Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Cat people, or bewitched again ....

BELL BOOK AND CANDLE, 1958. A pleasure to see again yesterday. John Van Druten's play [the Harrisons - Rex and Lilli - had done it on the stage] is nicely transferred to screen in '58 by Richard Quine, with his muse of the time, Kim Novak at her zenith here as the witch who cannot fall in love - enter publisher James Stewart who has moved into the apartment above .... Its a lovely look at New York in the '50s, Stewart and Novak are teamed again right after Hitch's VERTIGO. The great supporting cast includes Jack Lemmon (just before SOME LIKE IT HOT) as her warlock brother, Ernie Kovacs as the writer on the lookout for witches, and Hermione Gingold as head witch, aided by Elsa Lanchester at her most ditzy, plus Janice Rule as Stewart's bitchy girlfriend, who it turns out was at college with Kim. Pyewacket the cat is super too. 
This is a great New York movie, and would be a terrific, if long, double bill with BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S -  which also has a great cat. 
Amusingly, this has now been seen in a gay context. Druten it seems was gay, and the coven of witches with their hidden culture and their own nightclub (presided over by la Gingold) could be read as coded for the secret life of gays in '50s New York. "They are all around us" Lemmon happily tells the bewildered Kovacs ... The Zodiac Club too is a great beat haven - in fact gays and beatniks are not too hard to find here in this Greenwich Village. It is tres amusing at the Club when Stewart and Janice turn up, and Kim causes a return of those thunderstorms which plagued Janice so, back at college. It was also Stewart's last as a romantic lead [he is 50 here], he really slipped into character parts with his next, the still terrific ANATOMY OF A MURDER, plus those father parts. [Nice to see him and Novak re-united handing out an award on one of those 80s Oscar shows].

Richard Quine directs with a light touch, ably assisted by James Wong Howe's lovely camerawork making New York at Christmas in the snow, positively enchanting. Daniel Taradash did the script (he also scripted FROM HERE TO ETERNITY) and the nice score is by George Duning. Kim makes a magical rather beatnik witch, always in black and that nice cape for the snow scene - with her shop of primitive art - then at the end when she is human she is in lavender and yellow and her shop is now "Flowers of the Sea" with sea shells - perhaps this, VERTIGO and STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET are her key roles. Pyewacket excels too ..... BB&C remains a welcome treat anytime. 

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