Monday, February 10, 2014

Movie Review: I Married a Witch (1942)

I Married a Witch (1942) directed by Rene Clair

In the 1600s, two witches (a father and a daughter) are to be burned at the stake on the accusation of Puritan Jonathan Wooley (Fredrick March). The daughter curses Wooley and all his descendants--they will be unhappy in marriage. We see Jonathan is already about to be yoked unhappily to a shrewish Puritan girl who's come to see the witches burn. We also see a vendor selling snacks to the crowd like a hot-dog vendor at a ballpark. The Puritans plant a tree over the witches' grave to keep their spirits from wandering and causing mischief. This doesn't prevent the daughter's spell from ruining the marriages of the Wooley family as we see in a montage.

The movie moves forward 270 years to Wallace Wooley (also Frederick March), descendant of Jonathan who is about to be married (unhappily) and be elected governor (his bride-to-be's father is a newspaper owner whose been orchestrating the election). One fundraiser just before the wedding is near where the witches were buried. A lighting storm comes up and strikes the tree. The tree breaks and the two spirits escape. They float over to the party (they're just puffs of smoke) and discuss what is happening (and also the shocking behavior of the modern people--dancing so close and dresses that show arms and backs!). The father says his daughter's curse would be much better if the fellow falls in love with someone else and then marries the shrew.

The daughter agrees and they fly off to do the spell that will give her a body. They have to burn a house down as part of the spell, so they burn down the Puritan Hotel. Wallace and his fiance are driving back and get caught in traffic caused by the fire. Wallace goes into the hotel because he hears a woman's voice. He finds the witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and saves her from the fire. He doesn't recognize she's a witch because...well...the spell only grants her a body, not clothing. He gives her his coat and they escape the building. Romantic entanglements begin!

The movie is entertaining with some nice twists and a few contrivances. It isn't super-funny like Bringing Up Baby or It Happened One Night, but is funny enough. The comedy is fairly broad but still works. March and Lake are a fun couple. The special effects are fairly impressive for 1942. The movie is a fine-looking light supernatural comedy.

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