How Elizabeth Montgomery Worked Her Magic: 'Bewitched' Trivia

Culture | September 11, 2017

Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched, 1964. Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

The '6os sitcom Bewitched, with Elizabeth Montgomery in the lead role as a suburban witch, was part of trend of finding humor in the supernatural. Bewitched, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Flying Nun, My Favorite Martian, My Mother The Car, and others brought their completely implausible premises into living rooms week after week, and Americans generally found them hilarious. (Maybe not so much My Mother The Car.) Bewitched had the longest run of all of them, thanks in part to innovative plots, a stellar rotation of guest actors, and of course the late Elizabeth Montgomery, whose comedic gifts and beauty were ultimately why the show succeeded.

How well do you know your Bewitched trivia? Here are some bewitching facts about Bewitched:

Elizabeth Montgomery Wasn't The First Choice For Samantha

Left: Tammy Grimes, who might have played the lead role on 'Bewitched.' Right: Elizabeth Montgomery, who did. Source: Pinterest

Sol Saks, who created the series Bewitched, admitted in several interviews that his script for the pilot episode was inspired by the films “I Married a Witch” and “Bell, Book and Candle”.

Tammy Grimes, (Best Actress Tony Award winner in 1961 for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”), was under contract to Screen Gems in 1964 and was the studio’s first choice for the role of “Cassandra” (as the lead character was named at the time). But Grimes wasn’t a fan of the concept, asking why she wouldn’t use her powers to stop wars. The producers didn’t agree and the character, now named “Samantha,” had to be recast.

Elizabeth Montgomery and her husband at the time, producer/director William Asher, were looking for a TV project they could work on together, so Harry Ackerman encouraged them to look at the Bewitched pilot script. They thought the show had possibilities so Elizabeth signed on to be Samantha. 

Three Richards Were In The Running To Play Darrin

Richard Crenna wouldn't have made a bad Darrin. Source: Wikimedia Commons

It's well known that there were two actors who played Samantha's husband Darrin Stephens: Dick York, who had to leave the show due to a bad back, and his replacement Dick Sargent. But the swap had its own history. Dick Sargent had been the show creators' first choice to play Darrin, but he took another job. Then the producers offered the role to Richard Crenna, who was known as Luke McCoy on The Real McCoys. Crenna passed, taking on the title role in the political series Slattery's People, so the part went to Dick York.

Dick York Left The Show Due To Debilitating Back Pain

Dick York had an impressive list of acting credits in film, Broadway and on TV. His 1959 role in “They Came To Cordura” changed his life forever. During the second-to-last day of filming Cordura, York was operating a railroad handcar carrying wounded men. When the director yelled “cut,” one of the “wounded” extras reached and pulled himself up on the opposite side of the handle that York was about to upswing. He unsuspectingly lifted the extra’s entire weight, and being unprepared for that additional 180 lbs, he tore most of the muscles on the right side of his back. Unfortunately his spine never healed correctly and there wasn’t a procedure that would repair his injuries at that time so the best the specialists could do was supply him with a steady supply of strong pain medicine.

York managed to work through his severe pain for the first four seasons. In the middle of Season 5, however, he was run-down and it started to show on camera. On the day of filming the “Daddy Does His Thing” episode, he skipped lunch to see his doctor, who was out. He was given B-12 and while filming a scene with Maurice Evans on a scaffold (15 feet in the air) the hot lights, exhaustion and medication sent York into a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital and never returned to the Bewitched set. Some episodes were filmed without Darrin’s character until Dick Sargent took over the role.

Gladys Kravitz Had No Chin

Alice Pearce played the part of the Stephen’s nosy busybody neighbor, Gladys Kravitz. She did it so well that even today a nosy neighbor is referred to as a “Gladys Kravitz.” When Pearce was 9, she fell from a playground swing and landed on her chin, stunting its growth. Her jaw prevented her from landing any leading lady roles when she took up acting, but she was perfect as a comic relief. Four months before receiving a phone call from her agent telling her that William Asher wanted her for a role on his new TV show, Pearce was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She had surgery, but the doctors informed her that her case was terminal. But she didn’t let any of her co-workers know about her condition, and other than her being a little tired on the set now and then, no one suspected her of being seriously ill. Pearce passed away in March 1966, and was awarded an Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy Award two months after her death. Sandra Gould took over the role of Gladys Kravitz for the remainder of the series.

That Nose Wiggle? Look Closely

According to Erin Murphy (Tabitha), Elizabeth Montgomery’s nose wiggle was a camera trick. If you look closely, you’ll see that Samantha’s nose never wiggles -- it was actually her upper lip. It was even claimed that her mouth moving did move her nose.

Marion Lorne Had A Doorknob Fetish

Most of the supporting actors on the show wore their own clothes and accessories on screen. According to Kasey Rogers (“Louise Tate”), they’d bring in their clothes a week prior to filming and the wardrobe department would clean and iron them. Agnes Moorehead was often seen wearing a starburst brooch that was set with 8.5 carats of old-mine diamonds. Montgomery had always admired the pin, so when Moorehead passed away in 1974, she left it to her TV daughter.

Even though Endora hated Darrin on the show, off-camera Agnes Moorehead was closer to Dick York than any of the other cast members. She was not happy at all when he was replaced with Dick Sargent.

Marion Lorne, who portrayed the lovable Aunt Clara, really did collect doorknobs like her character did on the show. The character’s unusual fascination with doorknobs was based on Lorne’s real-life fetish; she had a collection of over 1000 antique doorknobs! 

The Special Effects Were Incredibly Primitive

There wasn’t computer-generated magic in the 1960’s so all of the “magic” that was on Bewitched was created by a team of hard-working stagehands. For example, if Samantha wanted to quickly clean up the living room for a surprise visit from her in-laws, she’d raise her arms in the air and “zap” the room clean. In real life, Elizabeth Montgomery had to stand in place, arms raised, while the director called “cut” and members of the crew then ran around removing the clutter from the set. Once the living room was nice and neat, “action” was called and Montgomery would lower her arms and continue the scene. Bernard Fox, who played Dr. Bombay, said that he’d gotten some minor surface burns on occasion from the pyrotechnics that were used to pop him into various scenes.

Tags: Behind The Scenes | Bewitched | Elizabeth Montgomery | Rare Facts And Stories About History | TV In The 1960s | TV In The 1970s

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Cyn Felthousen-Post


Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!