Bell, Book and Candle


1h 46m 1959
Bell, Book and Candle

Brief Synopsis

A beautiful witch puts a love spell on an unknowing publisher.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Fantasy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 25 Dec 1958
Production Company
Phoenix Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Bell, Book and Candle by John Van Druten as produced in New York by Irene Mayer Selznick (New York, 14 Nov 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

On Christmas Eve in New York City, Gillian Holroyd, the owner of a gallery specializing in native primitive art, laments that her life is devoid of romance. Gil's interest is piqued by her new upstairs neighbor, publisher Sheperd Henderson. When Shep returns home from work that evening, he finds a garrulous woman snooping around his apartment who introduces herself as Queenie Holroyd, his neighbor. After Shep brusquely ushers Queenie, who unknown to him is a witch, out of his apartment, she glares at his phone and casts a spell on it. Upon discovering that his phone is out of order, Shep goes downstairs and asks to use Gil's phone. As he dials a number, Queenie, who is Gil's aunt, walks into the gallery and urges her to steal Shep away from his fiancée. Gil, who is also a witch, realizes that Queenie has rendered Gil's phone inoperable and chastises her for inappropriately using her magical powers. Before Shep leaves to meet his fiancée, Queenie mentions that she and Gil are going to the Zodiac Club that night. Later at the club, as Gil's bongo-playing, warlock brother Nicky beats his drums, Gil tells Queenie that she longs to forswear her witchery and become "ordinary." Soon after, Shep enters with his snobbish fiancée, Merle Kittridge. When Gil recognizes the condescending Merle as the woman with whom she went to college and who reported her to the dean for not wearing shoes, she decides to exact revenge on her. Recalling that Merle is terrified of thunder, Gil simulates a thunderstorm by using her powers to direct Nicky and the other musicians to blare their instruments into Merle's ear, sending her screaming from the club. At Gil's gallery later that night, the Holroyds exchange Christmas gifts and Nicky gives Gil a magic potion to summon whomever she desires. Recalling that Shep expressed interest in best-selling author Sidney Redlitch, Gil uses the potion to bring Redlitch to New York. When Shep returns home from his date with Merle, he sees flames dancing from a bowl in which Gil has activated the potion. Alarmed by the fire, Shep raps on Gil's door. Aware of Gil's feelings for Shep, Nicky and Queenie immediately excuse themselves, after which Gil offers him a drink. As Shep prattles on about marrying Merle the next day, Gil picks up her magic cat Pyewacket, through whom she channels her spells, and casts a spell on Shep. After a magical night, Shep finds himself in love with Gil and declares that he feels "spellbound." That morning, Shep informs an indignant Merle that he wants to "uncouple." When Shep goes to his office, he finds Redlitch sitting in the waiting room, wondering why he has experienced an inexplicable urge to travel to New York and discuss his new book with Shep. After Redlitch, an authority on magic, proposes writing an exposé about witches in New York, Shep is skeptical. Redlitch then brags that he can recognize a witch by the fact that they are unable to blush or cry. When Redlitch mentions that witches hang out at the Zodiac Club, a shocked Shep invites Redlitch to have a drink with him and Gil at the Zodiac that night. There, after Redlitch outlines his new book idea to Gil, Gil tells Nicky to derail the project. Instead, as Nicky walks home with Redlitch, he offers to collaborate on the book for fifty percent of the profits. When Nicky states that, as a warlock, he is in a unique position to help Redlitch, the author is skeptical until Nicky casts a spell that makes the street light flash on and off. In the following days, as Shep and Gil pursue romance, Nicky discloses the secrets of his trade to Redlitch. When Shep proposes to Gil one night, she demurs because, according to the precepts of witchcraft, falling in love will bring an end to her magical powers. Gil soon reconsiders, however, and accepts Shep's proposal. After Gil informs Nicky that she plans to renounce witchcraft and marry Shep, he is incredulous. Fearful that Shep will discover she was a witch, Gil then asks Nicky to stop helping Redlitch, and when he refuses, warns him that she is going to conjure up one last spell to sabotage the book. True to her word, Gil hexes Redlitch's manuscript, causing Shep to throw it in the garbage as worthless. Feeling guilty about using her powers to ensnare Shep, Gil confesses to him that she is a witch and Nicky a warlock, but he thinks she is joking. As Shep is ruminating over the possibility of Gil being a witch, he runs into Queenie, who confirms that Gil put a spell on him to spite Merle. Shep then confronts Gil, demanding to know if she ever loved him. After storming out of the gallery, Shep goes to the Zodiac to talk to Nicky and Redlitch. They drive him to the home of Mrs. Bianca De Pass, a prominent sorceress, who mixes a potion to break Gil's spell. After reluctantly downing the potion, Shep returns to his apartment to pack up his belongings. Stopping at the gallery, Shep hands Gil a broom and says goodbye. When Gil spitefully threatens to put a spell on Merle, Shep hurries to her apartment to warn her, but she thinks he has lost his mind. As Gil prepares to cast her spell, she discovers that Pyewacket is missing. When Queenie returns Pyewacket to Gil, the feline runs away from her, and as Gil begins to cry, she realizes that she has lost her powers by falling in love. As the months pass, Gil becomes more and more despondent. Concerned about her niece's welfare, Queenie decides to reconcile Gil and Shep. One day, Pyewacket unexpectedly jumps through Shep's office window. When Shep brings the cat back to Gil at her gallery, he finds that the gruesome primitive masks have been replaced by delicate, colorful shells. Upon seeing Shep, Gil becomes flustered, blushes and cries. Realizing that she has lost her magic powers and therefore must be in love with him, Shep embraces her.

Photo Collections

Bell, Book and Candle - Movie Posters
Bell, Book and Candle - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Fantasy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 25 Dec 1958
Production Company
Phoenix Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Bell, Book and Candle by John Van Druten as produced in New York by Irene Mayer Selznick (New York, 14 Nov 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1959

Best Costume Design

1959

Articles

Bell, Book and Candle (1958) - Bell, Book and Candle (1959)


New York City has played host to a lot of esoteric fringe groups over the years so it's not hard to believe that witchcraft covens could thrive in that metropolis. And Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Richard Quine's film version of John Van Druten's popular play, has great fun with the idea that witches could blend in quite easily with the other kooks and weirdos living in the "Big Apple." Kim Novak plays an art shop owner named Gillian who takes a fancy to publisher Shepard Henderson (James Stewart) when he visits her store on Christmas Eve. Shepard quickly finds himself falling under Gillian's spell even though he is engaged to be married to Merle (Janice Rule). Romantic complications ensue before arriving at a happy ending without the aid of sorcery. Along the way we're treated to a picturesque tour of Manhattan, a beguiling music score by George Duning, James Wong Howe's atmospheric Technicolor cinematography and an assortment of oddball characters including Gillian's brother, Mickey (Jack Lemmon), a jazz-loving warlock who agrees to help an alcoholic author (Ernie Kovacs) write a book on witchcraft.

Kim Novak was at the peak of her stardom in 1958. Not only was she the most popular box office star in America, thanks to her roles in Picnic (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and Pal Joey (1957), but she was finally being treated seriously by film critics after her performance in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). As part of the complicated negotiations over Vertigo, Novak's co-star James Stewart had agreed to team with the actress again on Bell, Book and Candle but he wasn't happy with the choice of Richard Quine for director. Novak eventually convinced Stewart to accept him but she obviously had ulterior motives - Novak and Quine had been having a secret affair for four years! Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper even printed the allegations just two days prior to the first day of shooting on Bell, Book and Candle which eventually laid to rest previous rumors that had been circulating about a torrid romance between Novak and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Bell, Book and Candle was first made famous on the stage by the married acting team of Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer. Although the film version didn't quite match the popularity of the original play, it did offer moviegoers a sparkling romantic comedy with supernatural overtones and is probably more memorable for its supporting cast than its pairing of Stewart and Novak in their second film together. Jack Lemmon (who would become a major star that same year for Some Like It Hot) practically steals the movie as Novak's bongo-playing hipster brother and Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, and Elsa Lanchester contribute to the film's quirky comic charm. During the 1959 Oscar® race, Bell, Book and Candle was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Design and Best Costume Design but lost in both categories.

Producer: Julian Blaustein
Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Daniel Taradash, based on the play by John Van Druten
Art Direction: Cary ODell
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Editing: Charles Nelson
Music: George Duning
Cast: James Stewart (Shepard Henderson), Kim Novak (Gillian Holroyd), Jack Lemmon (Mickey Holroyd), Ernie Kovacs (Sidney Redlitch), Hermione Gingold (Mrs. De Pass), Elsa Lanchester (Queenie), Janice Rule (Merle Kittridge).
C-103m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
Bell, Book And Candle (1958) - Bell, Book And Candle (1959)

Bell, Book and Candle (1958) - Bell, Book and Candle (1959)

New York City has played host to a lot of esoteric fringe groups over the years so it's not hard to believe that witchcraft covens could thrive in that metropolis. And Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Richard Quine's film version of John Van Druten's popular play, has great fun with the idea that witches could blend in quite easily with the other kooks and weirdos living in the "Big Apple." Kim Novak plays an art shop owner named Gillian who takes a fancy to publisher Shepard Henderson (James Stewart) when he visits her store on Christmas Eve. Shepard quickly finds himself falling under Gillian's spell even though he is engaged to be married to Merle (Janice Rule). Romantic complications ensue before arriving at a happy ending without the aid of sorcery. Along the way we're treated to a picturesque tour of Manhattan, a beguiling music score by George Duning, James Wong Howe's atmospheric Technicolor cinematography and an assortment of oddball characters including Gillian's brother, Mickey (Jack Lemmon), a jazz-loving warlock who agrees to help an alcoholic author (Ernie Kovacs) write a book on witchcraft. Kim Novak was at the peak of her stardom in 1958. Not only was she the most popular box office star in America, thanks to her roles in Picnic (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and Pal Joey (1957), but she was finally being treated seriously by film critics after her performance in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). As part of the complicated negotiations over Vertigo, Novak's co-star James Stewart had agreed to team with the actress again on Bell, Book and Candle but he wasn't happy with the choice of Richard Quine for director. Novak eventually convinced Stewart to accept him but she obviously had ulterior motives - Novak and Quine had been having a secret affair for four years! Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper even printed the allegations just two days prior to the first day of shooting on Bell, Book and Candle which eventually laid to rest previous rumors that had been circulating about a torrid romance between Novak and Sammy Davis, Jr. Bell, Book and Candle was first made famous on the stage by the married acting team of Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer. Although the film version didn't quite match the popularity of the original play, it did offer moviegoers a sparkling romantic comedy with supernatural overtones and is probably more memorable for its supporting cast than its pairing of Stewart and Novak in their second film together. Jack Lemmon (who would become a major star that same year for Some Like It Hot) practically steals the movie as Novak's bongo-playing hipster brother and Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, and Elsa Lanchester contribute to the film's quirky comic charm. During the 1959 Oscar® race, Bell, Book and Candle was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Design and Best Costume Design but lost in both categories. Producer: Julian Blaustein Director: Richard Quine Screenplay: Daniel Taradash, based on the play by John Van Druten Art Direction: Cary ODell Cinematography: James Wong Howe Editing: Charles Nelson Music: George Duning Cast: James Stewart (Shepard Henderson), Kim Novak (Gillian Holroyd), Jack Lemmon (Mickey Holroyd), Ernie Kovacs (Sidney Redlitch), Hermione Gingold (Mrs. De Pass), Elsa Lanchester (Queenie), Janice Rule (Merle Kittridge). C-103m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Jeff Stafford

The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD


Sony remasters its top Kim Novak gems for this nicely appointed disc set, a collection graced with the presence of the legendary actress herself. This is indeed a unique occasion, as the wisely privacy-minded Ms. Novak has made very few personal appearances since retiring from the screen. We've known her only through her glamorous film roles and not through a publicity smokescreen or a history of self-promotion. The result is that the captivating star of great pictures like Vertigo still retains the power to fire our imaginations. A potent 1950s sex symbol, Novak is a class act all the way.

The movies in Sony's The Kim Novak Film Collection take her appeal in four different directions. Picnic gives Novak her most iconic role. Madge Owens is the Kansas high school prom queen desperate to escape her identity as the 'local beauty'. Madge's mother Flo (Betty Field) wants to hurry her marriage to the local rich kid Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), but Madge unconsciously envies her brighter, less dazzling sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), who hates small town life and wants to run away to New York to "write books to shock everybody". Meanwhile, the spinster schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) is living another female nightmare -- well into middle age, she's desperate to marry the local merchant Howard Bevans (Arthur O'Connell).

The catalyst arrives in the form of Hal Carter (William Holden), a former college buddy of Alan's who tells spicy tales of bumming around Hollywood and wants to beg Alan's dad for a job. Hal talks big but can't hide the fact that he's a bum and will have to start as a laborer. That doesn't decrease his appeal to Madge, much to the horror of her mother. Hal's virility also upsets Rosemary, who causes a scene at the grand Labor Day picnic that gets them all into trouble. The film's classic scene is an almost magical evening dance at the picnic. Hal and Madge suddenly know that they're fated for each other, in a relationship with little hope for a future.

Made on location at great expense, Picnic is an exceptional Columbia film. Cinematographer James Wong Howe's warm, diffuse colors give the show a special look for its year (1955), transforming the harvest picnic into a painfully poignant ritual for those in desperate need to change their lives. Director Joshua Logan handles the actors extremely well, and the camera blocking is worked out to perfection. The superb dialogue by William Inge, the original author of the Broadway play, gives William Holden a terrific opportunity to show how appealing he can be as a tough-guy loser. We soon forget that Holden is at least ten years too old to play Hal. Kim Novak's part seems almost autobiographical -- the deceptively "shallow" girl weary of being told she's beautiful.

It's said that Inge adapted Picnic and Splendor in the Grass from real events he witnessed back in Independence, Kansas -- tragedies that befell admired young high school celebrities. He stirred up resentment when the locals recognized the original cases. Picnic has dramatic teeth because we know that Flo Owens, the abandoned mother, is almost certainly correct in trying to stop her daughter from leaving: Hal and Madge's passion will almost certainly collapse in poverty, gambling, or liquor. That's apparently what happened in real life. But Madge resolves to take her chances with the cards she's dealt. Inge gives his most hopeful thoughts to the sweet lady next door, Helen Potts (Verna Felton). She's an elderly woman taking care of an even older mother, and locked away from opportunities of life and love. Helen gives Madge her unspoken blessing -- she knows that a woman must follow her heart, one way or another.

Sony's DVD of Picnic is an improvement on their earlier widescreen disc, with softer colors and less grain. Some fading has occurred but the digital restoration is remarkably effective.

The second film in the Kim Novak Collection Jeanne Eagels is reviewed here.

Pal Joey is another George Sidney effort adapted from the 1940 Broadway musical that had made Gene Kelly a star. Pushed and pulled out of shape to accommodate the requirements of its stellar cast -- especially Frank Sinatra -- Pal Joey has its own glossy appeal. Originally a womanizing heel who uses both a socialite and stenographer as a path to getting his own nightclub, Joey has been transformed into a more sympathetic Frank Sinatra clone. Although much of the bite of John O'Hara's original has been left behind, the film offers Sinatra singing more Rodgers and Hart standards (The Lady is a Tramp). The colorful, classy cinematography is a treat -- many shots look as though they could be Sinatra album covers from the period. Some Sinatra fans consider this his best film role.

Besides making Joey a nice guy, the adaptation reinvents socialite Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) as an ex-burlesque queen. Showgirl Linda English (Kim Novak) tempts Joey in a scene that's at least verbally sexy. Everybody gets to sing and dance although Novak's singing voice is dubbed. With a couple of characters dropped and an entire blackmail scheme eliminated, Pal Joey becomes a Sinatra star vehicle plain and simple. Among the supporting players, Barbara Nichols has some nice moments as another showgirl.

This new transfer is much nicer than grainy Sony disc from about ten years ago. Colors pop quite beautifully, giving Novak's close-ups an almost hallucinogenic quality. Although Rita Hayworth has more depth as an actress, Novak's youth has the edge in the glamour department.

The Stephen Rebello-hosted extras really hit their stride for Pal Joey . The discussion starts off with Jean Louis' gowns -- Novak remembers taking a big interest in her clothing and participating in the design process. Rebello also solicits comments on Novak's preference against wearing bras. We then see quite a lot of Novak's beautiful home on a river, and hear more about her happy life in an artist's colony. Her bedroom features her own painted murals.

The select-scene commentary aligns nicely with its subject matter, with Novak discussing her dubbed singing and the experience of working with Sinatra. She remembers a marked change in Sinatra's attitude from The Man with the Golden Arm. Novak explains that her complicated dance number with Hayworth was ruined when Frank arrived and cut out moves and bits he didn't like or didn't want to learn. In the finished film, the number is pretty ragged.

1958's Bell, Book and Candle re-teams the stars of Hitchcock'sVertigo in a quirky romantic comedy that plays like a do-over to allow Kim Novak and James Stewart a happier finish. Beautiful, mysterious art gallery proprietress Gil Holroyd (Novak) is actually a practicing witch. She resorts to a love charm to attract Shep Henderson (James Stewart), prying him away from his icky fianceé Merle (Janice Rule, wonderful in the thankless role). Less like Burn Witch, Burn and more like TV's Bewitched, witchcraft here is an apparently non-Satanic lifestyle. Gil's Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her own brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon are a happy-go-lucky Greenwich Village practioners that limit their magic to petty ends -- Nicky can't find a good job. Nicky foolishly helps phony occult writer Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs) learn about real witchcraft, which threatens to expose all of them.

Of course, romantic problems arise when Gil breaks the rules of witchcraft by falling in love with her new 'enchanted' boyfriend, and regrets not winning him the honest way. This is of course foolish, as any breathing man would crawl through fire for a date with Gil, who is a knockout in her glamorous hip-chick costumes.

Kim Novak takes to the barefoot Bohemian style quite well, even with a pair of painted eyebrows that look more like giant commas come to roost. Stewart exercises his comedy skills without resorting to Harvey- type slapstick. His late night snuggling scenes with Novak equate romantic infatuation with magical enchantment. Gil and Shep indeed make a very attractive couple, and the picture works. Hermoine Gingold adds spice playing an even more adept spell-caster than Novak's Gil.

In the accompanying featurette Kim Novak sticks to standard praise to talk about her co-stars Lemmon and Kovacs but assures us that she recognized a fellow 'real person' in James Stewart, a man as comfortable "as a pair of old slippers". Novak also cops to loving the witchcraft angle -- she obviously delighted in working with Gil's 'familiar', a Siamese cat named Pywacket.

1959's Middle of the Night is a heavy but rewarding drama from Paddy Chayefsky, who adapts his own play. Set in a somewhat depressing vision of the New York garment district, the show is about aging widower Jerry Kingsley (Fredric March) and his unstable relationship with the young Betty Preisser, his secretary (Novak). Betty is divorced from George, a musician (Lee Phillips) and has trouble making decisions. Her planned marriage to Jerry meets plenty of resistance from her mother (Glenda Farrell) and she sometimes feels like getting back together with George. Meanwhile, Jerry takes flak from his bossy older sister and his married daughter Lillian (Joan Copeland), who makes life difficult for her own husband (Martin Balsam) as well. Providing a negative role model is fellow garment worker Lachman (Albert Dekker) a boastful but unhappy womanizer. Does Jerry and Betty's romance have a chance?

Middle of the Night looks at a Marty- like situation from a different angle, with two well-meaning and emotionally needy people negotiating a minefield of disapproval and self-doubt. It doesn't take much to change their mood from infatuation to suspicion. Both feel like losers in love and neither wants to be hurt again. But all relationships are fraught with risk, and Jerry and Betty feel a strong attraction across the May-December gulf.

Once again Paddy Chayefsky's flair for the natural flow of dialogue pulls us deeper into the drama. Jerry's pride is too easily hurt and Betty is woefully insecure. The depth of her weakness becomes clear when the smooth-talking George shows up one evening and too easily talks his way back into her bed. The show looks at adult relationships in an adult context, and comes out a winner. This is one of Novak's finest films.

Middle of the Night benefits from the presence of quality actors like Glenda Farrell and Lee Grant. Young Jan Norris also makes a big impression as Betty's precocious younger sister -- as she did a year or two later as one of Natalie Wood's girlfriends in Splendor in the Grass.

On the set's final featurette Ms. Novak talks at length about her rewarding experience on Middle of the Night, despite the fact that it didn't do well at the box office. It's her most accomplished acting part and she's perfect for it. Betty is a mess of contradictions; Kim describes her as a "baby" hungry for intimacy and a father figure. Novak tells us that the telling blocking in one scene, where Jerry handles a dress dummy as if it were Betty's body, was her idea. She also says that March had to be repeatedly reminded to respect her 'personal boundaries'!

The Kim Novak Film Collection makes us grateful that Sony is currently doing such a fine job with its library titles, when several other studios have more or less abandoned classic movies. The transfers are all exceptionally good and widescreen enhanced. The color films range from the candy-hues of Pal Joey to the softer palette of Picnic, while the stylized B&W work in Jeanne Eagels contrasts strongly with Middle of the Night's documentary look. Picnic and Pal Joey have 5.1 tracks, which may be original mixes.

Added value producer Greg Carson has scored a coup with Kim Novak's participation, and author Stephen Rebello (Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) delivers an exemplary interview portrait of this legendary shrinking violet. Ms. Novak's attitude about her own fame is very interesting. She understands the point of view of Marlene Dietrich, who worked into her seventies and then retreated forever away from cameras that would mar her near-mystical image of glamour. Kim Novak liked her Hollywood work but loves her privacy and creative life more. Her interviews convince us that she's happy with the way things worked out. She sees no need to appear on camera in close-up. For the many among us who have been enamored of her for half a century, her comments and confidences here are more than enough reward.

For more information about The Kim Novak Collection, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Kim Novak Collection, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD

Sony remasters its top Kim Novak gems for this nicely appointed disc set, a collection graced with the presence of the legendary actress herself. This is indeed a unique occasion, as the wisely privacy-minded Ms. Novak has made very few personal appearances since retiring from the screen. We've known her only through her glamorous film roles and not through a publicity smokescreen or a history of self-promotion. The result is that the captivating star of great pictures like Vertigo still retains the power to fire our imaginations. A potent 1950s sex symbol, Novak is a class act all the way. The movies in Sony's The Kim Novak Film Collection take her appeal in four different directions. Picnic gives Novak her most iconic role. Madge Owens is the Kansas high school prom queen desperate to escape her identity as the 'local beauty'. Madge's mother Flo (Betty Field) wants to hurry her marriage to the local rich kid Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), but Madge unconsciously envies her brighter, less dazzling sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), who hates small town life and wants to run away to New York to "write books to shock everybody". Meanwhile, the spinster schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) is living another female nightmare -- well into middle age, she's desperate to marry the local merchant Howard Bevans (Arthur O'Connell). The catalyst arrives in the form of Hal Carter (William Holden), a former college buddy of Alan's who tells spicy tales of bumming around Hollywood and wants to beg Alan's dad for a job. Hal talks big but can't hide the fact that he's a bum and will have to start as a laborer. That doesn't decrease his appeal to Madge, much to the horror of her mother. Hal's virility also upsets Rosemary, who causes a scene at the grand Labor Day picnic that gets them all into trouble. The film's classic scene is an almost magical evening dance at the picnic. Hal and Madge suddenly know that they're fated for each other, in a relationship with little hope for a future. Made on location at great expense, Picnic is an exceptional Columbia film. Cinematographer James Wong Howe's warm, diffuse colors give the show a special look for its year (1955), transforming the harvest picnic into a painfully poignant ritual for those in desperate need to change their lives. Director Joshua Logan handles the actors extremely well, and the camera blocking is worked out to perfection. The superb dialogue by William Inge, the original author of the Broadway play, gives William Holden a terrific opportunity to show how appealing he can be as a tough-guy loser. We soon forget that Holden is at least ten years too old to play Hal. Kim Novak's part seems almost autobiographical -- the deceptively "shallow" girl weary of being told she's beautiful. It's said that Inge adapted Picnic and Splendor in the Grass from real events he witnessed back in Independence, Kansas -- tragedies that befell admired young high school celebrities. He stirred up resentment when the locals recognized the original cases. Picnic has dramatic teeth because we know that Flo Owens, the abandoned mother, is almost certainly correct in trying to stop her daughter from leaving: Hal and Madge's passion will almost certainly collapse in poverty, gambling, or liquor. That's apparently what happened in real life. But Madge resolves to take her chances with the cards she's dealt. Inge gives his most hopeful thoughts to the sweet lady next door, Helen Potts (Verna Felton). She's an elderly woman taking care of an even older mother, and locked away from opportunities of life and love. Helen gives Madge her unspoken blessing -- she knows that a woman must follow her heart, one way or another. Sony's DVD of Picnic is an improvement on their earlier widescreen disc, with softer colors and less grain. Some fading has occurred but the digital restoration is remarkably effective. The second film in the Kim Novak Collection Jeanne Eagels is reviewed here. Pal Joey is another George Sidney effort adapted from the 1940 Broadway musical that had made Gene Kelly a star. Pushed and pulled out of shape to accommodate the requirements of its stellar cast -- especially Frank Sinatra -- Pal Joey has its own glossy appeal. Originally a womanizing heel who uses both a socialite and stenographer as a path to getting his own nightclub, Joey has been transformed into a more sympathetic Frank Sinatra clone. Although much of the bite of John O'Hara's original has been left behind, the film offers Sinatra singing more Rodgers and Hart standards (The Lady is a Tramp). The colorful, classy cinematography is a treat -- many shots look as though they could be Sinatra album covers from the period. Some Sinatra fans consider this his best film role. Besides making Joey a nice guy, the adaptation reinvents socialite Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) as an ex-burlesque queen. Showgirl Linda English (Kim Novak) tempts Joey in a scene that's at least verbally sexy. Everybody gets to sing and dance although Novak's singing voice is dubbed. With a couple of characters dropped and an entire blackmail scheme eliminated, Pal Joey becomes a Sinatra star vehicle plain and simple. Among the supporting players, Barbara Nichols has some nice moments as another showgirl. This new transfer is much nicer than grainy Sony disc from about ten years ago. Colors pop quite beautifully, giving Novak's close-ups an almost hallucinogenic quality. Although Rita Hayworth has more depth as an actress, Novak's youth has the edge in the glamour department. The Stephen Rebello-hosted extras really hit their stride for Pal Joey . The discussion starts off with Jean Louis' gowns -- Novak remembers taking a big interest in her clothing and participating in the design process. Rebello also solicits comments on Novak's preference against wearing bras. We then see quite a lot of Novak's beautiful home on a river, and hear more about her happy life in an artist's colony. Her bedroom features her own painted murals. The select-scene commentary aligns nicely with its subject matter, with Novak discussing her dubbed singing and the experience of working with Sinatra. She remembers a marked change in Sinatra's attitude from The Man with the Golden Arm. Novak explains that her complicated dance number with Hayworth was ruined when Frank arrived and cut out moves and bits he didn't like or didn't want to learn. In the finished film, the number is pretty ragged. 1958's Bell, Book and Candle re-teams the stars of Hitchcock'sVertigo in a quirky romantic comedy that plays like a do-over to allow Kim Novak and James Stewart a happier finish. Beautiful, mysterious art gallery proprietress Gil Holroyd (Novak) is actually a practicing witch. She resorts to a love charm to attract Shep Henderson (James Stewart), prying him away from his icky fianceé Merle (Janice Rule, wonderful in the thankless role). Less like Burn Witch, Burn and more like TV's Bewitched, witchcraft here is an apparently non-Satanic lifestyle. Gil's Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her own brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon are a happy-go-lucky Greenwich Village practioners that limit their magic to petty ends -- Nicky can't find a good job. Nicky foolishly helps phony occult writer Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs) learn about real witchcraft, which threatens to expose all of them. Of course, romantic problems arise when Gil breaks the rules of witchcraft by falling in love with her new 'enchanted' boyfriend, and regrets not winning him the honest way. This is of course foolish, as any breathing man would crawl through fire for a date with Gil, who is a knockout in her glamorous hip-chick costumes. Kim Novak takes to the barefoot Bohemian style quite well, even with a pair of painted eyebrows that look more like giant commas come to roost. Stewart exercises his comedy skills without resorting to Harvey- type slapstick. His late night snuggling scenes with Novak equate romantic infatuation with magical enchantment. Gil and Shep indeed make a very attractive couple, and the picture works. Hermoine Gingold adds spice playing an even more adept spell-caster than Novak's Gil. In the accompanying featurette Kim Novak sticks to standard praise to talk about her co-stars Lemmon and Kovacs but assures us that she recognized a fellow 'real person' in James Stewart, a man as comfortable "as a pair of old slippers". Novak also cops to loving the witchcraft angle -- she obviously delighted in working with Gil's 'familiar', a Siamese cat named Pywacket. 1959's Middle of the Night is a heavy but rewarding drama from Paddy Chayefsky, who adapts his own play. Set in a somewhat depressing vision of the New York garment district, the show is about aging widower Jerry Kingsley (Fredric March) and his unstable relationship with the young Betty Preisser, his secretary (Novak). Betty is divorced from George, a musician (Lee Phillips) and has trouble making decisions. Her planned marriage to Jerry meets plenty of resistance from her mother (Glenda Farrell) and she sometimes feels like getting back together with George. Meanwhile, Jerry takes flak from his bossy older sister and his married daughter Lillian (Joan Copeland), who makes life difficult for her own husband (Martin Balsam) as well. Providing a negative role model is fellow garment worker Lachman (Albert Dekker) a boastful but unhappy womanizer. Does Jerry and Betty's romance have a chance? Middle of the Night looks at a Marty- like situation from a different angle, with two well-meaning and emotionally needy people negotiating a minefield of disapproval and self-doubt. It doesn't take much to change their mood from infatuation to suspicion. Both feel like losers in love and neither wants to be hurt again. But all relationships are fraught with risk, and Jerry and Betty feel a strong attraction across the May-December gulf. Once again Paddy Chayefsky's flair for the natural flow of dialogue pulls us deeper into the drama. Jerry's pride is too easily hurt and Betty is woefully insecure. The depth of her weakness becomes clear when the smooth-talking George shows up one evening and too easily talks his way back into her bed. The show looks at adult relationships in an adult context, and comes out a winner. This is one of Novak's finest films. Middle of the Night benefits from the presence of quality actors like Glenda Farrell and Lee Grant. Young Jan Norris also makes a big impression as Betty's precocious younger sister -- as she did a year or two later as one of Natalie Wood's girlfriends in Splendor in the Grass. On the set's final featurette Ms. Novak talks at length about her rewarding experience on Middle of the Night, despite the fact that it didn't do well at the box office. It's her most accomplished acting part and she's perfect for it. Betty is a mess of contradictions; Kim describes her as a "baby" hungry for intimacy and a father figure. Novak tells us that the telling blocking in one scene, where Jerry handles a dress dummy as if it were Betty's body, was her idea. She also says that March had to be repeatedly reminded to respect her 'personal boundaries'! The Kim Novak Film Collection makes us grateful that Sony is currently doing such a fine job with its library titles, when several other studios have more or less abandoned classic movies. The transfers are all exceptionally good and widescreen enhanced. The color films range from the candy-hues of Pal Joey to the softer palette of Picnic, while the stylized B&W work in Jeanne Eagels contrasts strongly with Middle of the Night's documentary look. Picnic and Pal Joey have 5.1 tracks, which may be original mixes. Added value producer Greg Carson has scored a coup with Kim Novak's participation, and author Stephen Rebello (Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) delivers an exemplary interview portrait of this legendary shrinking violet. Ms. Novak's attitude about her own fame is very interesting. She understands the point of view of Marlene Dietrich, who worked into her seventies and then retreated forever away from cameras that would mar her near-mystical image of glamour. Kim Novak liked her Hollywood work but loves her privacy and creative life more. Her interviews convince us that she's happy with the way things worked out. She sees no need to appear on camera in close-up. For the many among us who have been enamored of her for half a century, her comments and confidences here are more than enough reward. For more information about The Kim Novak Collection, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Kim Novak Collection, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

That girl you know, Gillian Holroyd, she's one.
- Shepherd Henderson
A witch?
- Merle Kittridge
Yes!
- Shepherd Henderson
Shep, you just never learned to spell.
- Merle Kittridge

Trivia

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 "witch finder generall" 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: - 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. Interestingly, 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).

The title "Bell, Book and Candle" is a reference to exorcism, which is performed by bell, book and candle. It is opened with "Strike the bell, open the book, light the candle," and closed with "strike the bell, close the book, blow out the candle."

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. After this film he would concentrate more on roles that portrayed him as an everyman or as a father figure.

Notes

Although reviews punctuate the film's title as Bell, Book and Candle, the title card of the viewed print reads Bell Book and Candle. An August 1953 Variety news item stated that David O. Selznick had acquired the screen rights to John Van Druten's play and intended to cast Jennifer Jones, Selznick's wife, in the lead. When the property went to Columbia, according to a December 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Rex Harrison was originally slated to play the male lead in the film. A February 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Will Tell was in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       Eliot Elisofon, the film's special color consultant, was a renowned Life magazine photographer. A modern source notes that James Stewart was lent by Paramount in exchange for Kim Novak's appearance in Vertigo. Bell Book and Candle was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. On September 8, 1976, NBC television broadcast a pilot based on Van Druten's play starring Yvette Mimieux, Michael Murphy and John Pleshette and directed by Hy Averback.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 1958

Released in United States 1999

Re-released in Paris December 12, 1990.

Released in United States Fall November 1958

Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Columbia 75" November 19 - January 13, 1999.)