Go Behind the Scenes of Beloved Cult TV Classic Bewitched
When Bewitched first aired in 1964, people didn't expect the strange show to be so impactful. However, the quirky series was immensely popular and revolutionary in shaping the fantasy sitcom genre. While fans loved the show for its goofy humor, charming characters and outrageous magic displays, there was more to the sitcom than met the eye. Behind the scenes, both the wonder and chaos transferred over to real life, thanks to incredible film magic and terrifying curses. Let’s take a look behind the scenes of the beloved cult TV classic known as Bewitched to uncover the truth.
Samantha's Nose Twitch Was Movie Magic
You can't have Bewitched without Samantha's iconic nose wiggle. However, you may have thought special effects were too limited at the time to help with Elizabeth Montgomery’s magical twitching. In truth, the actress wiggled her nose as best she could, but the wiggling was enhanced with the help of a bit of movie magic.
The Earliest Episodes Weren't in Living Color
Bewitched first aired in September 1964, a mere 14 years after color television was introduced to the American public. Naturally, producers who didn’t yet know if the show would succeed were unwilling to invest in the extra cost to air the show in color. As a result, the earliest seasons of Bewitched were in black and white.
The Reason Dick York Ducked Out
Whatever happened to Dick York? The actor who played Darrin, Samantha's husband, vanished from Bewitched in 1969. Although the role was filled by Dick Sargent, fans weren't cued in on the reason for Dick York's departure. This led to wild theories about chaos and on set drama between the actors, but York’s decision to leave was related to concern for his health.
Agnes Moorehead Hated York's Replacement
When Dick York was replaced with Dick Sargent, Agnes Moorehead — Samantha's sassy, mortal-hating mother — threw a fit. She was extremely close to Dick York, sharing a unique bond with the actor that he didn’t have with his other cast members. She was devastated when York left, and when Sargent showed up, she was completely unhappy about his presence.
Montgomery and Sargent Got Along Great
Although Moorehead was frustrated with York's absence from the show, Montogmery connected with Sargent far more than she had with York. She was never Dick York's biggest fan, and they didn’t always get along while shooting. For Montgomery, Sargent was a positive replacement, and they enjoyed friendly and warm communication with one another.
Elizabeth Was Pregnant — A Lot
Although her real-life pregnancies certainly weren't scripted, Montgomery's onscreen pregnancies were far from fake. In fact, she was pregnant a whopping three times during the shooting of Bewitched. The first pregnancy was hidden by baggy clothing, but the subsequent two pregnancies were written into the script.
They Cast Multiple Twins as Tabitha
It can be tough to film Hollywood movies and TV shows that feature uber-young children. Child labor laws, fussy infants and other youth-based complications mean that casting directors must be very careful about who they choose for a child's role. Casting twins is one way to ensure that no child is overworked or underprepared.
Montgomery Wasn't the First Choice for Samantha
It's hard to imagine anyone else in the quirky, hilarious and charismatic role of Samantha Stephens, other than Elizabeth Montgomery. However, Montgomery wasn't the first choice to play the role. Rather, ABC had their eyes on two-time Tony award winner Tammy Grimes. The studio was hopeful the actress — who looks a bit like Montogmery — would take the role.
Asher and Montgomery Had a Tumultuous Relationship
Montgomery and Asher signed onto Bewitched together, but they were separated by the time it ended. Montgomery was married two times before Asher, both times to emotional abusers and alcoholics. When she fell in love with Asher, he seemed to be better than her former husbands, yet he soon began to cheat on her.
Samantha Used to Be Cassandra
Before she was Samantha Stephens, she was Cassandra. Writer Sol Saks was smitten with the name Cassandra while he was seeking an actress to fill the killer role of the witch. He was set on Tammy Grimes as the star, but she turned down the role, and Montgomery was not happy with Saks' name choice.
Special Sets and Scripts Were Designed for York
Speaking of adapting for actors, Dick York was filming Bewitched when the chronic pain from his back injury got worse. As a result, the set makers and scriptwriters always had to be prepared for York to be having a bad back day. What did this look like on set?
Montgomery Almost Quit After Season Five
By the end of the fifth season of Bewitched, Montgomery was ready to throw in the towel. By then, she had three children she was trying to raise while shooting the show. Plus, she wasn't merely a supporting character, so she had to be in every single episode for the show to function.
A Christmas Episode Was Written by Black Students
The episode Sisters of Heart came to be, thanks to 26 African-American high school students from Jefferson High School in L.A. After they were invited to tour the set of Bewitched, the group — many of whom couldn’t read or write — created the episode about tolerance, unity and fighting prejudice.
Montgomery Played More Than One Character
Although Montgomery is most recognizable for her role as the squeaky-clean Samantha Stephens, that wasn't her only role on Bewitched. She also played the hardcore-hippie Serena, Samantha's cousin. Montgomery could be difficult to recognize with her usual blonde hairstyle manipulated and her heavier makeup, but she looked enough like herself for crew and cast members to know it was her.
Stagehands Made the Magic Happen
During the years of filming Bewitched, there was no such thing as CGI, green-screening or any of the revolutionary film technology that so many fantasy and sci-fi shows employ today. Instead, a skilled group of stagehands — plus some incredible set builders and film editors — brought most of Samantha's magic spells to life.
Samantha's Nosy Neighbor Was Hiding Something
True fans of Bewitched should know Alice Pearce for her role as Samantha's hilarious nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz. While the goofy role seemed to come to Pearce with ease, she was quietly battling ovarian cancer behind the scenes. When she accepted the role of Kravitz, she understood that her illness was terminal, but she didn't tell anybody else.
The Show Earned Its Own Curse
In Hollywood, there are certain shows, roles and films that seem to carry curses along with them for the cast and crew involved. While Bewitched was full of spells and magic, one curse seemed to manifest itself in the real lives of the cast members. Pearce was the supposed curse's first victim, but she wouldn't be the last.
Montgomery Was a Fierce AIDS Activist
Montgomery was a mystic presence onscreen, but even more so offscreen. She kept a great majority of her personal life veiled from the eyes of reporters. However, despite her shielded presence beyond the camera, she was an extremely passionate advocate for gay rights. Along with this, she was an activist in the face of the AIDS crisis.
The Actors Were Often Drunk While Filming
Are you one of the fans who noticed how frequently the cast of characters drank during the show? Well, that was real alcohol. The actors and actresses often got drunk during filming. Rather than turning the cameras off and sending everyone home to clean up, they kept the cameras rolling. Many aired scenes were recorded while the cast was intoxicated.
The Cast Also Smoked Like Crazy
In addition to their tendency to get drunk onset, the cast also smoked frequently. The genuine dangers of smoking cigarettes were becoming relevant medical conversations at the time. However, any whisper of concern didn't slow the actors down. They were all heavy smokers and were almost never found without a cigarette between their fingers.
Montgomery's Father Refused a Role
Before anyone knew Elizabeth Montgomery's name, they knew about her famous actor/producer father, Robert Montgomery. With nearly 50 film credits to his name, he cast quite a shadow, and Elizabeth spent much of her young adult life attempting to crawl out of it. When she scored the role of Samantha, she got her chance at independence.
Agnes Moorehead Had a Magical Brooch
One feature of Agnes Moorehead's wardrobe was her trademark: her starburst brooch. The magnificent piece of jewelry was a central part of her costume, which consisted entirely of clothing from her own wardrobe. The 8.5-carat diamond-brooch was assigned magical abilities within the bounds of the Bewitched plot.
One of the Writers Was Double-Crossing Bewitched
Around the same time that Bewitched came out, an extremely similar sitcom hit the primetime tube: I Dream of Jeannie. The plot revolved around a blonde-haired, magical woman who was smitten with a mortal. Sound familiar? Although the genre of fantastical/magical shows was popular at the time, there may have been more to the story with I Dream of Jeannie.
The Release of the Show Was Protested
Releasing a show about a female witch in the mid-20th century wasn't exactly a simple feat. Extreme religious groups, Southern states and overprotective parents chose to boycott Bewitched before it even aired. Why? They believed it would promote Devil worship, black magic and the practice of witchcraft. These critics began to place the characters' behaviors under a lens.
The Cast Appeared on The Twilight Zone
Where did the actors end up when they weren't on Bewitched? Many of them seemed to walk straight into The Twilight Zone. The majority of actors/actresses on Bewitched also starred in an episode of The Twilight Zone at one point or another. This group included Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, Agnes Moorehead, Alice Pearce and Sandra Gould.
Sol Saks Borrowed from Other Films
Although Bewitched is an engaging and unique series, the original pilot was the furthest thing from an original concept. The show's writer, Sol Saks, stole structure from both I Married a Witch and Bell, Book and Candle. Saks unapologetically admitted the Bewitched pilot was essentially modeled after the plot of those two films.
The Real-Life Aunt Clara Collected Doorknobs
Aunt Clara, played by Marion Lorne, is one of the sole characters on Bewitched that seemed to be unconditionally lovable, mostly because of the quirky nature of her personality, which made her a total mess most of the time. One of the notable quirks of Aunt Clara was that she had a strange obsession with doorknobs.
JFK's Assassination Happened During the Pilot's Rehearsal
Many people remember November 22, 1963, as the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. However, members of the Bewitched cast also remembered it for another reason. It was the day they kicked off rehearsals for the pilot. Although the whole nation was distraught, Elizabeth Montgomery and William Asher were particularly heartbroken by the event.
B.Y.O. Costuming: The Bare Minimum Wardrobe Department
It's difficult to imagine any of your favorite big-name television shows without a wardrobe department. After all, costuming is a big deal. They wouldn't honor it at award shows if it wasn't! However, the wardrobe department for Bewitched was so simple that it was nearly nonexistent. No designer hand-picked any costumes for the show.
Elizabeth Montgomery Almost Quit Acting Before Bewitched
Remember how Montgomery got involved with several manipulative men? Her first husband, Fred Cammann, was one of them. He was extraordinarily wealthy and wanted her to quit acting to start a family with him. However, she was an actress (not a housewife) at heart, so she refused.