United Artists released I Married a Witch on October 30, 1942. French director, René Clair, directed this early rom-com which stars Fredric March, Veronica Lake, Robert Benchley, and Cecil Kellaway. Robert Pirosh and Marc Connelly wrote the script based Thorne Smith’s unfinished novel, The Passionate Witch.
In the late 1600s, a Puritan town burns Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her father, Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) at the stake for being witches. Right before their execution, Jennifer curses her accuser, Jonathan Wooley (Fredric March) and all his male descendants for eternity; dooming them to always marry the wrong woman. The town then buries their ashes beneath an oak tree; imprisoning their evil spirits for as long as the tree shall live.
Over the next 270 years, the Wooley men stumble into terrible marriage after terrible marriage until lightening strikes the old oak tree, and Jennifer and her father escape. Jennifer decides to torment the latest living Wooley, Wallace, all by herself, but things don’t go as planned when she falls in love with him.
Will Daniel stop his daughter from marrying a mere mortal? Will the two live happily ever after as husband and wife, or is their love part of Jennifer’s curse; dooming Wallace to marry the wrong woman as well? This is the stuff that screwball comedies of the 1940s are made of!
While there are a lot of character actors in the ensemble cast, I Married a Witch lives and dies with Veronica Lake’s performance. She might have only been 5’ tall, but all eyes are on her when she enters stage right. One of the major sex symbols of her day, Veronica Lake steals the show with her classic femme fatale performance. While she’s sassy and evil, you never fully hate her. This, along with the film noir classic This Gun for Hire (1942), solidified her as THE femme fatale of film. Unfortunately, in about a decade’s time, Veronica Lake will be gone from Hollywood; never to return.
Everyone else in the film puts in a decent performance, but characters with depth isn’t this film’s strength. While Fredric March is mostly enjoyable, I will admit that his schtick starts to get old about midway through. For a man running for governor, his character lacks charisma.
Cecil Kellaway as Jennifer’s father, Daniel is an evil little prick, and the only other fun character in the film besides Veronica. Robert Benchley as Dr. Dudley White make a great sidekick to Wallace Wooley, but in the end he’s not really needed for this movie.
The cinematography is what’s you’d expect from a studio film of this era. Nothing stands out, but it is sufficient. I Married a Witch was nominated for one Academy Award for “Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture)” for composer Roy Webb.
Like I said, I Married a Witch is a screwball comedy, and a screwball comedy from the 1940s can seem very dated if your not in the right mindset. I have seen other reviews where people don’t like the film at all, and I get it. Some of the gags come off a bit forced. The special effects of the time just don’t hold up, but as a whole, this 77 minute film entertains me to this day. If you’re a fan of the 1960s TV show, Bewitched, you should love this film as well as it’s the basis for that program.
I Married a Witch is still a great movie, and another film to put on your list to watch.
What do you think of the film? Let us know in the comments below.