I Married a Witch (1942)

“Jonathan Wooley, thou hast denounced me as a witch — for that, thou shalt be accursed!”

Poster IMW

Synopsis:
The spirits of a witch (Veronica Lake) and her father (Cecil Kelloway) who were burned at the stake in 17th century New England take revenge upon the descendant (Fredric March) of their accuser. Things become more complicated, however, when Lake accidentally drinks a love potion, and finds herself smitten with March.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “reasonably funny” romantic fantasy by director Rene Clair is “bolstered by some truly special effects and a memorable performance by Lake”, who — with her trademark curtain of golden-blonde hair — is “extremely sexy”. The story is most amusing in the first half, as Lake does her best to make life difficult for March, a hapless gubernatorial candidate who’s being hoodwinked into marriage with a woman (Susan Hayward) he doesn’t love simply to earn voter sympathy the day before a statewide election. Lake — who proves herself to be an admirable comedic actress — is the perfect embodiment of pixyish mischief, as she dawdles in a burning building while March is trying to “rescue” her, throws her fur coat (her only piece of clothing!) out the window of her taxi cab, and turns up lounging in March’s bed on the day of his wedding. March is appropriately stiff and stuffy as the object of Lake’s torture (and affection); it’s fun to see his sudden transformation once Lake successfully works her charm on him. Interestingly, March and Lake hated each other in real life, and Lake did what she could to make his life miserable on set — but you’d never know from watching them interact together.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Veronica Lake as “Jennifer”
    Lake IMW
  • Cecil Kellaway as Lake’s naughty father
  • Some nifty special effects — I particularly like the way Lake and Kellaway travel around in funnels of gray smoke (one big, one small) before embodying human forms

Must See?
Yes, for Lake’s charming performance, and for its historical importance as the inspiration behind the TV series “Bewitched”.

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One Response to “I Married a Witch (1942)”

  1. A must – mostly for Veronica Lake’s performance, and the inventiveness director Clair brings. [Clair made a bunch of movies in France (some particularly noteworthy), went Hollywood for a spell (where he also helmed the memorable ‘And Then There Were None’), then returned to France to see his career out. Was Hollywood ‘de trop’?]

    Peary is correct in saying the film is only “reasonably funny”. Which is why Lake is so crucial. The certain something she brought to her handful of quality films does seem to make them musts (‘Sullivan’s Travels’, etc.). Watching her in this today, it’s striking how ‘modern’ a performance she gives.

    Of particular sidebar-note here is Cecil Kellaway, turning in a very sly performance as Lake’s father. Kellaway did have a long career but not all that a distinguished one. (He’s oddly used, I think, in ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’.) Here he gets to sink his teeth into something that suits him. I esp. love the stunning, hair-raising moment when he’s revealed as a cab driver. (Years later, Kellaway would appear memorably in the beloved howl-fest ‘Female on the Beach’.)

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