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Bell Book and Candle (1958) Poster

Trivia

This was James Stewart's final appearance as a romantic lead. This was because many of the leading ladies that were playing his romantic interest were becoming younger and a few were half his age. The critics in 1958 felt that Stewart was miscast as a suave New York businessman, and he apparently agreed. After this film he would concentrate more on roles that portrayed him as an everyman or as a father figure.
Cary Grant actively sought the lead role.
James Stewart celebrated his fiftieth birthday during filming.
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."
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 Manningtree, 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:
  • Holt


  • Jarmara


  • Vinegar Tom


  • Sacke and Sugar


  • Newes


  • Ilemauzer


  • Pyewacket


  • Pecke in the Crowne


  • Griezzel Greedigutt


  • 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 mortal could invent." The incident is described in Hopkins's pamphlet "The Discovery of Witches" (1647).


The exterior street where Kim Novak had her shop, and Jimmy Stewart had his apartment, was filmed on the western end of Brownstone Street on the New York set of MGM's lot #2. This street set was used often in films and television. It appears in numerous Twilight Zone stories of the period. The Zodiac Club exterior was just around the corner of Brownstones eastern end where a three-way alley split the block.
James Stewart felt that he was miscast as Shepherd Henderson.
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.
David O. Selznick originally acquired the screen rights to the play and intended to cast Jennifer Jones, Selznick's wife, in the lead. When Selznick's rights to the play expired, the property then went to Columbia where Rex Harrison and Susan Hayward were slated to star in the leads.
Pyewacket was really Kim Novack's pet cat with the same name.
Writer Daniel Taradash says that Cary Grant and Grace Kelly were originally set to star, and Ealing stalwart Alexander Mackendrick would have directed.
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Australians were still mainly tea drinkers in 1958 and they would have been amused to see Kim Novak put about 7 spoonfuls of tea in the VERY small pot she brewed for James Stewart. The tradition is "one for each person and one for the pot". In this case 3 spoons. That tea would have undrinkable.
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Virtually all reviews use the original title of the play, "Bell, Book and Candle," instead of the title of the movie, which omits the comma.
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Opening credits: The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely accidental and unintentional.
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