Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Overlooked Movies: I Married a Witch

This movie was featured on Trailers from Hell a while back, and the mere mention of it sent me into a veritable frenzy of nostalgia.  When I was but a child (I don't remember the year) we went to San Antonio to visit my aunt Ellen, who lived in an apartment in the Calcasieu Building.  That in itself was quite an experience, as I'd never been in an apartment building before, and of course being in the midst of a big city was a real thrill.  I believe this was also the time of year of the Battle of the Flowers parade, which has been going on since the late 19th century.  The parade passed along the street right below the apartment window.  This trip was just thrill after thrill.

But what I remember more clearly than anything was that this trip was my first real contact with television.  My aunt and her roommate had a TV set, a very small one, to be sure, but a TV set nevertheless.  Because of the situation with beds and such, I was left to sleep on a pallet on the living room floor, which was fine with me because it left me alone in the room with the TV set.  On the night I remember, there was a movie on TV, and that movie was I Married a Witch.  The reception was lousy (You whippersnappers can't remember a time when you got anything but perfect pictures on TV, but, trust me, back in the olden days we were sometimes lucky to get a picture at all), but the lousy reception didn't bother me in the least.  There was a movie.  On a little box in the room where I was supposed to be sleeping.  It was like a miracle.

And besides all that, the movie might very well have been aimed right at me.  A fantasy about a beautiful witch?  What more could you ask, especially since the witch was played by Veronica Lake, with whom I promptly feel in love.  (I was terribly disappointed to learn from Joe Dante's commentary on the trailer that Fredric March couldn't stand Lake and that Joel McCrea disliked her so much after Sullivan's Travels that he turned down the role that March accepted.)  Susan Hayward is in the movie, too, but she's not a patch on Veronica Lake.

The movie has a complicated plot that I won't bother describing other than to say that if you ever see an episode of Bewitched, it was probably a direct steal from this movie.  Except that the movie is a lot better.  I mean, Endora is okay, but I Married a Witch has Cecil Kellaway, who's great.  If you like light fantasy and if you get a chance to see this one, I highly recommend it.


Anonymous said...

Galloping nostalgia! Great stuff.

My own memories of this: when we got our first VCR back in the dark ages (ca. 1981) I'd comb throw the TV Guide listings for movies I wanted to see and tape them overnight. Unfortunately, even though I'd leave a little leeway sometimes it wasn't enough and at least twice I remember I cut off the last five minutes of a movie, which I did not realize until I watched the rest of it. The first one was I MARRIED A WITCH. The second was THE WAGES OF FEAR.

And stay off my lawn!


Unknown said...

The first movie I recorded was THE GREAT RACE. I still have the tape somewhere.

Todd Mason said...

But, then, the end of THE WAGES OF FEAR is the worst aspect of it.

Did you ever read the novel, Smith completed posthumously by Norman Matson?

Little Bill--Welcome to...THE FUTURE!

Deb said...

What Jeff said--and even before VCRs, I would set my alarm so that I could get up at 2:00 in the morning to watch Streetcar Named Desire, for example. In that way, at least, I don't miss the old days.

Veronica Lake and Frederick March were very antagonistic during the making of I Married A Witch. Lake supposedly put heavy rocks in her pockets for the scenes where March is carrying her. He huffed and puffed through the filming and when he put her down, the petite Lake said, "What can I say? I got heavy bones!"

Unknown said...

Great story, Deb. Too bad Veronica Lake wasn't the wonderful person I hoped she'd be.

Todd, I've never read the novel, though I've read other books by Smith.

Jerry House said...

And there was BATS IN THE BELFRY, the sequel written by Matson.

Donna said...

I never knew there was a sequel. Interesting. Too bad it's not in print. I Married a Witch is now up on Kindle, but at an exorbitant price (I think).

It's a shame Veronica Lake was so difficult. Probably why she didn't have a longer career.

Wasn't Bell, Book and Candle inspired by this film also?

Unknown said...

I don't know if BEll, BOOK, AND CANDLE was inspired by this one, but it's another movie I like. I was old enough to see that one in the theater.

Bud said...

Loved this movie and Veronica Lake too. Yes, she had more than her share of demons to carry around and I'm grateful my love was a fantasy love and her appearance was as close as I ever got 8-) This movie was one of the many classics routinely shown on TV in the late fifties and early sixties At least one thing that I miss about the "good old days".

Anonymous said...

One of my all-time favourite movies -- I've lost count of the number of times I've watched it, and I love it every time.

Lake had definite psychological demons, but March's difficulties here were entirely his own fault. Before shooting started he told friends that his costar was "a mindless little sexpot", and obviously this comment was passed along to her within nanoseconds.

Years ago I was polled by some now long-defunct entertainment website for my "sexiest scene in the movies" nomination. Without a moment's pause I submitted: "Veronica Lake leaping around in her jimjams in I Married a Witch."

Unknown said...

"Mindless little sexpot"? March was half right. Poor guy.

Anonymous said...

March was half right.

She was indeed little.

Unknown said...