About Christmas TV History

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

Directed by Richard Quine, this theatrical release film was released in 1958.
Continuing my countdown to Halloween, I'm focusing on Halloween-appropriate Christmas cross-over entertainments.  1958's Bell, Book and Candle is one such cross-over as this light-hearted romance involves a witch who begins to fall in love on Christmas Eve.

As a witch, Gillian may not be able to fall in love.  But she can get someone to fall in love with her!

A blonde, sexy witch named Gillian Holroyd, played by the very sensuous Kim Novak, is bored with her life as a Primitive Art gallery owner and witch.  Though she knows witches can't fall in love (they can't cry or blush like humans either), she decides to find someone new to fall in love with her.  Enter: Shep Henderson, played by Jimmy Stewart, a book publisher and a new tenant in an upstairs apartment above the gallery.

Gillian and her siamese cat familiar named Pyewacket charm Shep with a love spell.

Shep can't help himself.  "I feel spellbound," he says.

On Christmas Eve, Gillian has Shep meet her at a local nightclub where she drives a wedge between Shep and his fiancé.  Later that night, the enchanting Gillian casts a spell on Shep to make him fall in love with her and it works!  The two spend most of their time together in the following weeks with Shep growing serious about the relationship eventually proposing marriage.  Gillian accepts his proposal, knowing that it means she'll have to give up her magic. 

What a fascinating family! Gillian's brother Nicky (played by Jack Lemmon) is the bongo player in a jazz quartet.

Meanwhile, Gillian's warlock brother Nicky is co-writing a book, with popular author Sydney Redlitch, about magic and the witchcraft community in New York City, published by her own lover Shep.  Gillian is worried that Shep may discover her true identity as a witch and her relationship would be over.  But when the book is complete, Shep rejects the manuscript arguing that its subject matter is idiotic and unbelievable.

Redlitch, played by funnyman Ernie Kovacs, thinks he's an expert on magic.

Though Gillian's secret identity is eventually revealed to Shep, she's hurt that he doesn't believe in magic--and insists he explain their falling in love.  When Gillian's Aunt Queenie, played by Elsa Lanchester lets it slip that Gillian cast a love spell upon Shep, he seeks out the wisdom and experience of another witch, Mrs. dePasse, who makes him drink a potion that counteracts the initial hex.

Instructed to drink the entire potion, Shep chokes down the concoction that will cancel the love spell.

Witches can't cry!

When Pyewacket turns up in Shep's office in a downtown skyscraper, he decides to return the cat to its owner.

Now free of Gillian's spell, Shep prepares to move on with his life--and away from Gillian who manipulated him.  Meanwhile, Gillian has never been more unhappy and discovers herself crying!  Now that she knows she's no longer a witch, she seeks out Shep to convince him to love her as a human.

Aunt Queenie, Nicky and Gillian opening gifts on Christmas.

Don't you just love classic Hollywood romances?  This magical tale begins on Christmas Eve and the song "Jingle Bells" is heard under the opening credits and title sequence.  Gillian has an elaborate stylized metallic Christmas tree decoration in her gallery space, the streets are covered in snow and wreaths hang in most doorways.  Shep and Gillian spend all night Christmas Eve together falling in love and the Holroyd family can be seen in one scene opening their Christmas gifts together.  However, I've never considered this a Christmas movie.  (If instead this story had culminated and ended at Christmas time, that would be different.)  Despite the opening setting being Christmas, the holiday is not essential to the story and doesn't play much of an important role in the story.  It's still a charming movie (pardon the pun), and its romance is elevated with the magic of the holiday.

Gillian and her pet familiar Pyewacket stand next to the golden stylized Christmas tree in her gallery space.

Yet this witch's love story is enjoyable year round--including Halloween.  Some media critics have cited this 1958 film (and the successful Broadway play it was adapted from) as the inspiration for the TV series Bewitched.  Certainly the bombshell blonde, sexy witch that falls in love with a human carries over into the hit 1960s TV show that starred Elizabeth Montgomery as the witch Samantha Stephens.  However, the TV series focuses on the married life after Sam and Darrin have fallen in love. 

Gillian wears VERY sexy dresses and this reversible leopard cape throughout the movie--va va va vooom!

Do you like classic Hollywood romance films?  What's your favorite?


  1. I have always wanted to see this movie I just might have to dig this up sooner then later.

  2. Love this movie! Can watch it whenever I stumble across it. Just... Well, magical!

  3. I'm surprised this isn't more known as a Christmas film, or have I just missed it every year!?

  4. This is a really fun movie! Thanks for sharing about it!