'Bewitched' broke ground 45 years ago
To hardcore fans, ABC’s Bewitched had jumped the shark eight years before the Happy Days expression was even coined, when in 1969 actor Dick York was swapped out with no explanation for Dick Sargent in the lead role of Darrin Stephens. So by 1970 fewer eyes than ever were on the long-running show. That is, until an experimental Christmas-themed episode took it from the TV listings to the front pages.
"Sisters at Heart," which aired 45 years ago on Christmas Eve, not only found the usually frothy fantasy acknowledging real life with a story about racism, it also incorporated the issue by having it written by an entire class of inner-city tenth graders.
The idea was hatched when Marcella Saunders, a young English teacher at L.A.’s Thomas Jefferson High School, reached out to several TV shows looking for a way to connect her students to reading and writing through prime time. Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery and producer William Asher (Montgomery’s then-husband) responded with an invitation for the class to come to the set. As a thank you, the group collaborated on a storyline for the show about black-and-white friendship that was spun by staffer Barbara Avedon into a 1970 holiday episode. Set on Christmas Eve, twin stories revolve around 6-year-old Tabitha Stephens’ friendship with a black girlfriend whom she calls her sister, and Tabitha’s ad-exec father Darrin dealing with a bigoted client who comes to mistake the “sister” for Darrin’s actual child and thus the product of a mixed-race marriage. Disapproving, he cuts business ties with Darrin, referring to him as “unstable.” (In true TV fashion, the client comes to recognize and learn from his prejudice.)
Montgomery introduced the episode, telling viewers it evoked “the true sprit of Christmas …conceived in the image of innocence and filled with truth.” And while “Sisters at Heart” serviced the show’s cartoony legacy (novice witch Tabitha conjures up black polka-dots for her skin and white ones for her friend’s, so they’ll look more alike), it also offered up fairly in-your-face storytelling for its time. Literally. One scene featured the white cast in blackface to underscore Darrin’s client’s racism. The end-credits read “Story by: 5th Period English – Room 309 Thomas Jefferson High School [Los Angeles, California].” All 26 students were listed.
Praised by critics and educators, the episode was given the Emmy Governor's Award in 1971.
Bewitched, about the oft-protested marriage between a witch and a mortal, was one of many light-hearted other-worldly sitcoms zapped up in the mid-1960s, but it seemed to rest on a basic premise of tolerance for all of its eight seasons. (The show has been considered a civil-rights allegory.) It skirted reality with topics from trick-or-treating for UNICEF to the paranoia of the 17th-century Salem Witch Trials. Montgomery, who died in 1995, called “Sisters” her favorite of Bewitched’s 254 episodes.
A coda to the show that Christmas Eve features the actress back onscreen with a teachable moment of her own at the dawn of a turbulent decade, wishing viewers “a happy and peaceful new year.”
She seemed to emphasize the word peaceful.
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Why Samantha Stephens of Bewitched deserved a better husband
One thing being a millennial afforded me as a kid was the ability to see a bit of the past while the present around me was rapidly changing. Not only did I get to watch tubular teen shows and zany cartoons, but I could also tune in to reruns of syndicated ‘60s shows like Bewitched, starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York (later replaced by Dick Sargent).
For those who need a quick plot summary, the show (which got a big-screen facelift in 2005 with the film version starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell) centered around a young woman named Samantha who falls for a New York City ad exec named Darrin Stephens. The two have a whirlwind courtship and get married. After their nuptials, Darrin learns his wife is a witch (gasp) and the two must find a way to live a normal, typical life in the midst of the supernatural hijinks that come their way. As a kid, I always found the show entertaining — from the mod fashions to Montgomery's natural charm oozing into Samantha's warm yet sly smiles, and, of course, that magical, wiggling nose. How many of us have attempted to twitch our noses and hoped for something to appear?
But for all the fun and fancy the show afforded us, there was something lurking beneath the surface that I always had a problem with: Darrin's contempt for Samantha's witchcraft.
Imagine for a second having to hide who you are because you were afraid the world would shun you for being what you were born to be. Then imagine loving someone and exposing that side of yourself, only to be met with thinly-veiled disgust. Imagine being asked to hide who you are from everyone and being told to suppress that identity, in your own home no less, to avoid suspicion. The feeling is all too relatable, and while you may think I'm speaking of a personal experience, this was actually the core of the show: Samantha, a powerful witch, is asked by her husband to keep her magic to herself.
Now, to be fair to Darrin, Samantha was not forthcoming about her witchcraft. And not only did he learn about it after they became engaged, but Samantha did also agree to go forward in their marriage as close to the guise of a mortal as she could. For this, Darrin isn't a complete tool. It's his actions towards her later moments of tapping into her core self that makes him a big ol' wet hose.
First, there's his blatant disregard for Sam's family. While there is an equal distaste between Darrin and his mother-in-law, Endora, the other members of Sam's extended family aren't so mean to her husband. While they can't understand why she chose to marry a mortal, for the most part, they were cordial to him and accepted their union. Darrin, on the other hand, would at times show his disdain for Sam's relatives and often nudge her to get them to leave or not "cause trouble." It was in this figurative finger-wagging (which was occasionally even literal finger-wagging on the show) that Darrin showed his true colors.
In episodes where Samantha's magic backfired, she was deeply apologetic. And rather than accepting that his wife was trying to do a good deed, Darrin would give his wife an "I told you so" look before having her tell him he was "right" about her using magic. Meanwhile, in the instances in which Sam's magic benefited him greatly — knowingly or not — Darrin was very open to letting the magical meddling slide.
It's one thing to ask your wife not to practice magic around guests or business partners who didn't need to see that side of her, but it's another thing to be annoyed at your wife being who she is, even in her home. Was teleporting a glass of lemonade from the kitchen really going to hurt anyone?
To make matters worse, not only did he request that Samantha deny who she was both in public and private, but he also didn't even think to change his mentality about witches despite being married to one. In a Halloween-themed episode (Season 1, Episode 7, "The Witches Are Out"), Samantha had to force Darrin to see the errors in his ways when he is asked to use the stereotypical depiction of witches in an advertisement. Darrin refused to acknowledge why this depiction of witches bothered his wife, and it wasn't until Sam hexed her husband to look like a haggard witch himself that he developed an understanding.
While Sam's little trick may have made him change his mind on the look of witches, however, it didn't do much to change his bigoted views when it came to the issue of starting a family. With the birth of their daughter, Tabitha — and later their son Adam — Darrin was in constant fear of having children who would grow up to inherit their mother's witchy characteristics. But by replacing the term "witch" with some other identity, you can see how easily his actions can be translated for real-world situations. And by those standards, Darrin was a selfish husband who couldn't see the benefit of being open to explore his wife's culture as a way to demonstrate his true, undying love to her.
In these times, we could all use a little magic, but Darrin Stephens hated it — and for this, his wife Samantha deserved so much better.
14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Bewitched
Sony Pictures TV recently green-lighted a pilot for a revamped version of the supernatural classic sitcom Bewitched. The new show will feature Samantha’s granddaughter, who is also a witch but who finds her magic useless when it comes to finding true love. For those who truly loved the original series, here are 14 fun facts about the show and the actors that might surprise you.
1. CREATOR SOL SAKS WAS INSPIRED BY TWO MOVIES.
Sol Saks, credited onscreen as the creator of Bewitched, has admitted in several interviews that his script for the pilot episode was inspired by the films I Married a Witchand Bell, Book and Candle. Saks wasn’t worried that some litigious types might find too many similarities between his TV show and those movies, though; both films were owned by Columbia Pictures, which in turn also owned Screen Gems, the company that produced Bewitched.
2. HE WANTED TAMMY GRIMES TO PLAY THE SHOW'S WITCH.
Tammy Grimes, who’d won a Best Actress Tony Award 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). Grimes was not a fan of the premise, asking why she wouldn’t use her powers to stop wars or deal with Los Angeles traffic. The producers didn’t agree, so she accepted a role in High Spirits on Broadway and the witch character, now named “Samantha,” had to be recast.
3. RICHARD CRENNA COULD HAVE BEEN DARRIN.
Elizabeth Montgomery and her then-husband, producer/director William Asher, were looking for a television project they could work on together, and Harry Ackerman encouraged them to look at Saks’ Bewitched pilot script. The Ashers thought the show had possibilities, and Liz signed on to be Samantha. While Grimes was still scheduled to play the lead, a young actor named Richard Sargent was close to being signed on to play Darrin Stephens. Sargent took another job while the pilot was in search of a new Samantha, and interestingly enough he would go on to play Tammy’s twin brother on her short-lived show. Richard Crenna was the next actor offered the part of Darrin, but he’d just spent several years on The Real McCoys, so he passed as well. Enter Dick York, who had an impressive list of acting credits in film, on Broadway and on TV. His 1959 role in They Came To Cordura changed his life forever.
4. DICK YORK HAD TO LEAVE THE SHOW BECAUSE OF PAIN CAUSED BY AN OLD INJURY.
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 pounds, he tore most of the muscles on the right side of his back, and his spine never healed correctly. There was no type of surgery that would repair his injuries at that time; instead, the best the specialists could do was supply him with a steady supply of increasingly strong pain medications. York managed to work through his severe pain for the first four seasons. In the middle of Season Five, however, he was run-down and it showed on camera. On the day of filming the “Daddy Does His Thing” episode, he skipped lunch to see his doctor, who was out. The replacement doctor instead gave him B-12, and while filming a scene with Maurice Evans on a scaffold 15 feet in the air, the hot lights, exhaustion and medications combined to send York into a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital and never returned to the Bewitched set. Some Darrin-less episodes were filmed until Dick Sargent took over the role.
5. ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY WAS PREGNANT DURING EARLY FILMING ON THE FIRST SEASON.
Montgomery wore progressively looser clothing to disguise her expanding waistline. Her subsequent two pregnancies were written into the Bewitched script, adding Tabitha and Adam to the Stephens family.
6. IT WAS MONTGOMERY'S IDEA TO NAME HER CHARACTER'S DAUGHTER TABITHA.
"I loved it, because it was so old-fashioned," she said in 1967. "I got it from one of the daughters of Edward Andrews, the actor. The two Andrews girls are named Tabitha and Abigail. ... But, somehow or other, her name came out 'Tabatha' on the credit roll, and that's the way it's been ever since. Honestly, I shudder every time I see it. It's like a squeaky piece of chalk scratching on my nerves."
7. ALICE PEARCE HAD TERMINAL CANCER WHEN SHE TOOK THE PART OF THE STEPHENS' NOSY NEIGHBOR.
Alice Pearce played the part of a nosy busybody so well that even today the local neighborhood buttinski 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 undershot jaw prevented her from landing any leading lady roles when she took up acting, but she could be counted on as a good comic foil. Four months prior to 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’d had surgery, but the doctors informed her that her case was terminal. She told none of her coworkers of her condition, and other than her being a little tired on the set now and then, no one suspected her of being ill. Pearce passed away in March 1966, and was awarded a posthumous Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy Award two months later. Sandra Gould took over the role of Gladys Kravitz for the remainder of the series.
8. MOST OF THE SUPPORTING ACTORS ON THE SHOW WORE THEIR OWN CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES ONSCREEN.
According to Kasey Rogers (“Louise Tate”), they’d bring their clothes in a week prior to filming and the wardrobe department would clean and press them. Agnes Moorehead was often pictured wearing a starburst brooch that was set with 8.5 carats of old-mine diamonds. Montgomery admired the pin, and when Moorehead passed away in 1974, she bequeathed it to her TV daughter. You can see Moorehead wearing the brooch on an episode of Password above.
9. YORK AND MOOREHEAD WERE CLOSE OFF-CAMERA.
Even though Endora barely tolerated Darrin on the show, off-camera Moorehead was closer to York than any other cast member. Moorehead was a very religious Fundamentalist, and she admired York’s New Age-type spirituality. She also admired his acting talent and was not at all pleased when he was replaced with Dick Sargent.
10. MARION LORNE, WHO PLAYED AUNT CLARA, COLLECTED DOORKNOBS.
Lorne turned bumbling into an art form with her portrayal of loveable Aunt Clara. The character’s unusual fascination with door knobs was based on Lorne’s real-life fetish; she had a collection of over 1000 antique door openers. Aunt Clara was so endearing that even Darrin (who despised most of Sam’s relatives) loved her, even when her spells went wonky and turned him into a chimpanzee or a seal.
11. LARRY TATE'S SON ON THE SHOW WAS NAMED AFTER ACTOR DAVID WHITE'S OWN SON.
David White, who played unctuous advertising exec Larry Tate, had a son named Jonathan whom he’d raised as a single father after his wife died due to complications during her second pregnancy. When Larry and Louise Tate were blessed with a son on Bewitched, the child was named Jonathan at White’s request. Tragically, Jonathan was a passenger on Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 souls on board. David died two years later of a heart attack, and is inurned with his son in a niche at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
12. ONE CHRISTMAS EPISODE WAS WRITTEN BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOLERS.
The Christmas episode entitled “Sisters at Heart” would be considered politically incorrect today, to say the least (Tabitha, her parents, and even Larry Tate all appear in blackface at one point). But the story idea and basic script was written by 22 African-American 10th graders in Marcella Saunders’ English class at Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles.
The plot involved unabashed racist Mr. Brockway, owner of a toy company whose million-dollar advertising account McMann and Tate was eager to land. However, Brockway refused to allow Darrin to handle his account, since he mistakenly believed that Darrin was married to a black woman (actually the wife of Darrin’s co-worker). Meanwhile, that co-worker’s daughter was Tabitha’s close friend and was spending the weekend with the Stephens. Tabitha liked to pretend that the two were sisters, and tried to make them both the same color so that they’d be twins. Her spell went haywire and Tabitha ended up with black polka dots on her face and pal Lisa with white spots. In the end, Samantha explained that all men and women are brothers and sisters despite the color of their skin, and then for good measure zapped everyone at their Christmas party into blackface when Mr. Brockway arrived. Of course mean ol’ Brockway immediately saw the error of his ways and not only asked Darrin to handle his account, he also shared Christmas dinner with an ethnically diverse group of guests.
13. SAMANTHA'S "MAGIC" WAS MADE BY STAGE HANDS.
There was no such thing as computer-generated hocus-pocus in the 1960s; all the “magic” on Bewitched was created by a team of hard-working stagehands. For example, if Samantha wanted to quickly tidy 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 a case like that, Elizabeth Montgomery had to stand in place, arms upraised, while the director called “cut” and members of the crew then rushed around to remove the laundry, newspapers, and other clutter from the set. Once the living room was nice and neat, “action” was called and Montgomery could lower her arms and continue the scene.
Other effects included fast-motion film, backward-motion film, and “invisible” wires for levitation. When a character popped in and out and changed clothes in the interim, the director made sure that the actor’s shoes were firmly affixed in place on the stage while the actor dashed backstage to change costume. That way when he returned he’d be standing in exactly the same spot. Bernard Fox, who played Dr. Bombay, reported that he’d gotten some minor surface burns on occasion from the pyrotechnics that were used to pop him into various scenes.
14. THE THEME SONG HAD LYRICS.
They were never actually sung over the opening credits, but the Bewitched theme song does have lyrics. Here’s Steve Lawrence swinging the tune in his trademark ring-a-ding style:
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Moderator: Andrew - PG Music, Blake - PG Music, PeterGannon
Bewitched you tube
One of the many areas in which I am spectacularly ill-informed is prime-time television. You would be amazed at the numbers of sitcoms I have never seen, not even once. When you see 500 movies a year you don't have a lot of left over yearning for watching television. In the evenings, you involve yourself in more human pursuits. On TV you watch the news, talk shows or old movies. You don't watch sports unless your team is in the finals. You can sense I am edging up to the admission that I have never seen a single episode of "Bewitched." I knew it existed, however, because of my reading.
That makes me well-prepared to review the new movie "Bewitched," since I have nothing to compare it with and have to take it on its own terms. It is tolerably entertaining. Many of its parts work, although not together. Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman are funny and likable, but they're in a plot that doesn't allow them to aim for the same ending with the same reason. It's one of those movies where you smile and laugh and are reasonably entertained, but you get no sense of a mighty enterprise sweeping you along with its comedic force. There is not a movie here. Just scenes in search of one.
The joke is this: Will Ferrell plays Jack Wyatt, a movie star whose career has hit bottom. Sales of his last DVD: zero. In desperation, he turns to television and finds himself considered for a starring role in a revival of "Bewitched." He will play the Darrin role. At least that's what everyone says. I assume Darrin was a character on the original show. I know (from my reading) that the show's interest centered on Samantha, who was played by Elizabeth Montgomery. I know from the movie that Samantha had a way of twitching her nose that was very special, and that they can't find an actress with twitchability until Jack spots Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) in Book Soup on Sunset.
He insists on using her in the role because (a) he wants a complete unknown, so he'll get all the attention, (b) the twitch, and (c) because already he is falling in love with her. What he doesn't realize, oh, delicious irony, is that Isabel is in fact a real witch. She has however just decided to move to the Valley, get a house with a VW bug in the garage, live a normal life, and find a guy who loves her for herself and not because she put a hex on him. Her father (Michael Caine) warns her that this dream is not possible, and indeed she has a lot of trouble giving up witchcraft. It's so tempting to charge your purchases on a tarot card.
The movie has been directed by Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail"), and written by her with her sister, Delia. They have a lot of cute scenes. I like the way they make Jack Wyatt an egotistical monster who wants three trailers, star billing and cake every Wednesday. He's hysterically in love with himself. His ego is of course no match for Samantha, who can make him act in Spanish if she wants to. Occasionally when things go wrong, she even rewinds the arrow of time, although even after a rewind, it's a funny thing; something magical happens, anyway.
The movie has fun with Ferrell on the star trip, and fun with Kidman's love-hate relationship with magic. It has a lot of good supporting work, including Jason Schwartzman as Jack's desperate agent, and Shirley MacLaine as Samantha's mother (her theory on actors: "Sometimes deep down there is no deep down"). If you watch "The Daily Show" you'll enjoy cameos by Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. It might have been a good idea to bring in Samantha Bee, too, and have her interview Jack Wyatt ("You're staring at my boobs!').
Will Ferrell has become a major star in almost no time at all. One moment he was a "Saturday Night Live" veteran who had played backup in a lot of movies, and the next moment he had made "Old School" and "Elf" and "Anchorman" and "Melinda and Melinda" and had "The Producers" on the way, and he was big time. One reason for that is, you like the guy. He has a brawny, take-no-prisoners style of comedy that suggests he's having a lot of fun. Nicole Kidman, on the other hand, is an actor with more notes in her repertory (maybe Ferrell could have played a role in "The Hours," but that remains to be seen). Here she is fetching and somehow more relaxed than usual as Samantha, and makes witchcraft seem like a bad habit rather than a cosmic force.
But what are they doing in the same movie? You have two immovable objects or two irresistible forces. Both characters are complete, right off the shelf. There's no room for them to move. Yes, Jack becomes a nicer guy after he falls in love, and yes, Samantha realizes that magic is sometimes just not fair. But they are separate at the beginning and essentially still self-contained at the end, and the movie never works them both into the same narrative logic. Still, that's a great moment when Jack shouts: "Guys! Make me 200 cappuccinos! Bring me the best one!"
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'Bewitched' secrets: 6 things you didn't know
(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Rehearsals for the pilot episode of “Bewitched” began on November 22, 1963 — just hours before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The tragedy was particularly difficult for the show’s star, Elizabeth Montgomery (Samantha Stephens), and her husband, the show’s producer, Bill Asher.
“They were friends with JFK,” Herbie J. Pilato, author of “Twitch Upon A Star” and other books about classic television told Fox News.
“Asher produced Kennedy’s birthday bash where Marilyn Monroe sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ It was a very hard time for everybody.”
But the show eventually went on.
“Bewitched” aired for eight seasons and 254 episodes on ABC — often beating out the controversial CBS comedy, “All In The Family,” in head-to-head competition.
Montgomery starred as a friendly witch who marries a mortal man (Dick York, later switched to actor Dick Sargent) and attempts to live as a suburban housewife.
Pilato shares with us some secrets you probably don’t know about the spellbinding series:
1. Samantha was originally named Cassandra
Actress Elizabeth Montgomery is shown on the set of the television show "Bewitched," in which she plays the role of Samantha, in 1964. (AP Photo) (AP)
"Elizabeth didn’t like it because she thought it was too connected to the evil witches of Greek mythology," claimed Pilato.
2. The role of Samantha was originally offered to Tammy Grimes
Grimes passed. “She felt like if the character had all this power, why doesn’t she cure all the ills of the world?” said Pilato. “If Tammy had said 'yes,' I don’t think the show would have been as successful.”
3. Before 'Bewitched'
** FILE** Darren McGavin, right, and Elizabeth Montgomery are seen in a scene from the television series "Riverboat" in this Aug. 18, 1959 file photo. McGavin, the husky, tough-talking actor who starred in the TV series "Mike Hammer," played a grouchy dad in the holiday classic "A Christmas Story" and had other strong roles in such films as "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "The Natural," died Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006. He was 83. (AP Photo) (AP)
Montgomery made over 200 guest appearances on TV before "Bewitched." She's pictured above with actor Darren McGavin in a scene from the television series "Riverboat."
4. How Sargent really died
Dick Sargent died in 1994 of prostate cancer, not AIDS. “Yes, he was a man who happened to be gay, but that has been a misconception all these years,” said Pilato.
5. A tale of two Darrins
(Mill Creek Entertainment)
Many episodes starring Dick Sargent were remakes of episodes that originally starred Dick York. “Sometimes they took the concept, sometimes you would hear exact dialogue,” said Pilato. “I don’t know why. They didn’t think the show would still be on 50 years later and people would write books about it.”
6. Montgomery wanted out
(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
“It wasn’t canceled because of low ratings,” Pilato insisted. "'Bewitched' was actually renewed for Seasons 9 and 10, but [she] wanted out. It was at this same time that Montgomery’s marriage to Asher began to unravel. The sitcom came to an end in 1972 and the couple divorced a year after."
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Many grew up watching Bewitched or learned to love it after a binge-watching some reruns, but the popular TV show turned Elizabeth Montgomery and her character Samantha into a fan favorite.
Her witchy ways both enchanted and annoyed her husband Darrin (played by Dick York and later, Dick Sargent), but her antics cracked audiences up. While each character had their own style and quirks, Samantha’s nose wiggle was her secret magic wand, and it was something unique to Montgomery herself.
‘Bewitched’ cast spells without tools
From the animated opening credits to eight seasons’ worth of episodes, Samantha Stephens’ magical move was typically in her nose. For Endora, — Samantha’s mother — she simply conjured something with a wave of her hand, an open palm, or a look. And warlocks didn’t roll around with Harry Potter wands either.
This was something demonstrated when Samantha’s dad once turned Darrin into a newspaper, then a vaporized cloud of yellow smoke, and a rematerialized version of himself plucked from the ethers — all in the same episode.
Wands and cauldrons weren’t a regular part of the plot in Bewitched. But Samantha’s famous nose wriggle became a thing, and it came naturally.
RELATED: Why Was ‘Bewitched’ Really Canceled?
Elizabeth Montgomery’s nose twitch worked into the series
When Montgomery was cast to play Samantha Stephens, it was an opportunity to work alongside her husband, Bill Asher, who’d directed episodes of I Love Lucy and I Dream of Jeannie. Asher played a role in helping Montgomery shape her character.
According to Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery by Herbie Pilato, the husband and wife put their heads together to come up with a magical gesture that activated Samantha’s spells discreetly.
Pilato wrote that on the night before pilot rehearsals began, Asher had a moment where he exclaimed, “That’s it! What’s that thing you do with your nose?”
Montgomery didn’t get it, and her husband explained that her nose moved a certain way when she was nervous. Unaware of what he meant, she did it out of exasperation as they tried to figure it out. It became Samantha’s trademark expression.
Pilato’s book also noted Montgomery’s childhood friends Billie Banks and Sally Kemp once said in interviews that she used to do a “bunny nose” for good luck when they were in school. They claimed no one could master it but her.
According to Closer Weekly, Montgomery joked about using the twitch at a Cubs game and after doing so, Ernie Banks scored a major home run after not hitting all day.
Erin Murphy said the magic twitches were tricks
Erin Murphy was one of the twins who played Tabitha in Bewitched. Her character only touched her finger to her nose to make magic happen, and that was the producers’ decision. When asked about Montgomery’s signature wiggle, Murphy told Parade it “was a camera trick.”
This was corroborated by Asher who shared that the cameras sped things up and they used a xylophone to add sound. All those elements combined created Samantha’s version of “Abracadabra.”