Before there was a Bewitched TV show, there was the premise of a pretty witch falling in love with an average mortal man. In fact, Sol Saks has stated in his book, The Craft of Comedy Writing, that “the idea of a witch living as a mortal…has been used in Greek mythology, in fairy tales, in novels, on the stage, and in motion pictures. The only real originality, I’m quite willing to confess, was that Bewitched was the first to adapt the concept successfully to the television screen.”
He drew inspiration from the 1942 classic I Married a Witch starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake and the 1958 film Bell, Book, and Candle with James Stewart and Kim Novak. Both movies were stories of typical American men bewitched by young, beautiful witches who had chosen to live in the mortal realm. I Married a Witch was actually based on Thorne Smith’s book The Passionate Witch, while Bell, Book, and Candle was based on John Van Druten's play with the same name.
Saks discussed the similarities of the Bewitched theme with the two movies in the E! True Hollywood Story: Bewitched when he said that they didn’t have to worry about being sued because Columbia Pictures owned both of the movies, as well as the Screen Gems television division. So, Saks got busy zapping up a script about a pretty witch named Cassandra (later changed to Samantha), her new husband, Darrin, and her meddling mother, Matilda* (later changed to Endora).
Below are summaries of these bewitching movies with notes on the similarities to the TV show.
NOTE: There are spoilers for the following movie endings in this article. Do not continue to read this if you do not already know the ending of the movies and care to watch them without knowing the ending.
This movie begins in the late 1600s with a puritan man, Jonathan Wooley, recanting why a young witch named Jennifer is being burned at the stake. Jennifer put a curse on Wooley and his children, and his children's children, that they would never be happy in love because he has denounced her as a witch. In the spot where she was burned, a mighty Oak tree was planted, so that the roots would bind the evil spirits of the witch's soul.
The Mighty Oak that Captured the Spirit of the Witches
Lightening strikes the tree and Jennifer and her father Daniel's spirits are released after 270 years. The witches manifest as puffs of smoke that hide in bottles to spy on the new-fangled New England that they are surrounded by and watch gubernatorial candidate Walter Wooley (the latest Wooley to suffer from Jennifer's disastrous "love" spell). Jennifer's bottle recants that "each Wooley must marry the wrong woman." To which her father replies, "Every man who marries marries the wrong woman. True suffering cometh when a man is in love with a woman that he cannot marry."
Veronica Lake As Jennifer
So, this gives Jennifer an idea. She says, "Suppose a man was in love with a woman... a witch! I would not marry him." With that, the puffs of smoke travel by broom looking for something evil to do to the town that sacrificed them so long ago. Jennifer begs her dad to give her a body, so that she can seek revenge on the politician, who is soon to be married to a snobbish lady named Estelle. Daniel sets fire to the Pilgrim Hotel and transforms Jennifer into a beautiful blonde who appears in a burning hotel room. She feigns desperate for Wooley to save her.
Bent on destroying the relationship between the future governor, Walter, and the wealthy Estelle, Jennifer uses her witchcraft to seduce him. Wooley is convinced that Jennifer is sent by his opponent's camp to undermine his bid for governor and wants no part of her.
Daniel comes to see Jennifer as flames in the fireplace. She decides to make a love potion for Walter using a cauldron and her father's heat in her quest to conquer Walter Wooley. After the potion is prepared, a large picture of Wooley's ancestor falls off the wall and renders Jennifer unconscious. Afraid that this may get out in the press, Wooley attempts to revive her by giving her a goblet that he believes to be a glass of water. Jennifer drinks the liquid, but as she regains her wits, she realizes that it was the potion and that she has put herself under a love spell on the day of his wedding to Estelle.
Figure 3: Jennifer Talking to Her Father (fire)
Despite her father's protest and his fiancé, mayhem ensues and Jennifer and Wally fall in love. On their wedding night, she confesses that she is a witch. He doesn't believe it until she helps him win the election.
In a rage, Daniel takes away Jennifer's powers. She and Wally try to escape, but Daniel ends up driving the cab back to the oak tree. There they realize that love is stronger than witchcraft. They appear to be living happily ever after at the end of the movie in a home free of witchcraft (except for Daniel being trapped in a bottle to prevent him from causing any more trouble), until you see their daughter, who looks like and is named after Jennifer, pretending to be riding a broom. Jennifer tells Wally that they will have trouble with her, but Wally loves that their daughter is just like her mom.
Similarities to Bewitched
Several of the scenes in I Married a Witch served as inspiration on Bewitched. Also, there are similarities with the characters.
Wooley - Darrin Stephens
Jennifer wreaks havoc at Estelle and Wally's wedding by causing a great wind storm in the room, which is reminiscent of the dinner party at Sheila's house in # 1 of Bewitched.
Susan Hayward As Estelle Masterson (a prelude to Sheila Sommers)
confesses to her new husband that she is witch on their wedding night,
just as Samantha told Darrin of her powers in # 1
Fathers Traveling as Puffs of Smoke
one of her first attempts at living without witchcraft, Jennifer learns
how to light a match. Uncle Arthur also struggled with this when he
loses his powers in # 165.
This movie is set in the present time (for 1958) in New York City. Gillian Holroyd is a young, blonde witch with a passion for primitive art and the study of man. She runs a small primitive art store on the first floor of her apartment building. She longs for a regular life, as it is Christmas Eve and she feels lonely. She watches Shep Henderson, a publisher who also lives in the same building with Gillian, her Aunt Queenie, and brother Nicky, get out of a cab and go upstairs. She tells her familiar, a Siamese cat named Pyewacket, that she'd like the man upstairs for Christmas.
Kim Novak As Gillian
Shep arrives at his apartment and discovers a bumbling Aunt Queenie snooping through his apartment. He asks her to leave and she takes offense and puts a hex on his telephone. So, in order to make a call, he goes down to Gillian's store and asks to use her phone to report the problem with his phone. They talk about a book she has lying on the counter called Magic in Mexico by Sidney Redlitch. As a publisher, Shep is interested that it sells so well, but Gillian tells him it is all bunk. She tells him that she has studied in Mexico and majored in anthropology. They both would like to meet the author of the book for different reasons.
Queenie comes down to invite Gillian to the Zodiac Club. Shep expresses an interest, so Gill invites him not knowing that he already has a date. After he leaves, Queenie informs her that Shep is getting married and that she saw a picture of his girlfriend while snooping. Gillian is a powerful witch, much more so than her aunt, and forbids her from practicing witchcraft in the apartment building again. When Queenie points out that Gill uses it in the shop, Gillian says that it is different because she is discreet. In most instances, she uses Pyewacket to act out her wishes.
At the Zodiac Club, a tawdry bar in NYC's underground where witches perform and mingle, Gillian says that she would love to spend Christmas in a "little church somewhere singing Christmas carols." Queenie has no interest in the humdrum world of mortals, but Gillian is enamored. As they are talking about this, Shep and his fiancé Merle are walking down the street and he spots the Zodiac Club and convinces her to give it a try. They are only permitted entrance because Shep's sign is favorable (he's a Pisces). Once they are inside, they are captivated by an interpretive dance number.
Queenie and Gill spot the couple, and Gillian instantly recognizes Merle as a troublemaker from college. They come to the table and sit down. Merle begins to insult the man playing the bongos without realizing that it is Gillian's brother, Nicky. Gillian begins to bring up several negative incidents from college and is obviously jealous of Merle. Merle ends up leaving the club and Shep follows her. Gillian wonders if she could ever get a guy like Shep without her "tricks."
Gillian, Aunt Queenie, and Nicky go back to the shop to exchange Christmas presents. Nicky gives Gillian a potion for summoning. Gillian uses it to summons the author of the book that Shep was interested in earlier that night. She paints the author's picture from the book jacket with the potion and sets it on fire in a bowl in front of them. Shep is walking past and rushes in thinking that the shop is on fire.
Queenie and Nicky realize Gillian's attraction and leave them alone. He stays for a drink and they get to know each other. Gillian asks what Shep thought of the club and he says it seemed "more like Halloween than Christmas" in there. It is after midnight, and Shep informs Gillian that he is getting married today. He starts telling Gill about all of Merle's redeeming qualities and professes his love for her and it is more than Gillian can stand. Gillian puts a spell on him while humming to Pyewacket. Shep asks why she is humming and gets up to leave, but he is spellbound. He grabs Gillian and kisses her. The rest of the night is a whirlwind with them arriving on top of a skyscraper and Shep asking how they got there.
Shep professes his love for Gillian and asks her how she feels about him. Once she tells him that she could stay enchanted forever as well, he realizes that he has to let Merle know that the wedding scheduled for later that day must be canceled. Merle is upset, but Shep is too in love with Gill to care. He goes in to work and Redlitch, the author whom Gill summoned the night before, arrives disheveled. He said he had an overwhelming desire to take a plane to New York and meet with Shep to discuss his next project--a book on witches that he wants to call Magic in Manhattan or Magic All Around Us. Redlitch tells Shep that there is a community of witches in New York. He describes the differences between mortals as:
Redlitch also mentions that the local headquarters for the witches in the Zodiac Club. Shep doesn't actually believe the author, but invites him to Gillian's to discuss the book. The author tells them about witches and how he can recognize them instantly. The family is not impressed with this con artist, but Shep is interested in publishing the book. When Gillian puts Pyewacket outside, Redlitch tells them that cats are often used as familiars that carry out their master's wishes. Redlitch then says that he is going to talk to Mrs. DePass (sort of the grand matriarch of the Manhattan chapter of witches) and Gillian asks Nicky to go with him and prevent the author from talking to Mrs. DePass.
After the others leave, Shep tells Gillian of his intentions on marrying her. She tells him that she does not see herself ever being married. She says that she lives "for and by the special. Not the ordinary." She tells him that she wishes she could change her lifestyle for him, but she cannot. She leaves the room and almost cries, but then decides that she will marry him and that she will just not tell him about her powers.
Shep (Jimmy Stewart) and Gillian (Kim Novak)
That is until she discovers that Nicky has revealed himself as a warlock to Redlitch and is ghostwriting his book. She is furious. She forbids Nicky from publishing the book and says she intends to "renounce" herself as a witch. But Nicky goes along with Redlitch and tries to publish the book, but Shep thinks it is garbage. Gillian comes to see him and confesses that she is a witch, but he thinks it is a ploy to get Nicky's book published. She confesses that their time spent together on Christmas morning was a spell before she leaves him to comprehend what has happened. He runs into Aunt Queenie at the apartment building and she tells him that Gill was getting revenge on Merle because they were college rivals. This infuriates him and he confronts Gillian at the shop.
In order to get himself un-bewitched, Shep asks Redlitch and Nicky to take him to see Mrs. DePass. She's an eccentric lady who makes an antidote, which Shep has to muster the courage to drink. He is humiliated as even her bird is calling him a "fool." Mrs. De Pass also makes the condition that Shep must confront Gillian for the antidote to take affect.
Gillian is upset that Shep moved out of the apartment building and went to Mrs. De Pass, but he said that drinking the potion and paying $1,000 was worth it. Gillian vows to seek revenge on Merle when Shep says that he is going back to work things out with her. She talks of transporting Merle to another location or making her fall in love with a stranger. But she can't because Pyewacket does not want anything to do with her. As the cat runs down the street, Gillian begins to cry. She realizes that she is now powerless because she has fallen in love.
Months pass and Pyewacket shows up at Shep's office. He captures the cat and returns it to Gillian's store thinking that she sent the cat to him. Once he arrives, he realizes that she has given up her study of anthropology and now has a flower shop. Shep is intrigued by her transformation and thanks her for not "hexing" Merle. He pays her a compliment and she starts to blush. As he questions her, she begins to cry. He realizes that they are still in love with each other for real this time and says "Who's to say what magic is?" as he embraces her.
Similarities to Bewitched
Overall, this movie is less like Bewitched than I Married A Witch. Samantha never tried to coerce Darrin using her powers, which is quite the opposite of Gillian in this movie. Several of the scenes in Bell, Book, and Candle served as inspiration on Bewitched. Also, there are similarities with the characters.
Holroyd - Samantha Stephens
and Shep meet in her shop in New York City, while Darrin and Samantha
also bumped into each other while shopping at store in # 1 of Bewitched.
Endora with Ophelia the Familiar in 240
The Tea Service As Shown in Bell Book & Candle and Bewitched
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