Long before Samantha and Darrin, there were Gillian and Shep. Bell, Book and Candle (1958) is a romantic comedy directed by Richard Quine and is based on the successful Broadway play by John Van Druten. The film stars Kim Novak as the brash, sexy siren Gillian Holroyd. Jimmy Stewart plays the mild-mannered upstairs neighbor, Shep Henderson, lured in by her spell. Blithely seducing Shep away from an old college nemesis, Gillian finds herself caught in a web of her own making. Soon she must decide: Is love worth losing everything?
This beautifully restored film (released on DVD in 1999) is simply a joy to watch. The supporting cast, including Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs, often steal the show as the drunken writer out to expose Manhattan witches is helped along by Gillian’s bumbling warlock brother. James Howe’s cinematography is superb. The magical Pyewacket (Gillian’s familiar) is as mesmerizing as Novak herself. All in all, the film is a delightful spoof on magic and Manhattan at Christmastime.