Massachusetts -- despite the family-fun atmosphere and tourism dollars raked up like so many autumn leaves over in Salem due to the businesses catering to those interested in the infamous Witch Trials of 1692 (see this post on the monument to Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha character in “Bewitched” at my New England Travels blog) -- bears even today a leaden sense of chagrin, if not still a feeling of guilt, over persecution in the 17th century. Salem was only one town; there were others, and witchcraft was an easy card to play in a superstitious era if you did not like your neighbor or spouse and wanted to legally get rid of them.
How we in the 20th century have managed to turn that sorry era into something comic is as much due to a healthy sense of humor as it is a short memory. In the 20th century we manage to see witchcraft as something ridiculous, and yet imagine how fun it would be to have special powers. Especially if they belonged to a pretty, blonde scamp.
Veronica Lake is the witch in the title, and she is charming. The only devil is in her eyes, and she plays both the comedy and the angst of her character with a light, breezy touch. Fredric March is the bumbling mortal she first teases, and then loves.
I wonder if our old pal Glinda “The Good Witch” of the “Wizard of Oz” (1939) was our first exposure to the idea of a “good witch”? The idea of the good witch, by the 1940s and 1950s, turned into the sexy witch through this film, and stage hit and film “Bell, Book, and Candle” (1958) -- see this previous post. Samantha of the TV hit “Bewitched” followed in due course in the 1960s.
She wants revenge on Mr. March for his ancestor’s part in her execution. Her weapon is a potion to make him love her. However, by mistake, she drinks the love potion and then she’s nuts about him, to her father’s disgust.
Lots of twists and turns both in their romance and his run for elected office, but just a few fun scenes:
When observing the black tie party, Lake (still a formless wisp of smoke before she has found an appropriate 4’11” body) remarks on the cheek-to-cheek dancing of the modern era: “I never thought I’d see close like that in New England.”
I think my favorite scene is when Veronica Lake, who has just discovered the joy of waffles, keeps shoving them into her mouth, folding them up like a sandwich.
Women Wearing Men’s Jammies genre. See this previous post.
I wonder how many films featured a Justice of the Peace awakened in the middle of the night and officiating a wedding in his bathrobe?
Fredric March is very polished, and good in his deadpan moments, especially when he has won the election through Veronica’s witchcraft. His opponent had no votes. March gapes at Robert Benchley, “He didn’t even vote for himself!”
I like the way he lifts her long locks off her shoulders as he speaks to her. Many fans are aware the two did not like each other at all, but their work does not show that.
His plan is evil, devious, and strangely human. Veronica Lake decides love is stronger than witchcraft. An idea that love can make us superhuman if not supernatural.
The movie was released October 30, 1942, just in time for Halloween. I did not notice any wartime references, so this must truly have been a delightful escape.