Bell, Book and Candle
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|Bell, Book and Candle|
Promotional film poster
|Directed by||Richard Quine|
|Produced by||Julian Blaustein|
|Written by||Daniel Taradash|
|Music by||George Duning|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|December 25, 1958|
|Box office||$2.5 million (estimated US/ Canada rentals)|
Bell, Book and Candle is a 1958 American romantic comedy film directed by Richard Quine, based on the successful Broadway play by John Van Druten, which stars James Stewart and Kim Novak in their second on-screen pairing (after Vertigo, released earlier the same year).
The film, adapted by Daniel Taradash, was Stewart's last film as a romantic lead. Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn agreed to allow Novak to appear in Vertigo as a last-minute replacement for pregnant Vera Miles, so long as Stewart appeared in this film with Novak. The supporting cast includes Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs.
The original 1950 play starred Rex Harrison, his then-wife Lilli Palmer, Jean Adair and Larry Gates. The play is set entirely in the Holroyd residence and is written for a cast of five. The additional characters that appear in the film are only mentioned by name in the play.
During the Christmas holiday season, Greenwich Village witch Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak), a free spirit with a penchant for going barefoot, has been unlucky in love and restless in life. She admires from afar her neighbor, publisher Shep Henderson (James Stewart), who one day walks into her gallery of African art to use the telephone (after Gillian's aunt Elsa Lanchester put a spell on his phone). When she learns he is about to marry an old college enemy of hers, Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule), she takes revenge by casting a love spell on him, and she eventually falls for him herself. She must make a choice, as witches who fall in love lose their supernatural powers. When she decides to love Shep, Gillian's cat and familiar, Pyewacket, becomes agitated and leaves.
Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs), the author of the best-selling book Magic in Mexico, arrives in Shep's office (thanks to a little magic) after Gillian discovers Shep's interest in meeting him. Redlitch is researching a book on witches in New York, and he acquires an "inside" collaborator when Gillian's warlock brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon) volunteers his services in exchange for a portion of the proceeds.
Gillian uses her magic to make Shep lose interest in Nicky and Redlitch's book and then confesses her identity as a witch to Shep. He becomes angry, believing that she enchanted him just to spite Merle, and the two quarrel. Gillian threatens to cast various spells on Merle, such as making her fall in love with the first man that walks into her apartment, but she finds that she has lost her powers because of her love for Shep. Meanwhile, he finds that he literally cannot leave Gillian, because of the spell. To escape, he turns to another witch, Bianca de Passe (Hermione Gingold), who breaks the spell. Shep confronts Gillian and leaves her heartbroken. He then tries unsuccessfully to explain to Merle that Gillian is a witch. Months later, Shep returns and discovers that Gillian has lost her magic powers because of her love for him. When he realizes her love is true, the two reconcile.
- James Stewart as Shepherd "Shep" Henderson
- Kim Novak as Gillian "Gil" Holroyd
- Jack Lemmon as Nicky Holroyd
- Ernie Kovacs as Sidney Redlitch
- Elsa Lanchester as Aunt Queenie Holroyd
- Hermione Gingold as Bianca de Passe
- Janice Rule as Merle Kittridge
- Howard McNear as Andy White, Shep's co-publisher
- Dick Crockett as Ad-lib Bit
- Bek Nelson as Tina, Shep's Secretary
Production and release
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The title "Bell, Book and Candle" is a reference to excommunication, which is performed by bell, book, and candle. It is opened with "Ring the bell, open the book, light the candle," and closed with "Ring the bell, close the book, quench the candle." In the film, this is misidentified as exorcism.
Cary Grant had wanted to play the lead in this film. The following year, however, Grant starred in Hitchcock's North by Northwest, a movie that Stewart had wanted badly to play but Hitchcock cast Grant instead, blaming the critical and commercial failure of Vertigo on Stewart's appearance, believing that Stewart looked too old to draw audiences as a leading man and casting Grant (who was four years older but looked younger) in the part.
When first released in 1958 by Columbia Pictures, Bell, Book and Candle was a moderate success. The soundtrack, featuring Philippe Clay and The Brothers Candoli who appeared in the film in cameo appearances, also found success.
Songs from the film include:
- "Stormy Weather", performed by Jack Lemmon on the bongo drums with the band at the Zodiac Club (the Candoli Brothers—Pete and Conte—on trumpets, and Elek Bacsik on guitar)
- "Deck the Halls", performed by James Stewart by whistling
- "Jingle Bells", played during the opening credits
Fans of the film point to similarities between it and the earlier I Married a Witch (1942) and especially the 1960s television series Bewitched (produced by Columbia's television division). Bewitched creator Sol Saks revealed in his book The Craft of Comedy Writing that he drew on these and other sources such as folktales.
"Bell, Book, and Candle" is also the name of the shop owned and operated by the fictional Cassandra Nightingale in the Hallmark movie series, "The Good Witch".
- "1959: Probable Domestic Take". Variety. January 6, 1960. p. 34.
- Most notably in "Prelude to Bewitched". HarpiesBizarre.com (comprehensive fansite for the show). Retrieved May 20, 2012.
- Sol Saks, The Craft of Comedy Writing. Writer's Digest, 1985.
- "NY Times: Bell, Book and Candle". The New York Times. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
- Bell, Book and Candle at the Internet Movie Database
- Bell, Book and Candle at the TCM Movie Database
- Bell, Book and Candle at AllMovie
- "Overlooked Classic of the Week: Bell, Book and Candle (1958)", movie review by Jeremy Richey
- Original movie soundtrack at Amazon