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I Married a Witch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I Married a Witch
I Married a Witch (1942) poster artwork.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byRené Clair
Screenplay byRobert Pirosh
Marc Connelly
Based onThe Passionate Witch
1941 novel
by Thorne Smith and Norman H. Matson
Produced byRené Clair
CinematographyTed Tetzlaff
Edited byEda Warren
Music byRoy Webb
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • October 30, 1942 (1942-10-30)
Running time
77 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.1 million (US rentals)[1]

I Married a Witch is a 1942 American fantasy romantic comedy film, directed by René Clair, and starring Veronica Lake as a witch whose plan for revenge goes comically awry, with Fredric March as her foil. The film also features Robert Benchley, Susan Hayward and Cecil Kellaway. The screenplay by Robert Pirosh and Marc Connelly and uncredited other writers, including Dalton Trumbo, is based on the 1941 novel The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith, who died before he could finish it; it was completed by Norman H. Matson.

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Two witches in colonial Salem, the witch Jennifer and her father the warlock Daniel, are burned at the stake after being denounced by Puritan Jonathan Wooley. Their ashes were buried beneath a tree to imprison their evil spirits. In revenge, Jennifer curses Wooley and all his male descendants, dooming them always to marry the wrong woman.

Centuries pass. Generation after generation, Wooley men marry cruel, shrewish women. Finally, in 1942, lightning splits the tree, freeing the spirits of the witch Jennifer and the warlock Daniel. They discover Wallace Wooley, living nearby and running for governor, on the eve of marrying the spoiled Estelle Masterson, daughter of the newspaper publisher J.B. Masterson, who just so happens to be Wooley's chief political backer.

Initially, the witch Jennifer and the warlock Daniel manifest as white vertical smoky "trails," occasionally hiding in empty, or sometimes not-so-empty, bottles, some of which are of alcohol. Jennifer persuades the warlock Daniel to conjure a human body for her with which to torment Wallace. The warlock Daniel needs fire to perform this spell, and so he burns down a building. It is the Pilgrim Hotel. This serves a dual purpose, as the witch Jennifer uses the emergency to trap Wallace into rescuing her from the burning building.

Jennifer the witch tries hard to seduce Wallace without magic. Even though he is attracted to her, he refuses to call off his marriage. She concocts a love potion, but the scheme goes awry when a painting falls on her, knocking her out. Wallace revives her by giving her the very drink she had intended for him.

The warlock Daniel conjures himself a body. Then he and Jennifer crash the wedding, though they are at cross purposes. the warlock Daniel hates all Wooleys and tries to prevent his daughter from helping one of them. His attempts at interference land him in jail, too drunk to remember the spell to turn Wallace into a frog. Meanwhile, the wedding bride Estelle finds the couple embracing and the wedding is called off. Outraged, Estelle's father, J.B. promises to denounce Wallace Wooley in all his newspapers. Wallace finally admits that he loves Jennifer, and they elope.

The witch Jennifer then casts a spell on all the voters and ballots using witchcraft to fix the election. Even Wallace's opponent ends up voting for Wallace, the vote is unanimous. The election's outcome convinces Wallace that his new wife is a witch. The warlock Daniel warns his daughter that revealing her true nature to a mortal is to be punished and strips his daughter of her magical powers.

In a panic, Jennifer interrupts Wallace's victory speech, imploring him to help her escape. Unfortunately, the taxi they get into to get away is driven by the warlock Daniel. He takes the taxi airborne only to crash it into the original tree from the beginning of the story. At the stroke of midnight, Wallace is left with Jennifer's lifeless body, while two plumes of smoke watch. Before they return to the tree, Jennifer asks to watch Wallace's torment. While the warlock Daniel gloats, Jennifer reclaims her body, explaining to Wallace, "Love is stronger than witchcraft." She quickly puts the cork into the bottle of liquor her father is hiding in, keeping him drunk and powerless. Years later, Wallace and Jennifer have children, and the housekeeper enters to complain about their youngest daughter, who enters pretending to ride a broom, to which Jennifer comments that "We're going to have trouble with that one."


Cast notes:


The novel upon which the film is based was mainly written by Thorne Smith, who died in 1934. His papers included an unfinished novel entitled The Passionate Witch. Then three-quarters complete, its resolution was written by his friend Norman Matson and was published in July 1941.[2] The book became a best seller.

I Married a Witch was produced by Paramount Pictures, and had the working title of He Married a Witch.[3] Director René Clair was looking for a new project after his first American film, The Flame of New Orleans (1941). His agent sent him a copy of The Passionate Witch. Clair took it to Preston Sturges, then in favor at Paramount, who convinced Clair and the studio that it would be a good vehicle for Veronica Lake, with Sturges as producer. Paramount bought the film rights in October 1941. Dalton Trumbo was signed to write the script.[4][5][6]

Robert Pirosh was called in to work on the script with Trumbo. Trumbo left the project after clashing with Sturges. Sturges himself left the film before it was completed due to artistic differences with director René Clair, and did not want to receive a screen credit. Clair, who also contributed to the dialogue, apparently worked closely with writer Robert Pirosh.[3]

Joel McCrea was originally announced to play the male lead in December 1941. However, by February in 1942, he withdrew from the project; he later said this was because he did not want to work with Veronica Lake again, after not getting along with her on Sullivan's Travels.[3] McCrea's refusal to make the film caused production to be postponed. This enabled Lake to appear in The Glass Key (1942).[7]

March and Lake also had problems, beginning with March's pre-production comment that Lake was "a brainless little blonde sexpot, void of any acting ability", to which Lake retaliated by calling March a "pompous poseur". Things did not get much better during filming, as Lake was prone to playing practical jokes on March, like hiding a 40-pound weight under her dress for a scene in which March had to carry her, or pushing her foot repeatedly into his groin during the filming of a from-the-waist-up shot.[4] Patricia Morison was considered for the role of Estelle, and Walter Abel for Dudley. Margaret Hayes was considered for the film as well, and was screentested.[3]


The film was one of a number of films sold by Paramount to United Artists in September, when UA did not have enough films to meet its commitments and Paramount had a surplus.[3] It was released by UA on October 30 that year.

At the time of the film's release, a film critic from The Chicago Tribune wrote, "I Married a Witch is bizarre but beguiling. Under Rene Clair's delicately preposterous direction it unreels a story of modern witchcraft, the like of which has not been seen on any screen." The reviewer also called Veronica Lake's performance "delightfully outrageous and very funny."[8]

Diabolique agreed, eight decades later. "This is wickedly funny, an absolute delight – due greatly to Lake who was never more alluring, strutting around in men’s pajamas, casting spells, chasing after March and causing devilry. This was her only fantasy movie and it beggars belief that Paramount never tried her again in that genre – she had a vaguely ‘otherworld’ appearance (that hair, that voice) perfect for it."[9]

The movie was released on VHS by Warner Home Video in the U.S. on July 18, 1990.[10] The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in the U.S. on October 8, 2013.[11]

Awards and honors

I Married a Witch was nominated for a 1943 Academy Award for "Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture)" for composer Roy Webb.


  1. ^ "101 Pix Gross in Millions" Variety 6 Jan 1943 p 58
  2. ^ Dean, Charlotte (3 August 1941). "The Passionate Witch. By Thorne Smith. Completed by Norman Matson. 267 pp. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co. $2". New York Times. p. BR16.
  3. ^ a b c d e TCM Notes
  4. ^ a b Stafford, Jeff "I Married a Witch" (TCM article)
  5. ^ Schallert, Edwin (6 Oct 1941). "Hay' No Longer Holds Producers' Attention: Big Money Main Object Weird Story Stars Lake Adolphe-Ernst Reunion Teresa Wright at M.G.M. Shirley, Downing Cast". Los Angeles Times. p. 22.
  6. ^ Churchill, Douglas (6 Oct 1941). "Paramount Buys 'The Passionate Witch' -- Six New Pictures to Arrive Here This Week". New York Times. p. 12.
  7. ^ "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: RKO Gives James Craig Role Opposite Maureen O'Hara in 'One Hour of Glory' LEAD FOR VERONICA LAKE 'Roxie Hart' in Its First Week at Roxy Theatre Grossed More Than $70,000". New York Times. 26 February 1942. p. 15.
  8. ^ "Here's Movie That's Bizarre and Beguiling". The Chicago Tribune. January 15, 1943.
  9. ^ Vagg, Stephen (11 February 2020). "The Cinema of Veronica Lake". Diabolique Magazine.
  10. ^ TCM Misc. notes
  11. ^ Criterion

External links

This page was last edited on 1 June 2023, at 23:11
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