The One about René Clair’s “I Married a Witch”

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Filmmaker René Clair is looked as one of the legendary filmmakers in France.

From silent films such as “A Nous la Liberte”, “Le Million” and “Under the Roofs of Paris” to name a few, but in mid-1930’s, Clair with an invitation by filmmaker Alexander Korda, would begin his work in England. With a taste of working outside of France, Clair would then have his sights in the United States.

Wanting to establish a French production center, he moved with his family and French filmmaker Julien Duvivier moved to America and not long after, Hollywood came knocking.

René Clair worked on his first American film with Universal Studios and his second American film, “I Married a Witch” with Paramount Studios in 1942.

While the film went through creative differences between Preston Sturges (who was tapped to be a producer for the film) and René Clair, even actor Fredric March had creative differences with actress Veronica Lake. But the film was made and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture)” for composer Roy Webb.

It’s one of the better René Clair films made in America and as an early Hollywood film fan, if you are a fan of blonde bombshell Veronica Lake, next to “Sullivan’s Travels”, this is no doubt a film that features the actress at her best (before she began to focus on noir films).

But this is Veronica Lake, an actress who didn’t make a lot of films, but this film was made when she made peek-a-boo hairstyles a fad, she was a cinema icon (despite not getting along with a few of her co-stars) and even René Clair said of Lake, “She was a very gifted girl, but she didn’t believe she was gifted.”

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But this is 1940’s Hollywood comedy, unlike René Clair’s French films, there is no Chaplin-esque film style, this is René Clair moving away from what he previously had done and trying to jumpstart a career in the U.S. and what better than to have a well-known Hollywood cast with Fredric March, Veronica Lake and Susan Hayward.

I know the film had its share of criticism because of the casting choice of Fredric March, from him being too old for the part to be paired with Veronica Lake, but people should know that the purpose of the character of Jennifer was being given a human body, similar to what she had when she died at the stake and also to get revenge on Wallace Wooley. This is not a romantic comedy in the sense of man and woman falling in love right at the start, it’s about a witch wanting to get revenge on a descendant of a man who denounced her as a witch but ends up falling in love with him.

But Fredric March is an actor who had his issues with Veronica Lake, as Lake had with Joel McCrea for “Sullivan’s Travels”. While both men are actors that focused on their craft, they both had their issues with working with Lake? Is it the same as other actors who worked with other Hollywood bombshells in which beauty was more important than acting skills? Possibly. But these classic Hollywood films that starred your Marilyn’s, your Rita’s, your Ava’s, etc. They were made popular because of these beautiful actresses. And at this time, Veronica Lake was a Hollywood icon known for her hair and onscreen beauty.

Overall, “I Married a Witch” can be seen as Veronica Lake’s best comedy film and others may feel it is the best American film from French filmmaker René Clair. Delightful and very entertaining, “I Married a Witch” is classic Hollywood film that I can easily recommend!


 

Dennis A. Amith