It’s not the “Witching Hour” quite yet, o’ Gentle Visitors, and although your Favorite Catgirl Princess is woefully behind things hereabouts, we’ve still got time for some Halloween Movie Festival Reviews. This time out… a wee peek at a classic from yesteryear, 1942’s witchy romantic comedy “I Married A Witch” starring the lovely Veronica Lake and Fredric March. Definitely a change of pace from my usual creepy fare, but it’s a Catgirl’s prerogative to shake things up now and again… 😉
Our synopsis? How’s this then? “As she burns at the stake, 17th century witch Jennifer, places a curse on her accuser, Jonathan Wooley, cursing all the future men in his family to suffer bad luck in love. When a lightning bolt strikes the tree she was killed on some three centuries later, she returns from the beyond and pledges to make the latest in the Wooley clan, Wallace, fall in love with her and torment him as none of his ancestors ever was. The only problem is that she accidentally drinks the love potion intended for Jonathan and swiftly proceeds to fall in love with him! But it is forbidden for a witch to ever feel love… curse or no curse.”
Hehehe…. sweet romance and a little witchy mischief. Just the thing for a “Movie Nite” with my sweetie. Sound like it could be your idea of Autumn movie fun as well? Then let’s all “Read On” and share the vintage movie memories….
If you grew up, like a certain wee Catgirl, in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, then you remember the syndicated reruns of TV series like “Bewitched”. Seems TV was inundated with stories of magical ladies finding love in suburbia…. but then they’d been doing that long before there was TV. This particular film from the early days of Hollywood is probably the original inspiration for most of those romantic comedies, and with this month’s festival theme of “Witchcraft”, seemed an appropriate choice for a recent romantic double feature evening at home along with the equally classic “Bell, Book, & Candle”…. something my sweet Carolyn would enjoy as a change from my usual foreign film fare. (And hopefully something to throw a bewitching love spell to help put my sweetie in the mood for a little post-movie “sexyfuntime”… ❤ ) I’d seen it before… waaaay, waaaay back when TV actually showed these old Black & White movie classics, but it had been sometime since it had made an appearance anywhere on my TV. Thank goodness I’ve got a DVD player…. 😉
This one is definitely a slice of period movie making, and pretty dated by modern standards, but remarkably it holds up relatively well given its vintage age. Our story starts back in the 1700’s as two witches, Daniel (played by Cecil Kellaway) and Jennifer (played by Veronica Lake) are burned at the stake on the testimony of Puritan Jonathan Wooley (played by Fredric March). We don’t actually get to see Daniel or Jennifer… just the smoldering ashes of their execution pyre… but there’s a reason for that which we’ll learn later. In any event, poor Squire Wooley takes this time to clue us in on the particulars of Jennifer’s vengeful curse. Seems he… and all his descendants to come… are cursed to suffer disastrously bad luck in all affairs of the heart. They’ll make poor choices in love till the end of time, never knowing wedded bliss for her revenge. As the scene fades, we get a few peeks at various Wooley men suffering just that all the way to the present day… 1941. It’s then that fate intervenes and the old oak tree planted above the forgotten witches pyre to trap the spirits of the two witches is struck by lightning freeing them from their imprisonment to wander again in the world of mortals.
As luck would have it, the current Wooley, Wallace (still played by Fredric March) lives nearby and is celebrating his expected victory in his upcoming run for governor along with his soon to happen nuptials. Wallace is a good-hearted chap, trapped into a marriage of convenience with the shrewish daughter Estelle (played by Susan Hayward) of newspaper magnate J.B. Masterson (played by Robert Warwick), his biggest political backer. Sounds like Jennifer’s curse is still going strong after all these centuries…
Floating around all ghostly in the form of two columns of smoke, our two witches visit the party long enough to witness poor Wallace’s miserable existence. You’d think that seeing him suffering like that would satisfy them, but Jennifer really wants to see our hero squirm, and it isn’t long before she gets the idea to return to mortal form and trick our hero into falling in love with her, all the better to ruin his political and personal life up close and personal.
For that of course she needs a body… and to do that, her father needs to burn down the Pilgrim Hotel so that she may be “reborn” into the world. Naturally, this happens right as our hero is driving his fiance home, and being the decent stand up fellow you might expect, is easily lured to the rescue of a “damsel-in-distress” trapped in the blazing building. It’s fun lil’ meeting… and from the beginning, it’s not hard to see why Veronica Lake was chosen for this role. She’s very comfortable in the role of wicked lil’ Jennifer…. lovely and petite with her trademark long flowing blond hair, it’s hard to imagine anybody not wanting to come to her rescue.
It’s a funny scene, as Jennifer delights in her newfound form, teasing and embarrassing Wallace with her scandalous nudity (Having been just recently “reborn” in fire after all….) and resulting in her rescue wrapped in a luxurious fur coat for the newspaper photographers to capture as they exit the burning building in the nick of time. Mind you… it’s a 1940’s movie so there’s no real flesh on display, just the artful suggestion of titillating scandal done in that clever way that old movies managed to do. For a fun and frolicsome film like this, that’s more than enough… 😉
Pretty soon, the story follows the course you might expect. Our hero finds himself between a rock and the hard place as he tries to dodge the amorous advances of Jennifer and somehow keep her secret from his obnoxious bride-to-be Estelle all the while digging a deeper and deep comedic hole for himself. Fredric March is surprisingly…. well… blah… in his role as the hero here. He’s well outshined by his costar who steals practically every scene they share. There’s no real chemistry on his part, although Veronica Lake takes her somewhat predictable role as naughty vixen and by film’s end manages to make Jennifer both sexy and likeable, despite her character’s fairly wicked beginnings.
Eventually our witchy temptress gets hoisted by her own petard…. mistakenly drinking a love potion intended for Wallace and then falling head over heels for him ending any notion of vengeance on her part. Wallace falls for her too, despite finding out she truly is a witch…. dumps his shrew of a fiancé and marries Jennifer. After aiding him to win the election with her spells, she decides to renounce her witchcraft, abandon her powers and live a mortal’s life forever by his side. This doesn’t sit too well with evil daddy dearest though, and he strikes back to kill the body she now possesses and send Jennifer’s spirit back to her prison beneath the oak tree. Awwww! Noooo!!! 😦
Don’t worry. It’s a romance story…. silly. In those, Love always conquers all, and Wallace manages to use the kiss of True Love to bring her back to life just in time to trap her daddy’s smokey form in a liquor bottle and then live happily ever after with a loving devoted wife, two boys…. and a suspiciously mischievous lil’ daughter who’s the spitting image of her mom and perhaps a wee bit tooooo fond of broomsticks, if you know what I mean. 😉
Sigh…. Not a bad little ending if I do say so. How does it shape up then, movie wise? Well, as I’ve said, you probably really have to enjoy classic old movies (and luckily I do… ) to truly enjoy this one. It’s definitely dated, with a narrative style that is seriously stripped down to the basics. Character development is pretty absent, with most roles being the stock character ones you’d expect. Nothing special there. The cinematography is competent, for the time, with seriously primitive optical special effects. But… for the most part, they actually work in a quaint old school way. The standout in the entire film is, of course, Veronica Lake. There’s just no denying it. Somehow, she’s just got “it”. Charisma… charm… all wrapped up in a very sexy persona you just can’t deny. I’m aware of her somewhat troublesome off-screen reputation in the period and the later sadder incidences in her real life, but here she’s the way a movie starlet of the 40’s would want to be remembered, and luckily for her, it’s that way that she’ll be remembered. I give this one 3 “Meows”…. maybe not the greatest film of all time, but certainly one I’ll always warmly remember.
It’s a film that’s easy to see too, if you’ve the notion. Available on DVD from most places at a truly nice price, you might just want to take a peek for your ownself, if there’s a romantic streak to your spirit. 😉
Trailer? Well… it’s an oldie, but surprisingly, there’s actually a Trailer available for you viewing pleasure, so enjoy!!