For the month of October, I decided very obviously to watch something Halloweenie (completely an official term….). I decided to rewatch a favorite. Well actually I did a witchy double header with I Married a Witch (1942) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958) but I will spare you and only talk about I Married a Witch. This is a 1942 fantasy (because of witches) romance starring Veronica Lake and Fredric March. Supporting cast include Robert Benchley, Cecil Kellaway and Susan Hayward. It was directed by Rene Clair and based on the book The Passionate Witch. I made waffles (there is a reason) to go with it which, like always, I will talk about the recipe tomorrow.
My sloppy attempt at recapping the story with some definite spoilers and most likely leaving important details out!:
The movie opens in the time of the puritans where two witches, Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway), are being burned at the stake and then buried under a tree to act as a prison for their witchy souls. They were denounced by Jonathan Wooley (Fredric March) who Jennifer placed a curse to make the marriages of him and his male descendants unbearable.
The present day Wooley descendant is running for governor. We first get to see Wallace Wooley (also played by Fredric March) and his future bride Estelle Masterson (Susan Hayward) on the veranda already arguing a day before the wedding.
They are attending a private party that her father, J.B. Masterson (Robert Warwick), has turned into a political event. Also the “witch jail tree” gets struck by lightening freeing Jennifer and her father. The catch is that they don’t have bodies but instead are smoke.
They float towards the party and hide in bottles. Jennifer notices the Wooley descendant and laughs at the curse she put on him. Her father says that all men marry the wrong woman so that is not a curse. Instead a curse would be falling in love with a woman that you could not have. Jennifer thinks that she can make that happen.
They steal a broom and fly away from the party where Jennifer goads her father into giving her a body. The father agrees but needs fire for the spell. They spot the Pilgrim Hotel and light it on fire where Jennifer’s smoke essence floats down to gain her body.
This is a most convenient location to pick as Wooley is driving by with Estelle and his friend Dr. Dudley White (Robert Benchley) where Wallace ends up “rescuing” Jennifer.
Shenanigans ensue which leads to Wooley finding Jennifer in his bed. He explains that he understands her infatuation is only because he rescued her and then proceeds to explain the logistics of love for the rest of the night. By the end of it he is surprised how long he talked but does not find Jennifer to be an annoyance anymore.
Jennifer gets frustrated when Wooley leaves in the morning and gets visited by her father in flame form from the fireplace. The duo works together to created a love potion complete with singing an incantation.
Jennifer swears that once Wallace drinks it she will ” treat him like a slave. I will make him suffer body and soul.” But when Wallace comes back, Jennifer ends up drinking the potion when she gets knocked unconscious as Wooley thinks it was water. Wooley then leaves for his wedding.
Her father finally gets his own body and finds out about the turn of events. Jennifer tries to convince her father to make Wooley fall in love with her. Daniel agrees but you get the feeling that helping Jennifer is not really in his plan. They decided to crash the wedding.
As the wedding is starting, Wooley is nervous that Jennifer will appear and Estelle is annoyed by everything. Enter the witches!
Daniel immediately casts a very powerful wind spell that delays the wedding. During the break, Wooley is introduced to Jennifer’s father. Not interested in helping his daughter, Daniel is only interesting in revenge. Basically he wants Wallace to shoot him as demonstrated when he hands Wooley a gun. Wallace wants no part and puts down the gun so instead a spell is cast on the pistol so it shoots Daniel anyways. Dudley ( the doctor friend) enters and hears Daniel blame Wooley with his “dying words”.
Despite the supposed dead body, Wooley and Dudley goes back to start the wedding again but Wooley ends up fainting. Back in the room Jennifer knows her father is not dead and finds his smoke self hiding in a bottle of alcohol in which he is gladly partaking in. Jennifer grabs the gun and shoots the bottle to get her father to leave it. The sound of the gunshot jolts Wooley awake and he runs to check on the witch. Wedding delay number two.
Jennifer threatens her father that she will tell Wooley what they are if he does not get back into the body. Wooley and Dudley reenters to see a very alive Daniel who escapes only to be arrested for being drunk.
Attempt number three to get married is under way but Wooley and his friend goes to check on Jennifer when they hear her scream. When Wallace shows concern thinking she is dead but Jennifer wakes up and kisses him just as a very annoyed Estelle walks in. J.B. promptly threatens to ruin Wooley’s political career (J.B. owns the newspapers) and succeeds if the headlines of the papers are any indication.
Jennifer and Wallace gets stopped by some heavy fog at a quaint inn. They promptly decided to get married but after Jennifer feels guilty for not telling Wooley that she is a witch.
She tries many times to tell him but Wallace clearly has other ideas of what he rather be doing on their wedding night. He succeeds in distracting her not before she promises to win the election for him.
Wallace Wooley visits Jennifer’s super hungover father in jail to inquire about Jennifer claiming to be a witch. The father says that he can help Wooley with Jennifer if he can get him out of jail. Wooley stupidly agrees which I guess he forgot when the father tried framing him for murder. We then get to see scenes where people who are against Wooley for governor has a mysterious smoke pass by and instantly change their mind to vote for Wallace Wooley. “We Want Wooley” becomes the chant. Wallace wins by a huge landslide (or by like all the votes) and is now convinced that his wife is a witch.
Jennifer’s father visits to banish her back to the tree and also takes her magic away. Wallace and Jennifer leave in a cab that they do not realize is being driven by her father and he is heading towards the tree. At the tree, the father leaves his body as he is heading to the tree as well. Before Jennifer follows, she says a very tender goodbye to Wallace. The smokey forms of Jennifer and Daniel follow Wallace back to his house where he is bringing the body of Jennifer. Watching through the window, Daniel enters another alcohol bottle while Jennifer reenters her body when Wallace kisses her.
Quickly she places the top on the bottle that holds her father. The movie jumps ahead in time to find that Jennifer and Wallace are happily married with two boys and a young blond daughter that looks like Jennifer’s mini me. Jennifer warns that the daughter will be trouble. Wooley said that is impossible but quickly understands that Jennifer means their daughter is a witch.
Things I kinda sorta did not like:
The lore surrounding the witches: DO NOT think too hard about the witches in this movie’s universe. First Daniel has been around since Pompeii and Jennifer has been alive for 290 years so are they immortal or can they die? Obviously fire can’t kill them as well as bullets nor lack of food. Also if Daniel has been around that long surely he has other offspring. Is Jennifer’s mother a witch as well or was she just a mortal? If they needed fire to get their human bodies, did it just manifest or did they need to kill someone in that fire? How was Daniel able to take Jennifer’s magic and if he took her magic and made her mortal why did she have to go back to the tree? No one saw any of the times the brooms were flying in the air? Nor did anyone hear the two bottle talking to each other? It is these little things like this that gnaw at the back of your mind. They don’t ruin the movie but the witches are not very fleshed out.
The Marriage: By the time Wallace and Jennifer get married, I wasn’t totally convinced of his love yet. It was rather sudden. Like what did she do to make him really fall in love with her that quickly besides being obviously gorgeous and very, very, very persistent.
Things I liked/loved/swooned over:
The Trim on the Bed in the Inn: I know it is a weird one but I really do love the trim! I mean look at that pom pom trim on the canopy.
Favorite Outfit: All those nice 1940s dresses.
Favorite Scene/Musical Number:
Every time the the wedding was delayed the singer had to start singing “I Love You Truly” all over again plus watching Hayward’s Estelle get more and more frustrated. Though she was set up as being a shrew, you completely start to understood her annoyance in this scene.
I also quite like the scene where Jennifer accidentally drinks the potion. It starts with her all cocky dressed beautifully in a gorgeous white dress. She gets the potion in Wallace’s hand, confidently falls into a chair saying”You’ll find out that no one named Wooley can stay away from me while pointing to the picture of one of Wallace’s ancestors. Then……Conk!!!! The picture falls and hits her head proving in a funny way that indeed Wooleys can’t resist her. She is out and now drinking the potion.
Favorite Character: Veronica Lake’s Jennifer makes the movie. She is perfectly played by the young actress. The character is funny, sneaky, seductive and playful all at the same time.
(Before attempting to give Wallace the love potion)J
Jennifer: Why do you look at me that way? Oh, my dress. Do you like it?
Wallace Wooley: I-I don’t know. It’s such a shock to see you dressed. I mean… you’re beautiful.
Jennifer: Enough to make a man fall in love?
Wallace Wooley: Mere physical beauty isn’t everything.
Jennifer: [disappointed] That’s what I thought.
(While trying to explain she is a witch)
Jennifer: Ever hear of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? That was our crowd.
Would I Watching It Again: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I mean technically I already have. Despite me nitpicking, I do love this movie. As long as you don’t think too hard about why things are happening, it is fun and playful take on the whole witches thing.