On September 17, 1964 the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) took a chance on a new situation comedy with a twist. It was a great setting—New York City.
The male lead was a Missouri boy working for an advertising agency. He had a host of sophisticated “friends” especially female ones.
By accident he meets “the girl next door” in a revolving door. They keep running into each other serendipitously.
As time evolves, they become acquainted and eventually marry. To all appearance the young woman is just plain wholesome and beautiful in a natural way in comparison to his female friends, especially one by the name of Shelia.
On their wedding night in a hotel suite as he prepares to enter the bedroom, the young woman’s mother materializes in the bedroom to have a talk with her young and inexperienced daughter. The mother transports the husband to the hotel lobby (more than once).
To the mother’s surprise her daughter married “a normal, mortal human being”. Her mother is outraged that her daughter with magical powers would marry a mere mortal.
So begins the first of 254 episodes of Bewitched. The exploits of Darrin and Samantha Stevens and her mother, Endora, with various family members, including a daughter and son, and friends would grace the home screen from 1964-1972.
It would define for a number of young viewers what a witch and warlock were. They would be presented in full color unlike the caricatures presented on Halloween and movies.
The classic view of witches was Shakespeare’s MACBETH. They were three ugly hags with a black boiling cauldron and their strange incantations with the special effects of a stormy night.
The 1939’s WIZARD OF OZ based on L. Frank Baum’s book presented the concept of good and bad, very bad, witches. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, was dressed in white, more like a fairy. Her sisters The Wicked Witch of the East and West are typical black-clad, broom-riding uglies with sinister laughter.
Bewitched was a delight with the comedy centering on Darrin being the brunt of the tricks and spells of Endora and other members of Samantha’s family/coven. Samantha, the wholesome witch next door, had a lookalike kooky, hipster cousin Serena which was played by Elizabeth Montgomery as well. It allowed Miss Montgomery’s sexy side be on display in comparison to the always proper and conservative Samantha.
Two of the strange visitors to the Stevens’ house were Uncle Arthur played with devilish delight by Paul Lynde. Dr. Bombay was skillfully played by Welch actor Bernard Fox.
Dick York originally played Darrin, but illness caused him to drop out of the series. He died at 63 years of age in 1992 after a long battle with emphysema, but he is remembered not only for his role as Darrin but as a tireless advocate for the homeless.
Dick Sargent replaced York in 1969. The studio went to great lengths to hide his sexuality. He died in 1994 at the age of sixty-four from prostate cancer.
Agnes Moorehead was a talented actress of theatre, film, radio and television when she accepted the delicious part of Endora. She died in 1974 of uterine cancer.
Larry Tate, Darrin’s boss, was played by veteran actor David White. He died of a heart attack at the age of 74 in 1990.
The beautiful star of the series, Elizabeth Montgomery, was a superb actress. After Bewitched she played many drama roles both as a good and bad character. Ignoring symptoms while filming her last movie Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was 62 at the time of her death in 1995.
Her legacy is not only her acting, but her unselfish activism for women, gay rights and the rights of the disabled. She left a world enriched because of her being in it.
The wholesome witch next door is always there in the 254 episodes. In many ways Bewitched led the way for another group of young witches and warlocks to be accepted by society in the Harry Potter series.
G. D. Williams © 2013
Elizabeth Montgomery (April 15, 1933 – May 18, 1995)