Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. This date was chosen because it was the last day combat troops left the country and because Hanoi released the last of its prisoners on it. 58,220 Americans died in the conflict. Many who survived were treated shamefully, disgracefully by fellow citizens. Fortunately, the stature of those who participated in that action has risen considerably in the ensuing decades.
Last night Movies!, channel 5–2 on OTA in NYC, ran Bell Book and Candle (1958), a pleasant piece of fluff starring James Stewart and Kim Novak that garnered Oscar nominations for Art Direction-Set Decoration and Costume Design. Released in December, it was their second pairing that year, following Vertigo, which came out in May. It’s a story of witchcraft that requires suspension of disbelief. Jack Lemmon plays a warlock. I enjoyed the performances of Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchester. Kovacs plays a slovenly writer of the supernatural, a lush; Gingold a quirky old witch; and Lanchester a ditzy one. Howard McNear, aka Floyd the Barber from The Andy Griffith Show, makes an appearance as Stewart’s partner in publishing. Janis Rule has the thankless role of the artist the protagonist throws over for the witch. Daniel Taradash adapted John Van Druten’s play. He’d won an Academy Award for his adaptation of James Jones’ novel From Here to Eternity (1954). He passed away at 90 in 2003. Richard Quine, whose forte was light comedy, directed Bell… There are 46 titles under his name at IMDb. Among them: How to Murder Your Wife (1965), which also starred Lemmon; The Notorious Landlady (1962), which starred Lemmon, Novak and Fred Astaire; and Operation Mad Ball (1957), Lemmon again and Ernie Kovacs. He also did three episodes of Columbo. And he has 30 credits as an actor, seven as a producer and nine as a writer, his most significant script My Sister Eileen (1955), starring Lemmon and Janet Leigh. His career spanned 1948-’80. Tragically, he committed suicide at 68 in 1989. Here are Stewart and Pyewacket in character:
And the gorgeous Novak:
I don’t recall being this cold in January and February. Fortunately, the car is in one of the prime parking spots. I spent half of today’s session of the floating book shop in it, the wind, as usual, whipping along Avenue Z. My thanks to the hardy souls who bought, donated and swapped books.
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