never misses with me. Some Like It Hot (1959) – check out my review, hereThe Great Race (1965), The Odd Couple (1968)…all very different characters and all extremely entertaining performances. I think he’s one of my all time favourite actors. He’s someone who appears in movies, completely understands the assignment and then becomes your favourite part of the movie. You always want more of him. Whether it’s cocktails or movies, you can always use a little more Lem(m)on. Hehe, cheesy, I know, but I went for it. 

Bell, Book and Candle is one of those movies that I can’t help but fall in love with. It’s a combination of flashy fashions, charming production design and actors dripping with talent and charisma. Sometimes I see an old movie and I’m glad I watched it but I don’t want to see it again. This, I am eagerly looking forward to watching again. Except for that ending…I won’t spoil it for you guys, but just know that NOTHING is worth giving up your cat for! 

Have you seen Bell, Book and Candle?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!


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