Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Must-See Movie: I Married a Witch

I Married a Witch (1942) 
This fantasy romantic comedy is the perfect find for some classic Halloween fun!  The film opens in 1672, where two witches were burned by puritan Jonathan Wooley. We are told that before her burning, the female witch cursed all future generations of the Wooley family; she deemed that all the sons will marry the wrong woman and be miserable. A tree grows over the place where they were hanged, trapping the witches' souls.

Fast-forward to the 20th century, and a bolt of lightning frees the witches, Jennifer and her father, from the tree. Jennifer assumes corporeal form (Veronica Lake) and decides to track down campaigning politician Wallace Wooley (Fredric March). True to the curse, Wooley is unhappily engaged to a shrewish woman and is miserable.  Jennifer concocts a scheme to make Wooley fall in love with her, thereby ruining his wedding and making his life even more disastrous. Wooley is not easily swayed by her charms, so Jennifer has to resort to a love potion. Unfortunately the potion backfires, and comedy ensues.

The TV show "Bewitched" was influenced by this film and later "Bell Book and Candle."  This film also solidified the iconic Veronica Lake hairstyle, platinum blonde and long, with her right eye covered. Many women copied the style during this time, which caused problems since they were working in war plants and their hair kept getting caught in the machinery. Lake was asked to change her style until after the war. When she did, she lost her iconic look and her popularity soon faded along with her career.

Joel McCrea was originally announced to play Wooley, but he withdrew from the project.  It was said that this was because he did not want to work with Lake again, after not getting along with her on "Sullivan's Travels." McCrea's refusal to make the film caused production to be postponed. This enabled Lake to appear in "The Glass Key" before filming this movie.

March and Lake didn't get along well during filming either.  Lake liked to play practical jokes, due in part to some disparaging remarks March had made about her. In one scene in which the two were photographed only from the waist up, Lake stuck her foot in March's groin. In another incident, when March had to carry her in his arms, Lake weighed herself down with a 40-pound weight under her costume. After filming, March nicknamed the film "I Married a Bitch."

You can tell that there is not much chemistry on-screen between the two, but the film is still charming.  Cecil Kellaway, who plays Jennifer's father (also a witch), is especially delightful.  You may recognize Kellaway from "Wuthering Heights," "Harvey," "Easy to Wed," and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."  He is adorable as the mischievous male witch, also wanting revenge, but not liking Jennifer's plan.  He adds to the light-hearted tone of the comedy aspect, breaking us from the romantic attempts.  And since Frederic March is not a real heartthrob, the breaks are welcome.

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