I MARRIED A WITCH
I Married a Witch still holds up beautifully (if a little spottily in the technical effects department). While the humour of many of these comedies often seems corny today, I Married a Witch has lost none of its sly whimsicality. Rene Clair tosses in perfectly charming throwaway gags broomsticks moving of their own accord, Veronica Lake casually sliding up the banisters or sitting nonchalantly unconcerned in the middle of a burning hotel room. The films greatest joy is the marvelously coy, kittenish performance from Veronica Lake. She was a popular star of the era, delivering radiant performances in films like I Wanted Wings (1941), Sullivans Travels (1941) and This Gun for Hire (1942). In most of the parts Lake was cast in, she was the romantic interest, subordinate to the male star of the show. No film ever allowed her to show off with such sexy pixieishness as I Married a Witch did. It is a role that she was born to play and she does so sublimely with a range of capricious expressions that suggest both mischief and innocence at the same time. In one of the most charming scenes, Frederic March asks her to return the coat he lends her to the nearest police station whereupon she throws it out the window at two passing cops and departs in the taxi naked.
Frederic March does a fine job of playing in essence the straight man to Veronica Lake. The volleying of dialogue in the scenes between the two of them is a wholehearted delight. There is also a great performance from Cecil Kellaway. Kellaway was one of the great underrated comedy actors (as opposed to comics) of the era and he has marvellous fun, cackling away with wicked glee as Veronica Lakes father.
I Married a Witch served as inspiration for a number of other works, in particular Bell Book and Candle (1958) and tvs Bewitched (1964-72) and to a lesser extent Practical Magic (1998), which all played comedic variations on the witch in love theme as seen here. These films carry an underlying sexism in the repeated theme of the witch having to sacrifice her powers in order to accept love and eventually surrender to marriage.
Rene Clairs other genre films were the surrealist silent films Entracte (1924) and The Imaginary Voyage (1925); the silent sf film Paris Qui Dort (The Crazy Ray) (1925) about Paris frozen in time; the ghost comedy The Ghost Goes West (1936); It Happened Tomorrow (1944) about a man who can read tomorrows headlines; Beauty and the Devil (1950), a retelling of the Faust story; and Beauties of the Night (1952) a charming fantasy about a daydreamer.