ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY: SO BEWITCHING !
AND, "TABITHA" TOO !
(LISTEN TO ERIN MURPHY, "Tabitha", AND, Her "Bewitched" Stories, And, Scroll Down To The Lower Section Of The Page To See "Tabitha & Me"...With Info On Our INTERVIEW SESSION ! )
IN MEMORY OF ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY...
: I HAVE TO ADMIT IT: I have been in love with Elizabeth Montgomery for years. This wasn't something that came about instantly, it started and matured over a long period of time, and on this Tribute Page I'll let you follow the "Timeline" and the journey.
Now I know most of you reading this, no matter what your age, or geographic area, are familiar with her from "Bewitched", and as soon as I say: Elizabeth Montgomery, you automatically think "Samantha" ! Can't blame you for that. Since it first went on-the-air for the ABC-TV Network, September 17, 1964, until its final episode, March 25,1972, "Bewitched" has been seen round-the-world...first during its initial Network showings, and since then in almost-constant re-runs, FOR OVER FIFTY YEARS !
But her career had begun many, many years before that series was ever thought of...and that early period is when the seeds of my feelings for her were first planted.
She became a consumate actress during the course of her career being able to transition from comedy-to-drama-to-mystery with equal ease, and if you've seen any of the TV, or, Movie roles that I'll mention here, you'll know exactly what I mean. More than that, as she matured as a woman in real-life, those feelings, and that maturity, transitioned into her "reel" life.
You'll understand how this all began, as you follow the Timeline that starts below:
THE EARLY YEARS...
ROBERT MONTGOMERY HAD BEEN a long-running actor, director, and, producer when, on January 30th, 1950, he became one of the first major Hollywood stars to embrace that new medium of "Television". He did it with great flare & substance by being the producer of one of NBC-TV's big-budget, live, telecasts in what now has become the "Golden Age Of Television".
He was an Oscar-Winning actor, who had transitioned with ease into directing & producing, and "Robert Montgomery Presents" solidified NBC's signing of him by becoming an Emmy Winning show. Many stars, and soon-to-be stars, were featured during the series run: James Dean, Gig Young (who would eventually marry Montgomery's daughter, Elizabeth), Grace Kelly, Peter Falk, James Cagney, Walter Matthau, Roger Moore (think: "The Saint" & James Bond), Robert Culp, Leslie Nielson, Joanne Woodward, Darren McGavin, Boris Karloff, Charlton Heston, and many, many others. So, yes, the show definetely had "star-studded casts" !
Not above nepotism, Montgomery hired & cast his young teenage daughter, Elizabeth, to act in at least thirty different roles during the course of the series. She made her television debut on that series, and that's where she truly had an enormous edge in learning her craft in front of the camera...and doing it live.
Subsequently, Elizabeth acted in "Armstrong Circle Theatre", "Studio One", and "Kraft Television Theatre", among others. But, it was in 1956 while working on an episode entitled "Siege" (February 14, 1956) on "Warner Brothers Presents" that she and the series host, Gig Young, fell in love and later that year, married. The marriage lasted from 1956 to 1963.
BUT, IT WASN'T UNTIL sometime in 1960 that my love for Liz began to manifest itself, as you'll see.
HOW I FOUND LIZ...
NOW, SINCE MY FAMILY GOT OUR FIRST TV SET, a Westinghouse Table Model, about 1950, I probably did see Elizabeth Montgomery on one of those early shows. But I was just a kid in those days, and she was 8 years older than me, so I didn't really pay much attention to her or, most other females on TV - except for Mary Hartline, the cute, young, baton-twirling blonde Drum Majorette on Super Circus - at that time. I was more interested in Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Captain Midnight, Buzz Cory and the Space Patrol, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, Martin Kane, Private Eye, Highway Patrol...well, you get the picture.
BUT, that all changed around 1960 when I saw her in the series based on the Supernatural, "One Step Beyond" in the Episode entitled "The Death Waltz" (10-4-1960). In it she played a conniving, scheming daughter of an Army General. I was riveted to the screen by her performance, because her character was just so bad that you knew she would ultimately receive her just deserts...and she certainly did ! (Ironically, the character of the Army General who is Liz's father in "The Death Waltz" is played by Ed Prentiss. Ed had been "Captain Midnight" in the Golden Age Radio version of that show...and, was one of my childhood G.A.R. heroes ! )
LATER THAT YEAR, in a dynamic role almost tailor-made for the beautiful woman she had turned into, she starred in an Episode of "The Untouchables": "The Rusty Heller Story". Playing the title character, she was excellent as a free-spirited night club entertainer (with ulterior motives) who ends up helping Elliot Ness by setting-up Attorney "Archie Grayson" played by David White, seen in the photo here with Liz, who would star with her a few year's later on "Bewitched" as Darrin Stevens boss, "Larry Tate". Liz, deservedly, received an Emmy Nomination for "Best Actress" for this smooth, memorable performance.
THEN IN 1961, she would star with Charles Bronson in the 3rd Season Opener of "The Twilght Zone" entitled "Two" (9-15-1961)...a tale of the only two people left in their part of the world, as the battles of their opposing forces have all but wiped-out mankind.
It was a good show and I remember it well as, for this gritty role, Liz had eschewed any traces of glamour: her face smugged with dirt, her hair brown & unkempt, her uniform tattered & torn. All of this showed not only her dedication to the role, but her tremendous growth as an actress, and her ability to "turn herself" into any character she played.
SO, AFTER SEEING THIS latest "incarnation" of Liz, my feelings for this truly unique woman also went through a pattern of tremendous growth that, coupled with my own desire of wanting a career in acting, would eventually lead me to California, the Pasasdena Playhouse, and "Johnny Cool".
"JOHNNY COOL", ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY, AND, ME...
IN SEPTEMBER, 1963, I moved to California to attend the Pasadena Playhouse. If you've read about my time there in the PP Section of the Website, you know it was a busy time...truly action-packed, almost non-stop things going on all the time ! Almost any part of Southern California - then-as-now - has much to keep you occupied, but with school, rehearsing for plays, doing homework, and, just trying to get used to the area itself, there wasn't much down-time to relax and enjoy yourself.
However, there were at least two, or, three, movie houses on Pasadena's main-drag: Colorado Boulevard. One afternoon I passed-by one of the theaters (I think it was the Academy) and saw a poster for the movie "Johnny Cool". It had Sammy Davis, Jr. & Joey Bishop from the "Rat Pack" in it, was partly produced by another of that group, Peter Lawford, and starred the always-dependable, hard-nosed bad guy, Henry Silva. But, what interested me the most was that Elizabeth Montgomery had the female lead and I had never seen her on "the big screen" before. So, that night, with a little freetime to ourselves, and since many places along Colorado Boulevard were in walking distance for us, a classmate & myself headed-on up the street to see "Johnny Cool".
I won't give the entire plot away, but "Johnny Cool" - made & released in 1963 - is really a throwback to the gritty, hard-edged, mobster movies that were prevalent back in the 40's, and, early-50's. Based on John McParland's novel "The Kingdom of Johnny Cool", Johnny is one guy you don't really want to get on the "bad side" of...or, you won't last long !
BUT, REMEMBER, I wanted to see Elizabeth Montgomery, and, as Darien "Dare" McGuiness she was awesome ! Perfectly cast, I had never seen her like this. In effect, she begins an affair with Johnny, becomes his accomplice, and, in a few intimate scenes, shows how truly sexy & beautiful she had become during the years. And, yes, at that moment in time I was hooked !
LIKE ALL YOUNG FEMALE STARS, Liz was called upon to do some pin-up photography sessions. Most, like the one shown here from around the same time as her appearance in "Johnny Cool", were modest by todays standards...but still show another, maturing, side of this o-so-attractive woman.
WAS "JOHNNY COOL" A GREAT film ? No. Was it a good "timewarp" look at how neat some earlier black & white gangster movies were ? Yes. Just seeing the great cast of character actors assembled here, the cars, the streets, the atmosphere of that time-period, is, well, cool. And, seeing this "maturing version" of Elizabeth Montgomery is worth the price of admission alone...and another reason I was truly attracted to her more than ever when I first viewed the film in 1963.
THE DIRECTOR OF "JOHNNY COOL" WAS William Asher. Asher was a real Pro in TV & Films, and well-respected director/producer in the Industry. He & Liz fell in love during the filming and married...then came "Bewitched".
"BEWITCHED": A LONG-LASTING, MAGICAL, EXPERIENCE...
"BEWITCHED" WAS CREATED BY Sol Saks. If you've ever seen the 1942 Classic "I Married A Witch" starring Frederick March & Veronica Lake, you have an idea of where this series was spawned from. Another, similar plot-line was carried out in "Bell, Book and Candle", originally a long-running Broadway play by John Van Druten, brought to the big screen with Jimmy Stewart & Kim Novak...opening on Christmas Day in 1958.
FOR "BEWITCHED", THE soon-to-be iconic TV Series, the casting of Elizabeth Montgomery was truly "magical" in-and-of-itself ! You might say "she was born to play "Samantha Stevens"...and you'd be right ! And, with co-leads Dick York, Agnes Moorehead, plus the great supporting cast which included David White, Alice Pearce, George Tobias, Marion Lorne, et al, the show was rock-solid and bound for high ratings from the start ! Adding to the mix, Elizabeth's husband, William Asher, was a part of the package when she signed-on. He directed most of the Episodes, eventually became the show's producer, and from its September 17, 1964, debut the show was a smash !
Now, during its initial Network Run on ABC-TV from 1964 to 1972, I didn't really get to see "Bewitched". I was always rehearshing a play, working on a play, working with my friend & early-mentor, Johnny Rabbitt at KXOK Radio in St. Louis, and then, when I started my career in Broadcasting, I was usually on-the-air, or, working at my radio stations during Prime Time Hours.
IT WASN'T UNTIL "BEWITCHED" began its re-runs, many times shown in the daytime hours back in those days, that I was able to watch the show. And, that's when I REALLY fell in love with Liz !
BUT, THAT WAS THEN...
"SAMANTHA STEVENS" COMES TO MY HOUSE...
...AND, THIS IS NOW:
IT WAS A COLD DAY in February, 2014. We had some snow still on the ground here in St.Louis from an earlier event, and in a couple of days, we'd have more snow & ice. So, on this particular Friday afternoon, I was out doing some shopping, while the roads were still clear.
I happened to be in one of the "big box" stores looking for some things that I needed. While I was there, I checked-into their CD & DVD Section to see if there was anything new that I hadn't seen. Well right there, on the end of one aisle, staring me right-in-the-face, was a just-released Season 1 & Season 2 DVD pack (6 DVD's, ALL 74 Original Black & White Episodes) of "BEWITCHED" ! WoW !! Now, I had never seen the show from the beginning, in chronological order, so I just had to have this for sure !
Shortly after I got back home, had some dinner, and was ready to relax, I put DVD #1 in my player, sat down, pressed "Play", and, was transported back to that magioal night of September 17, 1964, "Bewitched's" ABC-TV debut, Episode 1: "I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha". I was just blown-away ! I could easily see why this Series was destined to be one of the most-popular of all-time. Too, as I "binge-watched" the first 6 Episodes that night, seeing how each member of the cast progressed in their roles, how the "special effects" for that time period worked so well on the show, and most of all, seeing just how sweet, funny, beautiful, loving, and, perfectly-cast Elizabeth Montgomery was as "Samantha"...I actually fell in love with her all-over again.
Every inflection, every twitch of her cute nose, every time she curls her tongue up over her upper lip and says "W-e-l-l"...shows just what a great comic-presence she has in working-with & adding to the script and the lines she's given. Her action & re-action to each of the other characters in the scene with her is always spot-on perfect...as was her voice, which gave the perfect shading & texture to every line she spoke. Again, with the long-term background I have as an actor, these are some of the qualities I inately look for in other actors...on screen, or, stage. So, my love of Liz, has never been based on simply her physical characteristics, but her growth, depth, and, ever-expanding talent as an actress.
These First Two Seasons ARE in Black & White...and there is nothing wrong with that ! It actually enhances almost any series, as you can concentrate on the actors, actresses, scenery, cars, furniture, and, everything else, without making remarks like: "Gee, that red tie he's wearing doesn't match his green suit at all !" , or, "She looks much better in a blue dress rather than in yellow.", et al. SO, yes, I do like the later episodes of "Bewitched", but, there's a warmth, and, more early-tv-naturalness seeing them in Black & White, which makes for an unsophisticated atmosphere as you follow the evolution of the series. And Liz was just as gorgeous, no matter if she was a brunette, or, a blonde...in Black & White, or, Color !
I watched all 74 of those first two seasons...from Episode 1: "I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha"...which explains how they met and fell in love, to Episode 74: "Prodigy"..."Gladys Kravitz's" brother, a violinist, gets support from Samantha so he can perform. (This is the last Black & White Episode and, also, the last apperance of Alice Pearce as "Gladys" as she passed-away from Cancer, March 3rd, 1966.) In viewing these, as I stated above, my respect for all of those involved with the show grew immensely. The chemistry within the cast was what made it really work, and, shows on-the-screen.
BUT, Elizabeth Montgomery was truly the 'glue" that held the show together...she was in almost every scene in every one of the series 254 Episodes. Whether you know anything about acting or not, you have to understand how demanding that is...and, part of the time she was doing it, Liz was pregnant, or, just coming back off of pregnancy leave. So, keep that in mind when any of these episodes run on your local TV stations, or, your Cable/Internet Stations. Throughout it all, in everyone of those Eight Seasons, she was just so smart, cute, and, adorable, that you couldn't help but love her...and realize that no one but Elizabeth Montgomery could have ever been "Samantha Stevens".
(Some of my favorite episodes are those in which Liz plays the dual role of both "Samantha", and her free-spirited, very sexy, Cousin "Serena" ! And, whenever "Serena" takes over...pure bedlam ensues, and it's uaually up to "Samantha" to try and repair the damage done !)
ALSO, BEAR IN MIND, that while Elizabeth Montogomery, as "Samantha Stevens", created a role and a character within the Series "Bewitched" that she would always be remembered for, in addition, she had also amassed over all those eight seasons, a financial-base which she could have easily relied-on...and retired from ever working again if she wanted. But, that's not really what she had in mind. Her plans, and her multi-dimensional talents, would take her career into new areas altogether, as you'll see.
BEING A "CAR GUY" almost since my birth, my ulitmate-favorite Episode from the Series is from Season Three. It's Episode 19, entitled "The Supercar". In it, Endora conjures up the "Reactor"...a Concept Car that Darrin sees in a magazine and really likes. Endora, for once trying to be nice to Darrin, magically whisk's the car from its Detroit research lab to the Stevens house...with disastrous results !
This Episode involves me personally, as my friend, legendary Rod & Custom pioneer builder, GENE WINFIELD, created & built the "Reactor", and a few year's ago I did an Interview with him for my Hall Of Fame Legends Series wherein he explains how it came to be used on "Bewitched". The "Reactor" was also used on Episodes of the "Star Trek" & "Batman". Gene also talks about some of the other cars & vehicles he's worked on for "Blade Runner", "Get Smart", and, many other Movie & TV projects, along with commercials, in a fantastic book that's available about his "TV & MOVIE CARS".
TO HEAR THIS INTERVIEW STORY from this most-iconic R&C Industry Legend, Gene Winfield, about the "Reactor" on "Bewitched", and many of his other great builds, simply CLICK-ON this Link: http://www.legends.thewwbc.net/gpage124.html and, ENJOY ! JK
FOLLOWING "BEWITCHED", Elizabeth Montgomery's talents, and her ability to try stretching her career goals as an actress, took many twists and turns. She could never be locked-into further "Samantha Stevens" characterizations that would type cast her, and proof of that was 1974's "A Case Of Rape" where she was a victim, and, her dynamic performance in "The Legend Of Lizzie Borden" which premiered on ABC-TV, February 10th, 1975.
LIZ, shown here in the title role, was once again nominated for an Emmy for "The Legend Of Lizzie Borden", and this truly began her long-run of TV Feature's which made her virtually "The Queen Of TV Feature Films" for over two decades...with almost yearly starring roles from 1972, until the time of her death in 1995.
Her Made-For-TV Films Included: "The Victim", "Dark Victory", "A Killing Affair", "The Awakening Land", "Act Of Violence", "When The Circus Came To Town", "Missing Pieces", "Amos", "Between The Darkness and the Dawn", "Face To Face", and her last television series playing Detective Edna Buchanan which aired two episodes...the last one "Deadline For Murder From The Files Of Edna Buchanan"airing on May 9th,1995, nine days before she died.
And, yes, I saw almost everyone of these Made-For-TV Features that Liz starred in, and watched her polished performances in each-and-every role she took on. She always gave whatever character she was playing exactly what the character called for. She never just "phoned-it-in" as some actors & actresses have done when confronted with challenging, as well as "lighter" fare. Elizabeth Montgomery impressed me with her beauty, talent, and, professionalism in her last films of 1995, just as she had all those years earlier in 1960's "The Death Waltz".
SO, DEAR LIZ, please know that you've entertained and won the hearts of many through the year's with your movies, TV roles, and, your iconic playing of Samantha Stevens in "Bewitched". But, no matter what role you were playing, or, what you were in at the time, I truly loved everything about you: your talent, your beauty, your personality, your sensuality, your dedication to helping those less fortunate within our society, your wonderful sense-of-humour, your perfectly-toned voice, your sweet laugh, and your smile that could light-up a room...both on-and-off screen.
MORE THAN ANYTHING, Ms. Montgomery, I loved the beautiful heart & soul that dwelt within you, gave you warmth and sensitivity, gave you character, and, made you truly one of the most-amazing, and yes, bewitching, women to ever grace our Movie & TV Screens. And, sadly, you left us way too soon.
With love & respect: Elizabeth Montgomery (April 15, 1933 - May 18, 1995),
A BOOK ABOUT LIZ...BUT, IT NEEDED TO BE BETTER:
"THE ESSENTIAL ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY", By Herbie J Pilato. Taylor Trade Publishing, Pub.
AS I STATED AT THE TOP OF THIS TRIBUTE PAGE, I have been in love with Elizabeth Montgomery for years, and reading the synopsis of this book gave me hope that I'd finally found a really fantastic book that truly showcased her life & talents. Unfortunately, that only partially happens in this volume.
It tries to follow her life, and career, chronologically...but jumps back & forth in its timeline with repeated info, quotes, and, ideas. The author's caring for his subject shows, of course, but this book needed a good editor to tighten-up the wording, repetition, and, pretty much everything else.
Some good, never before seen photos, and some insight into Liz's kind heart, incredible talent, and her troubled relationship with her father is covered here. And, what I did glean from the book, and what I knew from previous sources, was that Elizabeth Montgomery was not only one of the Industry's best, and most versitile performers, but a true friend to those she loved, and a formidable foe to those who deserved it.
What isn't covered in the book, is that fact that Liz had her Astrological roots in being an Aries (April 15, 1933), and having had many, many relationships with that wonderful sign, I can tell you that she was a smart, strong, beautiful, loving, fun-loving, daring woman...all true to her Aries heritage. A wonderful woman who anyone would be proud to have for a friend.
This volume may cover her various early performances (I loved her in "Johnny Cool"...scroll back up this Page and read all about that), and post-"Bewitched" career, BUT she was the only one who could have ever done justice to "Samantha Stevens". From the first episode to the last she was spot-on perfect! She WAS "Sam"...Period! She breathed warmth, fun, life & charm into that character every second she was on-screen.
ACCORDINGLY, someone really needs to do a complete book that truly does justice to this remarkable, sexy, beautiful, charismatic, sometimes-complicated, amazing woman, Elizabeth Montgomery, in ALL phases of her life & career. Sadly, this isn't the one. JK
TABITHA: THEN & NOW...
EVERY YEAR WHEN I GO TO Salina, Kansas, to the Kustom Kemps Of America, Rod & Custom Car Event to do Interviews for my Hall Of Fame Legends Series Website, I get excited because along with all of the Legends & Pioneers of the R&C Industry, there are always some TV & Movie Stars that are brought in to meet their fans. "Cars, TV & Movie Stars" ALWAYS go together !
2016 was a "Banner Year" as two of the best-loved Classic TV Comedies of all-time were represented by Butch Patrick, "Eddie Munster", from the "Munsters", AND, the beautiful Erin Murphy, who was that cute, adorable, "Tabitha" for 8 Seasons on "Bewitched" !
As it turned-out, I got to spend most of the weekend with both Butch, and, Erin, as we were all in the Celebrity area of event. Butch is a veteran of these R&C shows, and my Interview & stories with him are in another Section of this Site. BUT, although she does many, many appearances at Movie, TV, Charity, and other events, every year, this was Erin's very first Car Show event.
Well, you'd never know that it was her "first" because her autograph table was constantly mobbed by fans who wanted pictures, autographs, and, any other souveniers they could get from her, and wanted to tell her how much "Bewitched" meant to them through the years. She rarely had time to relax, and was so kind and gracious to each-and-everyone with whom she spoke.
ERIN AND I HAD WANTED TO do an Interview all weekend, and finally arranged for a time to do it Sunday morning (July 31st) before we left for home. However, the night before we got together there had been a terrific storm that had kept both of us up almost all-night.
Due to needing to get to her flight back to L.A., we set the Interview at 8:00am. Erin looked beautiful, just great (even without sleep because of the storm), but by the time I got to her hotel to do the Interview...I was still barely awake ! (You'll notice "Tabitha" watching me Interview Erin, and making sure I do a good job !)
Erin Murphy was just a pleasure to spend time with all weekend long. She was so pleasant, and knowledgeable about every facet of, not only "Bewitched" (the show itself), but her love for, and information about her "TV Mom" Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, Dick Sargent, and, everything else that I asked her. It showed her deep and sincere nature, and how being "Tabitha" had enriched her life as a child...and how that warm & caring experience had become part of her giving, loving nature as an adult.
THE "INSIDE STORIES" that only she could talk about are what you're hearing in the Interview. And, all of the other things that she's accomplished in her career as an actress, writer, TV host, motivational speaker, charity worker/organizer, et al, makes her truly one of the most multi-talented women I've ever known. PLUS, she's a fantastic Mom to SIX (6) boys !
You have to understand, I wish the Interview could have gone on for another hour as Erin was just so spot-on perfect with everything I asked her. And I had close to another bazillion things I wanted to cover due to the fact that I had spent time in, and lived in, both Pasadena & Hollywood, many years ago and wanted to ask her questions about some of the areas that would be familiar to both of us. Sadly, that didn't happen.
AS IT WAS, the time spent with Erin Murphy (and, "Tabitha" ! ) over the weekend, and, doing the Interview, were some of the most-pleasurable moments I had during the entire trip. Period.
Thanks again, Erin !
SEE MORE PHOTOS, buy photos, get autographs, get lots of great Info, and a "behind the scenes" look at "Bewitched", by going to Erin Murphy's Website at this Link: http://tvtoys.com/bewitched/
( PLEASE NOTE: All photos & images on this page courtesy of their original owners/copyright holders...with sincere thanks.)