Book and Candle Bell



  • A comedy about witchcraft in modern Manhattan by the British-born playwrightJohn Van Druten (1901 - 57); it opened in New York in 1950. Theplot concerns Shep Henderson, a publisher, who rents an apartmentin the house of the alluring Gillian Holroyd and her aunt. Both thewomen, it turns out, are witches, and Gillian uses her powers to winShep away from his fiancée (and her enemy). If she falls inlove, however, she will blush and cry, losing her magical ability.When she reveals her powers to Shep, he storms out and gets anotherwitch to break the spell. Later when he returns to pay Gillian hisback rent, she blushes and starts to cry. He realizes that they arein love.

    The first London production was mounted in 1954 at the PhoenixTheatre and starred Rex Harrison and his then wife, LilliPalmer. The theater became a battleground when Palmer found out abouther husband's new love (and wife-to-be) Kay Kendall. The two starshad amazing rows backstage followed by periods when they would onlycommunicate through notes passed back and forth by the stage manager.None of this, however, affected their tender love scenes on stage.

    It was during Bell, Book, and Candle that Harrisonreceived the offer to star in Broadway's My Fair Lady. Theplay's producer, Binkie Beaumont, agreed to release him in returnfor £25,000, along with 1.5% of the Broadway and touringgrosses, and the British and Continental rights for My Fair Lady.The deal went through. If it had failed, the part of Henry Higgins maywell have gone to Cary Grant.