Bell Book and Candle – Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak

Hello angels, this movie definitely has a Halloween flair and it’s also an egregious example of the weirdest, but hardly atypical, age inappropriate May/December Hollywood romance, I give you: “Bell, Book and Candle”. I remember about eighteen years ago Miramax (when it was the Weinstein’s company) held the rights and the script was being developed for Sharon Stone. And, like most projects it sizzled out – something like – nobody was happy with the script. It happens frequently. Sometimes it means “nobody is happy with the script” and sometimes it means a witty sophisticated rendition of a story that relies on the audience’s fluency in the language can’t be sold overseas…


Honestly, I think James Stewart was a little past it (50 to Kim Novak’s 25) to play the romantic lead but it’s still a fun movie. (A certain somebody who’s won two Academy Awards is fond of telling me I don’t know anything about being a man, or what appeals to men, and when I mention something about skin crawly romances or BABYSITTING your date he just rolls his eyes – so maybe he’s right and Mr. Stewart was perfect for the part.) Elsa Lanchester, Jack Lemmon, and Ernie Kovacs in supporting roles steal the show.

This is a bonus – leave it to the Germans to come up with a scary poster for a comedy:

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  1. October 24, 2012

    Yeah, the age discrepancy was something, but having these two together again (VERTIGO released in the same year) made it special. Great that you brought this one up, Vickie. I think I’ll show it to my kids this weekend for the holiday. Thanks.

    • October 24, 2012

      Definitely suitable for a younger audience. I have been enjoying your posts about “The Exorcist” — and like “Jaws” — I was forbidden to see it and still haven’t. Some serious catching up to do!

  2. October 24, 2012

    The big male stars from the 30’s and 40’s were so very often paired with women in their 20’s in the 1950’s ….all those new girls coming up and these big box office men were money in the bank. And of course I feel that it also had something to do with the big brass being older men and the appeal to them that they could get a young lady interested. (am I off base on that thought?) sometimes it works like Gable and Monroe in The Misfits and sometimes it is creepy like Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon.
    The funny thing to me is that when I used to see these May-December pairings as a kid they all just seemed like grownups and it didn’t stick out then as odd. …Oh one of my favorties has to be Sophia Loren and Clark Gable in “It Started In Naples” 1959.
    On a set decorating note Kim Novak’s shop/apartment was very influential to me. My studio is separated into “rooms” just like her store and apartment were. Lots of air and light in a small space.
    Hugs from up here…going to the “Zodiac” on Halloween for some bongo music and a consultation with Mrs. De Passe …it is the scrabby end!

    • October 24, 2012

      Hey! I can now play the opening bars of “The Apartment” theme for piano… 😉

      • October 24, 2012

        That’s how it crumbles, cookie-wise.
        I just love that you can do that….now learn the whole thing!

      • October 24, 2012

        For you, dear sir — I will sit my derriere down and practice. Hugs from here! V

  3. George Kaplan
    April 28, 2013

    I love this post! Jimmy Stewart is creepily patriarchal – in a very fifties way – in that movie. Vertigo is like a critique of the Stewart/Novak relationship in Candle 😉
    Candle’s still a pretty good movie – Elsa L! Young Jack Lemmon! Witchcraft! Kim!
    I’ve nothing against May to December romance but *25* years?! Ho, boy! Hooray for Hollywood! That said a tv show with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and a 25 year-old, or a movie with Helen Mirren and a man in his early forties, those I could believe… Hm, too much information?! Bwahahaha!

    • April 29, 2013

      When you think of the smokin’ hot pairing of Stewart and Hepburn after the party in “The Philadelphia Story”… I’m just saying, that was much more appropriate casting 😉

  4. George Kaplan
    April 28, 2013

    Oh, oh, oh! Reading your reply to Mr Lanier above, Ms Vickie leads me to a thought (of sorts) I love the theme to The Apartment (masterpiece of a movie…) and I think we’d all adore hearing you play it or the opening bars on piano 😉 If I had any musical ability I’d love to play piano – not to mention they, like violins but more so, are beautiful instruments… Oops, tangential, rambling post.

    • April 29, 2013

      Oh lord child! I will spare you me plinking on the piano – it’s not fit to record 😉

  5. April 28, 2013

    You know I completely forgot this little personal fact. You know how Kim’s shop and apartment are divided by that shear curtain. I used that idea in my studio to create “Rooms”. I think you would get a kick out of that. “It is the scraby end!” LOL

    • April 29, 2013

      We will have tea beneath the diaphanous sheers 🙂

  6. April 28, 2013

    May – December romances have always been acceptable in Hollywood, remember the age disparity in Sunset Boulevard? *shudder* Great post as always! 😀

    • April 29, 2013

      The penultimate – but I have to say Ms. Swanson was a kick-ass fifty 😉

  7. April 28, 2013

    Dearest V
    Adore that German poster, surely much scarier than the movie itself!!
    As for frightful age mismatches, ‘Funnu Face’. That’s all The Dandy has to say on the matter. Well might Audrey sing ‘How Long Has This Been Going On?’ in that one, for in a her leading man’s case it’s been quite a while.
    Yours ever. trembling,
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • April 29, 2013

      Funny Face!!! That was creepster-geriatric-supreme! Agh!!!

  8. April 28, 2013

    Okay the creepiest and in the end most wonderful May December match would have to be James Mason and Sue Lyon in Kubrick’s brilliant “Lolita”. I can just hear the theme song wafting out of the transistor radio as Lolita lowers her heart shaped sunglasses to transfix Humbert Humbert.

    • April 29, 2013

      Oh my lord… and why is it I could never look at Shelley Winters again without a shiver going down my spine?

  9. George Kaplan
    April 29, 2013

    And then… Shelley Winters ended up portraying the wife of the much older Jack Albertson in The Poseidon Adventure but we were supposed to think they were the same age? Because she was, er, fat?! Nice. 🙁
    Missy, I’d still like to hear your “plinking on the piano” because that’s er “how I roll” 😉
    That’s true about The Philadelphia Story!

  10. May 8, 2013

    Bell,Book and Candle I have not seen it,but after that clip I want very much to.No pun intended but I was very much charmed by it.The poster was great to.I would watch this I know any day rather than one of those ever so boring quick cut thrillers ultimately destined for the skip.Life is just too short to fill it with those types of films.

    • May 8, 2013

      Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer played it on Broadway – I bet it was superb – just perfect casting.

  11. May 8, 2013

    I loved also the interior scenes in the clip.Retro fantastic.

  12. May 8, 2013

    Thanks to laniersmith for the music.Its quite early here in The UK and I was really picked up by the infectious nature of the music.I watched a clip from the film also as I had never seen it before-the pinpong scene.

    I did not know that Peter Sellers was in the film and obviously the bad egg.I had the luck to meet him very briefly years ago as he was a lifelong friend of my Uncle.I cannot pretend that I had a long conversation with him because I did not.I shook his hand-he introduced himself just as Peter and went down the pub with my relative not to return.

    Not much of a story there Vickie I am afraid.

  13. October 29, 2014

    Haven’t seen this movie for ages, but I remember enjoying it.

    • October 30, 2014

      Hi Vinnie,
      John Van Druten who wrote the Broadway version wrote these plays that also became movies, “Leave Her to Heaven”, and “I Remember Mama”.

      • October 30, 2014

        Thanks for the info, will try and check out the films you mentioned.

  14. October 29, 2014

    Because it fits your next book…

    • October 30, 2014

      Whoa, it certainly does! And she was a child actress, too…

  15. October 29, 2014

    That German poster has me cracking up! Oh my goodness!

    • October 30, 2014

      The perplexed expression! The floating head! Eeks!

  16. November 8, 2014

    I don’t think Jimmy Stewart ever stopped being sexy. In this film, his age makes him the prime target age for Novak’s seduction. It puts him slightly off balance, the way a twelve year old boy is put off balance by a substitute teacher in a tight sweater. Men in their fifties are more susceptible to the over-sexed younger female. A younger, more virile man would probably laugh at Novak’s stylings, take some and move on.

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