BELL BOOK AND CANDLE was popular in 1958, especially as a date movie. Easy to see why: it’s smart, hip and beatnicky. It lets Jimmy Stewart be flustered, Kim Novak go barefoot, Jack Lemmon play the bongos, Ernie Kovacs steal every syllable out of every line he’s given, and grants Elsa Lanchester and Hermione Gingold freedom to release their cute inner witch.
Direction by Richard Quine is clever, George Duning gave it a lyrical score, and whoever selected that cat—Pyewacket—really knew their felines: what a pretty, patient puss.
Stewart felt that at 50 he was too old to sell his role (though Cary Grant wanted it, he had four years on James) and he got pinched some by reviewers: he’s fine. Novak had her eyebrows ‘witched up’ and she works the come-hither element to a tee: Jennifer Jones wanted the part—thankfully a spell wove and dreamy Kim got the call. She and Stewart really clicked (same year as Vertigo); she said of their soul-mate vibe “I missed him the day I met him.” Lemmon and Gingold get some smiles going, but Kovacs and Lanchester are delightful, chewing their lines up like delicious little morsels.