Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tonight's Movie: I Married a Witch (1942)

270 years ago, the family of Wallace Wooley (Fredric March) was cursed to be unlucky in love, for reasons too long to explain here (grin). It appears the curse is going to come true for Wally, a gubernatorial candidate who is about to marry the shrewish daughter (Susan Hayward) of the newspaper man who is promoting his candidacy. And then a strange girl named Jennifer (Veronica Lake) bursts into Wally's life -- almost literally. Jennifer, it turns out, is the witch who cursed Wally's family.

The first half hour of the film was a little on the dark side, and I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. However, after Jennifer's attitude toward Wally changes and the film moves into lighter BEWITCHED-style territory, I liked it very much.

There is a riotous wedding sequence with a great sight gag as March and his best man (Robert Benchley, in a nicely restrained performance) repeatedly descend stairs to March and Hayward's wedding ceremony. Hayward also has an amusing comic moment when her father commands her to "Smile!" From there we move into some lovely, fantastical romantic comedy. Lake's Jennifer, who initially seemed mean and annoying, gradually becomes quite enchanting, and March is a wonderful leading man who is surprisingly unrattled to realize that he has lived up to the film's title.

The supporting cast includes Cecil Kellaway as Jennifer's up-to-no-good warlock father and Elizabeth Patterson as the Wooley family housekeeper.

I've been racking my brain over the name Charles Bates, a child actor who appears in the movie's delightful final scene. There's a niggling memory which hasn't yet quite come to the surface, but I seem to remember some vague connection with that name...he might have been the uncle of a childhood neighbor. If I figure it out, I'll update the post.

I MARRIED A WITCH was filmed in black and white and runs 76 minutes. It was stylishly directed by France's Rene Clair. The script is based on a story by Thorne Smith, author of TOPPER. The movie was photographed by Ted Tetzlaff, whose last cinematographer credit was Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS (1946) -- remember that amazing camera shot at the party, which gradually zeroes in on the key in Ingrid Bergman's hand? After that film, he worked as a director.

Of special note are the beautiful gowns worn by Lake and Hayward, which were designed by the great Edith Head.

I MARRIED A WITCH has been released on VHS. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

I MARRIED A WITCH rewards the patient viewer with a very enjoyable romantic comedy which builds to a satisfying conclusion.

July 2013 Update: Great news: I MARRIED A WITCH is coming to DVD at long last! It will be released October 8, 2013, by the Criterion Collection.


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I love this movie! It is one off of my list of "It's Criminal That These Movies Aren't Out on DVD." Every so often a movie will move off this list (like Jazz Singer will soon), but it's a head scratcher as to why this is not. It would seem to be a naturally light hearted film to release in October.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, it's a perfect Halloween movie. :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!

Best wishes,

12:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I first saw this movie when in high school, and years later I tracked it down on VHS so I could own it. How much fun it is to find you've just seen it! You've made me want to watch it right now but our VCR is on the fritz and hasn't been fixed yet. More incentive to get Roger to work on it soon.


11:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I love hearing that story, Michele! Now that I've seen it all the way through and know how it turns out, I want to watch it through again -- I think I'll like it even better the second time. The girls were busy the other night and I think they'll like it too since they like fantasy, so I may watch it with them. The last couple scenes were by turns poetic and sweetly funny. Hope you can watch it soon!!

Will write soon! TTYS,

11:53 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

PS As I've been mulling it over, I'm almost positive that Charles Bates was the uncle of a girl who lived next door to me in elementary school. Never met him, just heard of him. :)


11:58 AM  

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