Friday, September 25, 2015

"I Married a Witch” Just in Time for Halloween

More twists and turns than a Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag of pretzels. That describes October’s Classic Movie in Bigfork, “I Married a Witch”. However Fredrick March’s character needing magic to fall for co-star’s Veronica Lake’s character, is really a tough twist.. But that’s what you might expect from a Romantic Fantasy film of the 1940’s. The witch did need magic and Fredrick did fall in for it. Of course there is the father-in-law witch, who spends time in the bottle, literally, and time in jail. But that’s all centuries after they were burned at the stake. And Fredrick plays a politician to boot. Sound interesting? Come and see the movie and maybe it will make you laugh out loud. It all might remind you of  “Topper”, “Bewitched” or possibly “Jeannie”. All is good fun and done to lighten your spirits. Shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on October 8th at 6:30PM free of charge. The movie will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture.

A couple of Pilgrim age witches get burned at the stake starts all the “fun” out with a curse that pretty much assures the hero of a sad blood line of browbeaten husbands and nasty wives. Does not sound like fun to start out with but this “black” beginning all gets changed in flash of lightning…literally. Out comes the spirits and so does the fun. You have politicians without a real clue, which is not surprising, a gorgeous blond looking for trouble, a dad trying to stay out of trouble and often lots of mass confusion.  The rest you will have to see in Bigfork. You also get to see all this on the big screen like the movie was intended to be seen. That makes a big difference with better sound and a live audience.

Veronica Lake did not like her co-star Fredrick March, but somehow they managed to make a great comedy with this movie. That is a good testament to their professional abilities.  She had just completed two successful crime movies with Alan Ladd and management felt that was her niche.  Director Rene Clair eventually relented and Veronica accepted an apology from management (that is according to “Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake.”)

Veronica Lake (1922 -1973), born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman, was an American film, stage, and television actress. Her most notable acclaim were in Sullivan's Travels and as the femme fatale roles in film noirs with Alan Ladd, during the 1940s. She was also well known for her peek-a-boo hairstyle.  Her movie career came after her family located to Beverly Hills and Veronica attended the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting (now the Beverly Hills Playhouse). Like so many other actresses her film career started as an extra working for RKO. She played a coed in a small role in the movie “Sorority House” in 1939. Director John Farrow first saw her in that role and similar small parts, but selected her as special because of the way her hair always covered an eye. That created mystery in the director’s opinion and enhanced her beauty. Her next career stop was with Paramount and Producer Arthur Homblow, Jr. He was responsible for her name Lake because he thought her eyes suited that surname.  Eventually she ended up with a long-term contract with Paramount.

If great acting can be measured by how well two stars that hate each other can perform a loving arrangement on film, Fredrick March and Veronica Lake certainly deserve awards for this movie. You will hear lots more about their “antics” from the host of the Classic Movie series, Jack Nackbar. But just to set the stage, the feud started before the movie was ever started when March supposedly said of Veronica, that she was..."a brainless little blonde sexpot, void of any acting ability." This comment made its way back to her and “set the stage” for the fireworks.

Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel (1897-1975) eventually became Fredrick March and was both a distinguished stage actor plus one of the film industry’s most celebrated stars of the 30s and 40s. According to Wiki, “He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1932 for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives. March is the only actor to have won both the Academy Award and the Tony Award twice.” Born in Racine, Wisconsin he started out his working life as a banker, but an emergency appendectomy made him reevaluate his life and in 1920 he started working in the New York film industry. He appeared on Broadway in 1926, and by the end of the decade signed a film contract with Paramount Pictures. That is a really short version of his career, but it is just too long to do it justice here. For more go to

Just to add a little spice to the feud between the stars, I am sure the New York Times Review of the period did not help things out. In opening it says… “The strange and beautiful illusion that Veronica Lake is completely unreal is being quite charmingly nourished in Rene Clair's new film, "I Married A Witch." You recall that Miss Lake was first manifest on the screen as an ambulating hank of hair, from behind which emerged dulcet noises and a calorific glow. Well, in this one, which breezed into the Capitol on a figurative broomstick yesterday, the little lady first appears as a smoke cloud and then as a sly sorceress who tosses around an astral body and necromances with Fredric March.”   I bet that got Fredrick’s ego twitching.  He is supposed to be a big star and here the blond gets better ink with his name last in the first and most important paragraph, Read it for your self at:

Better yet come and see the movie and make up your own opinion. This movie is presented free of charge and some appropriate snacks will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday October 9th at 6:30PM.

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