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I Married a Witch (1942)

Long before Elizabeth Montgomery made witches attractive, Veronica Lake made them downright sexy in this hilarious comedy from director Rene Clair that stars a befuddled Frederic March who gets tangled up with our broom riding Lake and her rascal of a warlock father, Cecil Kellaway.

i married a witch promo

March stars here as a candidate for the state governor who is set to marry Susan Hayward as a matter of convenience and to earn votes as her father is a newspaper magnate much like Mr. Hearst back in the day. March’s life is going to be severely complicated when the spirit of Lake and Kellaway are released by  a bolt of lightning from an ancient tree they have been residing in since there burning at the stake in the days of witch hunters and the pilgrims. As you’ll see in the opening clip of the film it was March in costume who led the burning and therefore his family has had a curse laid upon them to never be happy in love.

This curse allows the script to give us a montage of different Freddy March’s thru the family history that is a comical delight as he continually strikes out in his love life.

married a witch lobby

The set up for March to find Miss Lake is teasingly done. With a hotel set on fire by Kellaway, March is bewitched into hearing a woman’s voice inside the deserted building. He rushes past the firefighters into the smoke and follows Miss Lake’s voice until he reaches her newly formed body. It isn’t until he gets her into a room unaffected by the fire that he sees the beauty of the damsel in distress. Might I add I’m not sure she ever looked better.

The flirting begins immediately as she sets about to at first capture his heart only to joyously break it. When March exits the fire torn building carrying Lake in his arms, the voting public watching from a distance erupt in cheers. March thinks he’s done with her but far from it. When she turns up in his bedroom on the eve of his marriage to Hayward, March is beginning to feel the heat.

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Surprisingly, Lake isn’t getting the results she expected. She turns to Kellaway for a magic brew that will surely capture Freddy’s heart. That is assuming he drinks it and opens his eyes to see her before all others. What might happen if the wrong person drinks it and …….. oh, I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say things could get turned upside down with hilarious results.

Frederic March is one of those actors I only knew growing up as the non horror star who played the Jekyll and Hyde role to great acclaim though it took me years to actually see his Oscar winning turn. He was never on my radar much as he wasn’t a star of films that a teenage kid was looking to see on the late show. That sure changed when I saw by chance The Best Years of Our Lives. So here Fred is once again playing a rather “stuffy shirt” but poking fun at it in a comedic vein. He’s henpecked and weak minded thanks to the bullying of Hayward and her daddy. With a bit of witchcraft involved, he just might get out from under them and be the man he always wanted to be.

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Kellaway is of course is one of those scene stealers who does his best here to deliver some laugh out loud hijinks thanks in part to his weakness for the bottle and lapse in spell casting memory.

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Now to Miss Lake. She exudes a child like innocence here that is so endearing it’s impossible not to fall for her on screen charms. Let’s not pretend here either, her beauty and sex appeal score a bullseye as well. Decked out in Edith Head costumes adds to her look but one has to respect her comedic timing being pitch perfect playing opposite March’s straight backed politician.

Highly recommended. It’s out on blu from Criterion if you care to look for it and remember………..

“Love is stronger than witchcraft.”

16 Comments »

      • There are some fun tales associated with the movie.

        Before filming started, March made the foolish, snotty mistake of telling friends that his upcoming costar was “a jumped-up little sexpot” (quoting here from memory). Natch, news of the remark reached ‘Ronica about one nanosecond after the dinner party ended. And so . . .

        In that scene where March staggers from the burning building with the petite ‘Ronica in his arms, she apparently had, unknown to him, about forty pounds of weights strapped around her. Not so bad the first take, but apparently Rene Clair insisted on several . . .

        There were other tricks, apparently, some of them smuttier.

        This movie, along with The Blue Dahlia, inspired the lifelong crush I’ve had on Veronica Lake. My wife simply rolls her eyes, and starts talking about Orlando Bloom.

    • They are a good match and when I see Lake do a film like this I wonder why her career was way too short. She’s so sexy, funny and beautiful all wrapped into one. So much more than the smoldering dame opposite Ladd. Surely this inspired Bewitched writers way back.

  1. I love this one and think it’s Veronica’s best film and performance just inching out This Gun for Hire.

    She does look her best here and she and March seem totally enamored of each other. Quite a trick since they loathed each other off screen. As someone commented he made a disparaging remark that got back to her which got her hackles up from the start then the fact that he still hit on her, he was a notorious horndog who apparently tried to make it with every available woman. She understandably shot him down and from that point on as she said in her autobiography he treated her like dirt under his talented feet and she retaliated with whatever tactics she could devise. Add into that the fact that she herself was noted for having a thorny personality, the result it would seem now of having an untreated manic/depressive condition. So the set must have been a battleground but it doesn’t show on screen.

    The pair themselves could have carried the film no sweat but what makes it so much more than just a vehicle for them is that they are surrounded on all sides by terrific performers doing wonderful work.

    Robert Benchley is a perfectly befuddled sidekick to March and Cecil Kellaway a hoot as Veronica’s father. That he makes the father so entertaining is doubly impressive since the character is really a rather malicious man. Elizabeth Patterson dithers delightfully as March’s housekeeper who provokes Veronica’s ire. Then Susan Hayward scores heavily in a role that was a specialty of hers on the way up-the beautiful shrewish bitch. You can see why March would think it was a good idea to marry her-she’s ravishing, her father is powerful, she has a high social position, etc-but it only takes one scene of her actually speaking to know he should run far and run fast. However she makes a meal of her role-love how when they are driving past the burning hotel her only comment is “It would be on our way home.”

    This shows that it truly was a pity Veronica’s time at the top was so brief. She was a very able comedienne and radiated star quality.

    • It’s so easy to picture March as a cantankerous SOB on set and that might have a lot to do with the roles he played which makes it unfair but I once read he told Harold Russell to keep the “hooks” out of camera range when he’s acting. If that’s true I’d have decked him had I been on set. Love this film and Lake is so fetching and gives a fine comedic performance. Her talent almost seems wasted when we look back at her list of credits.

      • Paramount truly didn’t seem to know how to best utilize her after that initial burst of success. The turning point was apparently The Hour Before Dawn were she played a villainess which was savaged on its release. Though having seen it while it’s hardly a masterpiece and she’s been better I’ve seen much worse, including several of the films she made following it. But the dye seemed to have been cast and the studio started shoving her in unsuitable stuff afterward excluding a tiny reprieve with The Blue Dahlia and Ramrod but by then it was too late. I’ve yet to see Miss Susie Slagle’s of her output but despite it costarring Lillian Gish I have my doubts about it being an undiscovered gem!

        And I have to say she had the sorriest send off of any once prominent star I’ve ever seen. Flesh Feast is just the most appalling piece of absolute garbage. Very unfortunate for someone who held such promise. But film is the great savior making it possible to forget that and take pleasure in her peak work here.

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