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Gillian Holroyd is just your average, modern-day, witch, living in a New York apartment with her Siamese familiar, Pyewacket. But one day a handsome publisher, Shep Henderson walks into her building and Gillian decides she wants him--especially as it turns out he's marrying Merle Kittridge, an old poison penpal from Gillian's college days. So, Gillian casts a spell over Shep. But her powers are in danger of being exorcised by something stronger than the bell-book-and-candle routine: Love. Written by
The play opened on Broadway in New York City at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on November 14, 1950 and closed on June 2, 1951 after 233 performances. The opening-night cast consisted of Rex Harrison as Shepherd Henderson, Lilli Palmer as Gillian Holroyd, Jean Adair as Miss Queeny Holroyd, Larry Gates as Sidney Redlitch and Scott McKay as Nicky Holroyd. There were no other characters in the play. See more »
When Queenie throws back the curtain to join Gillian in the back room for the "summoning" scene, you can see the thread that keeps the curtain back so that the camera can follow Quuenie. See more »
Gillian 'Gil' Holroyd:
Oh, Pye, Pye, Pyewacket. What's the matter with me? Why do I feel this way? It's such a rut. The same old thing day after day. Same old people. I know I'm feeling sorry for myself but it's true. Why don't you give me something for Christmas, Pye?
Gillian 'Gil' Holroyd:
What would I like?
Gillian 'Gil' Holroyd:
I'd like to do something different. I'd like to meet something different.
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The play Bell, Book, and Candle was a favorite of mature actresses to do in summer stock and take on the road. One famous story, told by director Harold J. Kennedy, has Ginger Rogers insisting that her then husband, William Marshall, who was not an actor, costar with her. Marshall wore a toupee, and when he walked through a doorway, his toupee caught on a nail and stayed behind, dangling in the doorway as he walked on stage.
The play was adapted successfully into a beautiful color film starring Kim Novak, James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, Hermoine Gingold, Ernie Kovacs, and Janice Rule. It's light entertainment, about a normal-appearing family of witches (Novak, Lemmon, and Lanchester) and the publisher (Stewart) who lives in their building. The most expert of them is the sultry, soft-voiced Gillian, who would love to be normal. One night, with Stewart in her apartment, she puts a spell on him using her Siamese cat, Pyewacket, and he falls in love with her.
"Bell Book and Candle" was filmed on a charming set that replicates New York. The movie is loads of fun. Jack Lemmon is very funny in a supporting role as Gillian's brother, a musician in the witch and warlock-laden Zodiac Club. He uses his powers to turn streetlights on and off and to turn on the occasional woman. Janice Rule is perfect as the snobby ex-college rival of Gillian, now dating Stewart, and Ernie Kovacs has a great turn as an eccentric who is writing the definitive book on witches. Lanchester and Gingold, of course, are always wonderful, Lanchester Gillian's daft aunt and Gingold as a sort of queen of witchcraft.
Kim Novak is a good fit for Gillian, giving the character a detachment befitting a witch, showing emotion when it becomes appropriate, and with that voice, fabulous face, and magnificent wardrobe, she certainly is magical. Stewart, in his last foray as a romantic lead, costars with Novak as he did in Vertigo, and they make an effective team. He supplies the warmth, she supplies the coolness, and somehow, together they spark. In this, of course, he's much more elegant than in "Vertigo." A charming film, good for a Sunday afternoon, good around Christmas (as part of it takes place at Christmastime), and great if you feel like smiling.
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