Although Clair is famous for his experimental French silents and several early talkies, here's the master at a later peak in, yes, Hollywood, USA. An accomplished confection, WITCH is required Halloween viewing.
Kellaway and his daughter Lake are branded witches in 1690 and burned at the stake, but not before putting a curse on their persecutors, the Wooley family. They threaten that no male member of the family will find happiness, and the curse is shown taking effect as misfortune befalls Wooley males
(all played by March) through the ages, up to 1942 where March is shown to be a stuffed shirt with a snobbish fiancee, Hayward. He's running for governor of the state with backing from Hayward's filthy rich father, Warwick, an influential publisher. A storm comes up and lightning splits the
ancient tree under which Kellaway and Lake were buried over 250 years before. They are freed, emerging as a rotund, booze-loving fellow and a blonde siren. From that point on, Lake does all in her power to make March fall in love with her. Yet her powers seem unable to sway him, as his plans to
wed Hayward remain unchanged.
Lake, who had only been in films for a year, is wonderfully effective. Released from the sustained tension of film noir material, she demonstrates a quirky sense of comedy. Her line readings tingle with malice and hoydenish longing. WITCH also presents a lighter, warmer, more likable March than
ever before--his chemistry with Lake is very engaging.
This is one of the rare instances where the "other woman" measures up to the lead in beauty and presence. Despite having her own beautiful hair chignoned to play up Lake's, Hayward's career took a major step here, snagging her a series of hard-bitten second leads that prepared her for the
Davis-Crawford-Stanwyck roles that would establish her later as a great star. And WITCH finds Kellaway in peak form--it's his most three-dimensional role. Look out, too, for humorist Robert Benchley as March's confused political advisor.
This film, with its wonderful special effects, was in the hilarious tradition of TOPPER and THE GHOST GOES WEST. Clair's direction is swift and sure, producing a livelier, more cohesive effort than his first Hollywood production, THE FLAME OF NEW ORLEANS, which fizzled at the box office. This
Thorne Smith tale, taken from an incomplete novel, worked so well onscreen that it inspired the popular sitcom, "Bewitched."
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Although Clair is famous for his experimental French silents and several early talkies, here's the master at a later peak in, yes, Hollywood, USA. An accomplished confection, WITCH is required Halloween viewing. Kellaway and his daughter Lake are branded… (more)