In 1672, two witches (Jennifer and her father Daniel) were burned by puritan Jonathan Wooley. In revenge, Jennifer cursed all future generations of the Wooley family, that the sons will always marry the wrong woman and be miserable. In the 20th century, a bolt of lightning frees Jennifer and her father from the tree that had kept their souls imprisoned. Jennifer assumes corporeal form and decides to make up-and-coming politician Wallace Wooley, then unhappily engaged, even more miserable by getting him to fall in love with her before his wedding. Wallace is a straight arrow, though, and Jennifer has to resort to a love potion. As we all know, love potions tend to backfire, with comedic results. Written by
Veronica Lake and Fredric March did not like one another, due in part to some disparaging remarks March made about her. During filming, Lake delighted in playing pranks on March. In one scene in which the two were photographed only from the waist up, Lake stuck her foot in March's groin. In another incident, Lake hid a 40-pound weight under her costume when March had to carry her in his arms. After that incident, March nicknamed the film "I Married a Bitch." See more »
The film opens with a scene of Puritans in the Massachusetts colony burning witches. No-one was ever burned for witchcraft in America. The accused witches of Salem, Massachusetts, and its environs were hanged, with the exception of Giles Corey, who was pressed to death with rocks. Burning was the European method of executing witches, and pop culture has long confused the two historical spheres. See more »
We go so far back into the Middle Ages that at one time we used to burn witches!
The Salem Witch Trials have long had a hold on the American imagination, possibly because they offer a potential riposte to the oft-heard European jibe that America is a new country with no history to speak of. ("Whaddya mean, Bud, no history? Listen, Bud, we Americans go so far back into the Middle Ages that at one time we used to burn witches!") The trials have given rise to a number of serious works of literature, such as Hawthorne's "The House of the Seven Gables" and Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", but they have also inspired some lighter offerings, such as television series like "Bewitched", "Charmed" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" (which featured a cat named Salem).
"I Married a Witch" is an earlier example of using the witch trials as a source of comedy. In seventeenth century Salem a warlock named Daniel and his beautiful daughter Jennifer are denounced for witchcraft by a Puritan minister, Jonathan Wooley, and burned at the stake. In revenge, Jennifer places a curse Wooley and all his male descendants, who are doomed to make miserably unhappy marriages.
Years pass, and generation after generation the Wooley men marry women who make them miserable. Finally, in 1942, a bolt of lightning splits the tree beneath which Jennifer and Daniel have been buried, thus freeing their spirits. They discover that history is about to repeat itself again. Wallace Wooley, the latest scion of the clan and a politician running for the governorship of Massachusetts, is about to marry the domineering and bitchy Estelle Masterson. Things take a strange turn, however, when Jennifer falls in love with Wallace, much to the disgust of her father, who wants to use his unexpected freedom as an opportunity to wreak further vengeance on the Wooley family. (The film, with its theme of a witch falling in love with a mortal, was the inspiration for "Bewitched").
This was one of Veronica Lake's early star vehicles. Although only 19, she had shown earlier the same year in "This Gun for Hire" that she was a gifted actress in film noir, and in "I Married a Witch" she showed that she could also turn her hand to comedy, making Jennifer a delightfully playful and sexy heroine. Another noted Hollywood beauty, Susan Hayward, plays Estelle. It is notable that although Hayward was five years older than Lake, and a more experienced actress, she was cast in an unsympathetic supporting role while it was the younger girl who took the lead. In the long run, however, it was to be Hayward who proved the more durable; Lake's career was all but over by the end of the forties, whereas Hayward was to remain a leading lady throughout the fifties and into the sixties.
There is another good performance from Cecil Kellaway as the drunken old reprobate Daniel, but the weak link is Fredric March who makes Wallace too much of a stuffed shirt for the hero of a romantic comedy film. I was disappointed in his contribution to this film, as I had previously always admired his work; possibly comedy was not his forte. March had previously called Lake "a brainless little blonde sexpot, void of any acting ability", so it is hardly surprising that they did not get on with one another and that there is little chemistry between their characters. (The relationship between the two leads in this film reminded me of that between Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in "The Prince and the Showgirl", another film where a middle-aged heavyweight actor dismissed his younger female co-star as a lightweight, only for her to prove herself more gifted at light comedy than him).
The film might have worked better with a younger leading man closer in age to Lake, although that might have entailed some rewriting of the script. (A twenty-something state governor is hardly plausible). The original choice for Wallace was Joel McCrea, but he turned the role down, having also fallen out with Lake on the set of "Sullivan's Travels". (Lake's fiery temper and her gift for making enemies were among the reasons why her career was to be a short one).
Overall, "I Married a Witch" is one of those forties comedies which still remains watchable today, largely because of an often humorous script and a vivacious leading lady. I felt, however, that it could have been better with a different leading man. 7/10
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