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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
Gillian's cat is named Pyewacket. This name has become a popular one for cats because of this movie, but few know its origin: Pyewacket was one of the familiar spirits of a witch detected by the "witchfinder general" Matthew Hopkins in March 1644 in the town of Maningtree, Essex, UK. He claimed he spied on the witches as they held their meeting close by his house, and heard them mention the name of a local woman. She was arrested and deprived of sleep for four nights, at the end of which she confessed and named her familiars, describing their forms. They were:
Sacke and Sugar
Pecke in the Crowne
Hopkins says he and nine other witnesses saw the first five of these, which appeared in the forms described by the witch. Only the first of these was a cat; the next two were dogs, and the others were a black rabbit and a polecat. So it's not clear whether Pyewacket was a cat's name or not. As for the meanings, Hopkins says only that they were such that "no mortall could invent." The incident is described in Hopkins's pamphlet "The Discovery of Witches" (1647).
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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I researched this film a little and discovered a web site that claims it was actually an inside joke about the Post WWII Greenwich Village world of gays and lesbians. With the exception of Stewart and Novak, the warlocks and witches represented that alternative lifestyle. John Van Druten who wrote the stage play was apparently gay and very familiar with this Greenwich Village. I thought this was ironic because I first saw Bell, Book and Candle in the theater when I was in 5th or 6th grade just because my parents took me. It was hard to get me to a movie that didn't include horses, machine guns, or alien monsters and I planned on being bored. But, I remember the moment when Jimmy Stewart embraced Kim Novak on the top of the Flatiron building and flung his hat away while the camera followed it fluttering to the ground. As the glorious George Duning love theme soared, I suddenly got a sense of what it felt like to fall in love. The first stirrings of romantic/sexual love left me dazed as I left the theater. I am sure I'm not the only pre-adolescent boy who was seduced by Kim Novak's startling, direct gaze. It's ironic that a gay parable was able to jump-start heterosexual puberty in so many of us. I am in my late 50's now and re-watched the film yesterday evening and those same feelings stirred as I watched that hat touch down fifty years later . . .
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