The old Hollywood is undeniably dead. The stars of today have become classless, cheap imitations. Bad movies are pumped out more often than good ones. It has just come to the point where the very soul of it all has just vanished. So why not return to a bygone era where the stars were glimmering gods and goddesses? Why not bask in the glory of the movies that didn't rely on vampire/human sex to drive sales? Yes, that was a direct jab at Breaking Dawn. While we're on that subject, I'll bring up the first movie in the Revatilizing The Classics series... Bell, Book And Candle.
|Novak casting her spell|
Bell Book And Candle is an unconventional love story set around an unsuspecting human named Shepard 'Shep' Henderson (James Stewart) and a crafty, seductive modern witch named Gillian 'Gil' Holryod (Kim Novak). This pairing may seem familiar to some who have seen Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo. If it doesn't seem familiar, don't worry. I'll cover Vertigo somewhere down the line.
The story is set into motion on Christmas Eve when Shepard's phone is bewitched by Gillian's Aunt Queenie Holryod (Elsa Lanchester). This causes Shepard to retreat to Gillean's apartment downstairs (also a functioning Voodoo shop) to report that his phone is malfunctioning. It is a chance meeting at first, but it quickly turns into a game of cat-catches-mouse (not cat-and-mouse) when Gillean discovers that Shepard's current fiancé is her old roommate that caused her trouble during college. In order to get back at her old roommate, Gillean plans to take Shepard away from her. Thus, a spiteful love spell is set into motion. What ensues is a lightweight romantic comedy as Gillean tries to hide her true identity, her true intentions behind the love spell, and her true feelings from herself and her warlock brother Ricky Holryod (Jack Lemmon).
Bell, Book And Candle didn't really break any new ground, but it is certainly a movie that shouldn't be missed. The story is fun, Novak sets the screen on fire, and this was ultimatly the last romantic lead role for James Stewart. He himself admitted that he had been miscast as lovesick Shepard (due to his age), and I regretably agree with him. However, that does not mean that his performance was marred. It was still as good as ever.
Shepherd 'Shep' Henderson: That girl you know, Gillian Holroyd, she's one.
Merle Kittridge: A witch?
Shepherd 'Shep' Henderson: Yes!
Merle Kittridge: Shep, you just never learned to spell.
I give Bell, Book And Candle 3.0 Osborne's* out of 5.
*Robert Osborne is the Turner Classic Movies primary host.
Photos courtesy of Harvard Film Archive and Google