It’s very cliché to say that a film is “ahead of its time,” but I can’t think of a better way to describe René Clair’s comedy, I Married a Witch. For a film that debuted in the early 1940s, it’s got a very different style of humor when compared to other comedies that came about during that era. When I think of films of the 1940s, I think of Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Meet Me in St. Louis, so watching a film that is about a resurrected witch that preys on a soon-to-be-married man just feels so scandalous!
The film begins with a good old fashioned witch burning in Salem, Massachusetts. Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her father are outed as witches by Jonathan Wooley (Fredric March), causing them both to be burned at the stake. Jennifer doesn’t let Jonathan’s crime go unpunished as she places a curse on his family that will cause all the Wooley men to have unsuccessful marriages. After a hilarious montage showing generations of Wooley men suffering from the curse, the film flips to a present day scene (1942). One of the descendants of Jonathan Wooley, Wallace Wooley (Fredric March…again) is having a party to celebrate his upcoming marriage to his fiancé, Estelle (Susan Hayward), as well as his candidacy for governor. During the grand event, lighting strikes a nearby tree where the ashes of Jennifer and her father were buried centuries ago. The lightning strike causes both witches to be resurrected in the form of clouds of smoke. As they’re floating around outside of the party, Jennifer realizes that Wallace is a descendant of Jonathan, and she decides to torment him by making him fall in love with her. She eventually gets a body, and the shenanigans begin. After she has several unsuccessful attempts at making Wallace fall in love with her, she conjures up a love potion because, well, that’s just what witches do. Her plan completely backfires when she accidentally drinks the potion, causing her to fall head over heels for Wallace. Needless to say, everything still works out as planned because Wallace does eventually fall in love with Jennifer. This movie isn’t called I Married a Witch for nothing.
Lake is absolutely hilarious in her role as Jennifer. She’s totally a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but in the best way possible. Wallace is a stereotypical vanilla politician, and Jennifer is possibly the bubbliest witch in the history of cinema. Watching the two interact is so comical that after seeing this film numerous times, I still catch myself laughing out loud. But it’s Jennifer’s father, Daniel (portrayed by the hilarious Cecil Kellaway), that reigns supreme as the funniest character in the movie. He too eventually gets a body, but he spends a good part of the film as a cloud of smoke that finds himself trapped in various bottles of liquor. There are also several scenes where he is too drunk to perform spells, and he eventually loses his body and gets trapped in a liquor bottle for all eternity. This is why I will forever refer to him as the funniest, drunkest witch dad to ever grace the silver screen.
I Married a Witch is entertaining from beginning to end, and what I love most about this movie is that it is completely re-watchable. I’ve seen the film numerous times and it has yet to lose its charm.