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Bell, Book and Candle

Bell, Book and Candle title card

Year - 1958
Studio - Columbia Studios
Stars - James Steward, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Janice Rule, Elsa Lanchester, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold
Director - Richard Quine
Writing Credits - Daniel Taradash (adaptation), John Van Druten (play)
Music - George Duning


Book publisher, Shep Henderson (James Stewart) lives in an Greenwich Village apartment above Gillian Holroyd's (Kim Novak) exotic shop. Gillian and her aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) are modern day witches.

At Gillian's suggestion, Shep and his fiance, Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule) visit a beatnik nightclub, which happens to be frequented by other witches, including Gillian's bongo playing brother, Nicky (Jack Lemmon). Gillian recognizes Merle as a former college rival, and she later, with the assistance of her 'familiar", a Siamese cat named Pyewacket, casts a spell on Shep that causes him to lose interest in Merle and break off his engagement with her. His attentions turn, instead, to Gillian.

Bell Book and Candle poster

Gillian is angry to learn that Nicky has collaborated with a writer, Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs), on a tell-all book about New York witches, to be published by Shep's company. She reveals to the incredulous Shep that she, herself, is a witch, and about the spell she had cast on him. When he realizes it is true, he gets Nicky to take him to a senior witch, Bianca de Passe (Hermione Gingold), for a remedy against the spell.

Gillian, however, is starting to experience feelings about Shep, despite the fact that witches aren't supposed to be able to fall in love. When Pyewacket goes missing, an un-witchlike tear falls from Gillian's eye. The cat finds its way to Shep's office and when he returns it to a very changed Gillian, she confesses her love for him.

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James Stewart and Kim Novak starred the same year in Hitchcock's Vertigo. That film is a near film blanc candidate, but its suggestions of reincarnation are ultimately explained logically.