Elizabeth Montgomery PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 May 2008 19:13

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth-Montgomery.jpgElizabeth Montgomery

Born:  April 15, 1933, (1933-04-15)Hollywood, California, USA

Died:  May 18, 1995, Los Angeles, California, USA

Age:  62

Cause of Death:  Colorectal cancer

Notable because: Samantha in Bewitched.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Elizabeth Montgomery was the child of actor Robert Montgomery and his wife, Broadway actress Elizabeth Bryan Allen. She had an older sister, Martha Bryan Montgomery, who died before she was born, and a brother, Robert Montgomery, Jr., who was born in 1936. She attended The Spence School.

Montgomery made her television debut in her father's series Robert Montgomery Presents, and her film debut in 1955 in The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell.

Her early career consisted of starring vehicles and appearances in live television dramas and series, such as Studio One, Kraft Television Theater, The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1954 she lost out on co-starring with Marlon Brando in the seminal film On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan.

She was also featured in a role as a socialite with Henry Silva and Sammy Davis, Jr in the offbeat 1963 gangster film Johnny Cool and, the same year, with Dean Martin and Carol Burnett in the motion picture comedy Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed?, directed by Daniel Mann. Nevertheless, Alfred Hitchcock had her in mind to play the sister-in-law of Sean Connery, who sees herself as a rival to the troubled heroine in the movie Marnie, but Montgomery was unavailable owing to her commitment to a new television show: Bewitched.

Montgomery played the central role of Samantha Stephens with Dick York (and later with Dick Sargent), in the ABC situation comedy Bewitched. The show became a rating success (it was, at the time, the highest rated series ever for the network). It enjoyed an eight-year run from 1964 to 1972 and remains popular through syndication and DVD releases. She also provided the voice of Samantha for an episode of The Flintstones.

Montgomery received five Emmy Award and four Golden Globe nominations for her role. At its creative peak, Bewitched was considered one of the most sophisticated sitcoms on the air and cleverly explored contemporary themes and social issues within a fantasy context.

The series and Montgomery's portrayal of Samantha were paid homage in the 2005 movie, Bewitched, starring Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman.

Although Montgomery enjoyed enormous success with the show, she felt typecast and pigeonholed when she sought other roles after the show's run ended. Montgomery refused to do Samantha's famous nose twitch for fans after Bewitched went off the air, and was reluctant to discuss the show.

Montgomery returned to Samantha-like twitching of her nose and on-screen magic in a series of Japanese television commercials (1980-83) for "Mother" chocolate biscuits and cookies by confectionery conglomerate Lotte Corp. These Japanese commercials provided a lucrative salary for Montgomery while remaining out of sight from non-Japanese fans and Hollywood industry. The commercials were posted on YouTube in 2007.

In the United States, Montgomery spent much of her later career pursuing dramatic roles that took her as far away from the good-natured Samantha as possible. Among her later roles:

  • She received Emmy Award nominations for playing a rape victim in A Case of Rape (1974), for her portrayal of Lizzie Borden in William Bast's The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), and for her role as a strong woman facing hardship in 1820s Ohio in the mini-series The Awakening Land (1978).
  • In 1977, Montgomery turned heads when she played a police detective having an interracial affair with her partner, played by OJ Simpson in A Killing Affair.
  • She also made a chilling villain in the 1985 picture Amos, playing a nurse in a state home who terrorized residents Kirk Douglas and Dorothy McGuire.
  • One of her final roles was in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series entitled "Showdown," in which she played a barmaid.
  • She also had a long run as a guest performer on the game show Password, and host Allen Ludden referred to her as the best Password player ever on the show.
  • Her final television movies were the highly-rated Edna Buchanan detective series.

Montgomery was one of the first actresses to broaden their careers from series work with television movies, and she set the precedent for other TV series actresses, such as Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Melissa Gilbert, Lindsay Wagner, Carol Burnett, and Barbara Eden, to follow.

Montgomery was first married to New York socialite Frederick Gallatin Cammann in 1954; the marriage lasted barely a year. She was married to actor Gig Young from 1956 to 1963, and then to director-producer William Asher from 1963 until their 1973 divorce. They had three children: William Asher (July 24, 1964), Robert Asher (October 5, 1965) and Rebecca Asher (June 17, 1969). The latter two pregnancies were incorporated into Bewitched as Samantha's pregnancies with Tabitha (primarily Erin Murphy, with twin Diane) and Adam Stephens. After cohabiting for nearly twenty years, she entered her fourth and final marriage, to actor Robert Foxworth, in 1993. She even approached comedian Dennis Miller about taking out a license to marry the couple. She remained married to Foxworth until her death.

In June 1992, Montgomery and her former Bewitched co-star Dick Sargent, who had remained a good friend, were Grand Marshals at the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade. Montgomery had liberal political views, being an outspoken champion of women's rights and gay rights throughout her life, sharply contrasting with her conservative Republican father, who was once a media advisor to President Dwight Eisenhower. In fact, during Bewitched's run, she was a vocal critic of The Vietnam War. Further, she narrated a series of political documentaries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair (1988) and the Academy Award winning The Panama Deception (1992).

Montgomery was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the spring of 1995. She had ignored the flu-like symptoms during the filming of Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan, but acted too late. Unwilling to die in a hospital, and with no hope of recovery, she elected to return to her Beverly Hills home that she shared with Foxworth. She died there, in the company of her children and husband, on May 18, 1995, eight weeks after her diagnosis.Montgomery was 62 years old.

A memorial service was held on June 18, 1995, at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills. Herbie Hancock provided the music, and Dominick Dunne spoke about their early days as friends in New York. Other speakers included Robert Foxworth, who read out sympathy cards from fans, her nurse, her brother, daughter, and stepson. She was cremated at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

  • On April 19, 1998, an event auction/sale of her clothing was held by her family to benefit AIDS Healthcare Foundation of Los Angeles. Erin Murphy, who played Tabitha on the series, modeled the clothing that was auctioned.
  • In June 2005, a statue of Montgomery as Samantha Stephens was erected in Salem, Massachusetts.
A star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame was presented in honor of Montgomery's work in television on January 4, 2008. The location of star is 6533 Hollywood Blvd

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:46
 

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