November 22, 2009

Bell Book and Candle (1958)


I know, I have been a bad blogger. I have neglected you for way too long. And I apologize profoundly for my absence. Things have been rather chaotic over here on my end and I had planned two wonderful entries for Halloween but never got around to posting them. And so even though Halloween is over, I thought - well, why not put these up anyway? They're probably going to end up on the blog sooner or later anyway.

The first of these is one of my favorite "witchy" movies called Bell Book and Candle starring the mesmerizing Kim Novak and the always lovable James Stewart. Bell Book and Candle was originally a Broadway play written by John Van Druten and it starred the then married Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer for over 200 performances between 1950-51. It took eight years for the story to make it from Broadway to the big screen and coincidentally, it was released in the same year as another Novak-Stewart picture, the nortorious and critically revived Hitchcock masterpiece Vertigo (1958).

Bell Book and Candle centers around a beautiful witch Gillian (Novak) who owns a small boutique selling African masks, above which resides a handsome book publisher Shep (Stewart) on whom Gillian has a major crush.

Here is Shep, asking to use Gillian's phone because his wasn't working (but we know who made it suddenly malfunction, don't we?).



This below is Gillian's cat Pyewacket, whose name was derived from the one made famous in a witch trial in 1644 England. Apparently "Pyewacket" is a popular name for cats because of this movie.


Bell Book and Candle also gives us a glimpse into the "alternative lifestyle" of New York's Greenwich Village neighborhood during that era. Instead of having a traditional Christmas dinner, Gillian and her family - Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and brother Nick (Jack Lemmon ) - go to an out-of-the-way dimly-lit smoke-filled jazz joint overflowing with eccentric beatniks clad in black.

Shep and his fiancé Merle happen to chance across the same night club that evening so they also go in.


An old man dressed as a swami decides whether or not to admit you. Unfortunately there is no such awesome hole-in-the-wall joint in NYC... that I know of.

Gillian showing off her red satin pumps. Black dress + hot red shoes = always a win.

It turns out Merle and Gillian were old classmates and Merle had spread some nasty rumours about Gillian back when they were both in school. It certainly doesn't help that she is now engaged to the man on whom Gillian has a crush! I like Merle's long teal gloves. Btw, remember how great it was to be able to smoke indoors at a restaurant? (sorry, I'm a smoker so this scene makes me nostalgic for that privilege).


Gillian tries to play it cool.

After the night club, Gillian, her brother Nick, and their Aunt retreat back to the house.


Check out the unconventional Christmas tree.

After opening presents, they have a little fun casting some spells:





Later on, Shep stops by to have a drink. Love the back of her dress here.

But from the front, the dress is very conservative.

After a couple of drinks, Gillian becomes a little impatient and decides to cast a spell - with some help from Pyewacket - on Shep to make him fall in love with her instead.


Voilà! It worked! Love the chunky garnet bracelets on her arm.

The story doesn't end there, of course, but it's where I'll leave it so as to not spoil the rest for those of you who haven't seen the movie.

Instead, let's take a look at some of Gillian's other fabulous wardrobe ensembles:

Love this bold leopard print poncho.

The red sweater is really amazing. Looks like the massive cowl neck is flipped out over the poncho and the sleeves do double duty as gloves because I'm not seeing a divide anywhere.

She also has a penchant for wearing hoods or draping a scarf over her head to create a hood effect.

Love that mid-century console table and the stone horse statue on top of it.

This is so intense I am about to have a stroke over it!

I wish I could pull off a dark burgundy velvet cape like the way Gillian does here. And hot furry magenta muff? Love!


This is too cute.

Here's a look into some of the INTERIORS:

Gillian's shop of African masks.


Shep's fiancé's Merle's beautiful apartment. Fabulous silk screen in the background.

Nice selection of artwork.

Love the glass lamps.

Shep's office at his publishing company.


An apothecary shop that Gillian's brother Nick likes to frequent. The window display showcases all sorts of exotic specimens.


Here is the apartment of an another eccentric witch whom Shep goes to see for some "help." It's unapologetically Victorian in decor.

Gorgeous wood archway piece. Also, notice the parrot on the left.

I just find it hilarious that her stove is set in the middle of her living room.


It's interesting to note that James Stewart felt that he was miscast as the romantic lead in this movie and I have to agree with his assessment. It was rumoured that Cary Grant was in contention for the same role and in retrospect, I think perhaps I would've preferred him as Shep as well. Kim Novak, however, was perfect as the sultry, soft-spoken Gillian and I cannot imagine anyone else in her place. Overall, this is a fun light movie that I would highly recommend.



Welcome back!

Okay, comments:
Her eyebrows scare me. I guess that was their way of aging her because she does look a lot older than she appeared in Vertigo and her hair is also tinged gray, but they look so fake gray.

I love the ruby velvet dress and matching cape! That outfit is so extraordinary because she is wearing so many different shades of red from burgundy to fuchsia to the pink of her gloves, and the lipstick red of her shoes.

From what I remember of the movie she only wears black and red throughout.

Did you notice that her leopard cape is reversible and is the same as the black one you show next with the visible leopard piping?

Can't wait to see what your other Halloween-themed movie is.

YAY! So glad you're back!

Isaspacey - You're right, the leopard print cape is reversible! I thought I had mentioned it in the description but I guess not. This is what I get for writing up these entries at 4am.

Mel - I am glad to be back. :)

Except for the backless dress -- which could saunter down any red carpet today -- that girl had better be able to act, because her wardrobe seemed anti-attractive to the male population. Although Jack Lemmon could have worn it effectively!

There was a definite sense of 'staging' in this genre, back when. The interiors gave a sense of style that the actors didn't match -- Merle's apartment is a case in point. Although the victorian set and its denizen(s) got along very well.

I notice that you didn't go into a lot of up-close detail... busy or you're thinking we're not dropping in often enough? Honey, you're on my yahoo opener -- as is Desiretoinspire -- but I go there more often because they post more often!

You don't have to stick religiously to your topic -- I'd be happy to hear your opinion on the new hoof shoes... mmm, hoof shoes...

Just... engage us!

Yes yes yes....your blog is a true gem and.... me like like like! I leave a swedish footprint behind me!

Peace & Love


I like Kim Novak´s wardrobe in this movie. Specially the gown with the bracelets. I liked your other posts my favourite is the Howard´s End one. I also enjoy your posts related to Poirot tv series.

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