Cats in Film-Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

Bell, Book and Candle, Cat Films 1958The 1958 film Bell, Book and Candle, which is a reference to the ceremony of excommunication, begins with “Ring the bell, open the book, light the candle,” and ends with “Ring the bell, close the book, quench the candle.” The film features Pyewacket a Siamese and familiar of the lead female character Gillian Holroyd played by Kim Novak.  The name Pyewacket refers back to the name of a witch’s familiar mentioned by Matthew Hopkins, the witchfinder, in 1644.

The story takes place in New York’s Greenwich Village and revolves around Gillian’s attraction to her new neighbor Shep Henderson played by James Stewart. By the way, because of his age, Stewart decided that this would be his last role as a romantic lead. Gillian uses her familiar, Pyewacket, to place a love spell on Shep so that he breaks off his engagement and falls madly in love with Gillian.



Kim Novak and Pyewacket

Wracked by guilt, Gillian later admits to Shep that she is a witch and that she has cast a spell on him. Jack Lemon plays Gillian’s warlock brother who helps to cause problems between them. However, it is Pyewacket that brings them back together at the end of the film.

Bell, Book, and Candle Cat films


Pyewacket PATSY winner

The film’s producers launched a nationwide search to find the perfect feline co-star for Kim Novak and James Stewart. “We want a cat with an Ava Gardner personality” they said. Julian Blaustein remarked, “We have interviewed some alley cats, er, short-haired domestics. But we decided to go for a Siamese. The cat has to have an air of mystery.” After a wide search, producers chose a Siamese owned by Frank Inn, a Hollywood animal trainer. It is said that there were nine cats that played the role, one of which Kim Novak adopted. Houdini was one of the many cats who played the role. The other cats were professionally trained, but Houdini was untrained and chosen to play the part because he was photogenic and well-socialized. It is Houdini that is seen in most of the close-up shots. Unfortunately, the film crew wanted him to do stunts such as jumping up on the bookcase which they could only get him to do by scaring him. Houdini ended up stressed and was said to have never recovered from the experience. However, as some consolation, Pyewacket won the PATSY (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) award in 1958.


Kim Novak Bell, Book and Candle


Bell, Book and Candle is a delightful film with top human and feline stars that is a must see for cat lovers. To see the full movie for free, click here


Bell Book and Candle, James Stewart and Pyewacket


Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats 




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