I Married a Witch

I Married a Witch is the story of Jennifer, a witch who, along with her father, is burned at the stake by a pilgrim, Jonathan Wooley, whose family she subsequently curses forevermore to marry badly. Re-awakened by chance in 1942, Jennifer and her father proceed to take up where they left off and head off to seek the descendant of Jonathan, who, true to form, is teetering on the brink of his own bad marriage. Screwball comedy hilarity ensues. Or that was the plan anyway, a good one that seems like it should have succeeded a bit better than it actually does. The setup, as mentioned, is interesting, and the film contains good performances by Cecil Kellaway, who plays the father, and a ravishing looking Veronica Lake, who plays Jennifer. Some of the lines are good (the screenwriters include an un-credited contribution from Dalton Trumbo), and the film score was nominated for a 1943 Academy Award. Yet the results seem, well, uninspired. The chemistry between Wallace and Jennifer, played by Fredric March and Veronica Lake, while not exactly bad, isn’t exactly good either. According to the Wiki entry for the film, the two actors did not get on well during the filming, having exchanged insults with each other before shooting even began, so perhaps this is not surprising. Lake is said to have frequently played pranks on March during the shooting, including “hiding a 40-pound weight under her dress for a scene in which March had to carry her” and “pushing her foot repeatedly into his groin during the filming of a from-the-waist-up shot.” Nor was the relationship between the two leads the only source of friction. Several people initially involved with the project would exit before its completion, including Trumbo and producer Preston Sturges. Indeed, defections began at the outset with Joel McCrea, the first choice for the Wallace Woolsey character, who turned down the roll, citing his unwillingness to work again with Veronica Lake. The film definitely had promise and would later inspire the TV series Bewitched. And while it’s somewhat entertaining as is, one gets the feeling it could have been so much better if only Billy Wilder had been there to rescue it.   

 

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