[Film Review] I Married a Witch (1942)

I Married a Witch poster

Title: I Married a Witch
Year: 1942
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Director: René Clair
Robert Pirosh
Marc Connelly
based on the novel THE PASSIONATE WITCH by Thorne Smith
Music: Roy Webb
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Fredric March
Veronica Lake
Robert Benchley
Susan Hayward
Cecil Kellaway
Elizabeth Patterson
Robert Warwick
Eily Malyon
Rating: 5.8/10

I Married a Witch 1942

Served as French cine-pyrotechnist René Clair’s second Hollywood venture when he was a hired-hand by the studios, I MARRIED A WITCH cashes in on a lighthearted script about witchcraft and head-over-heels romance, and headlined by a 20-year-old Veronica Lake (in her iconic peekaboo coiffure) and a visibly too-old-for-the-bachelor-role Fredric March.

The fatuous story develops around a witch Jennifer (Lake), after miraculously awaken by a thunder striking the oak tree where she and her sorcerer father Daniel (Kellaway) were burned centuries ago, now is frivolously bent on seeking revenge from Wallace Wooley (March), the descendant of her denouncer in Salem, by seducing the latter into marry her, so that she can break his heart. But under the premise is that Wooley’s family has been already inflicted by her curse that all descendants will marry the wrong woman, so their marriages have been destined for unhappiness, which only makes her punishment gratuitous.

Anyway, things don’t go exactly as Jennifer plans, for one thing, she accidentally drinks the philter which prepares for Wallace and gets all smitten with him instead. However, as the throwaway catchword is “love is stronger than witchcraft”, which would been none-too-subtly addressed multiple times in the course of the farce, the writers (including an uncredited Dalton Trumbo as the contributing writer) seem oblivious enough to unleash her under the spell, so eventually when they reach that banal happy ending, it awkwardly sends out a mixed message in aftermath.

The cast is serviceable at its best, there is a pleasant and even childlike guilelessness in Veronica Lake’s cheerful insouciance, radiates from her vintage glamour out of her petite figure, a starlet made from Tinseltown banks on her looks rather than her acting range, while Oscar-winning leading man Fredric March self-consciously settles for a perpetual innocuous bewilderment, to audience’s amusement, only Cecil Kellaway is whimsically glinting with a certain degree of unpredictability to make the plot thicken. Finally, it is downright offensive to see Susan Hayward is cast in a thankless role as Wallace’s petulant bride-to-be Estelle, plays a second fiddler to a star far less talented than her.

An utterly harmless fluff notwithstanding, the picture at least dazzles with its dexterity of handling with its fantasy tropes, two wisps of smoke represents the amorphous Jennifer and Daniel and a set piece of a flying taxi using matte legerdemain must have been quite an engrossing technique to woo its audience upon its release, a credit certainly should be attributed to Mr. Clair himself.

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