US movie (1942). Masterpiece/United Artists/Cinema Guild. Pr René Clair. Dir Clair. Spfx Gordon Jennings. Screenplay Marc Connelly, Robert Pirosh. Based on The Passionate Witch (1941) by Thorne Smith and Norman Matson. Starring Robert Benchley (Dr Dudley White), Susan Hayward (Estelle Masterson), Cecil Kellaway (Daniel), Veronica Lake (Jennifer), Fredric March (Wallace Wooley and ancestors), Elizabeth Patterson (Margaret), Robert Warwick (J B Masterson). 82 mins. B/w.
In about 1670 two New England Witches – Jennifer and her father Daniel – were burned as a result of testimony by hypocritical Puritan Jonathan Wooley, their evil Spirits to be put in Bondage in an oak tree; before her death Jennifer laid a Curse on Jonathan, that all his line would marry unhappily. Today, lightning strikes the tree and releases the two spirits. They find the present Wooley, Wallace, engaged to Estelle and standing for state governorship. Jennifer decides marriage to a witch would be unhappier for Wallace even than marriage to the shrewish Estelle, but she inadvertently herself swallows the love philtre she made for him. Now seeking Wallace's happiness, she uses witchcraft to engineer their marriage and give him a landslide gubernatorial victory. Daniel, enraged by her desertion to goodness, strips her of witchcraft and tries to return her with him to the tree; but she outwits him to become a mortal.
IMAW is charming and hilarious by turns, its inventiveness rarely flagging; its screwball-comedy elements fail to disrupt the engaging flight of whimsy and the current of innocent eroticism – Lake's performance is the key in all three areas. IMAW's themes were to be picked up much later in the tv series Bewitched and, less directly, I Dream of Jeannie. [JG]