OBITUARY:Elizabeth Montgomery

As the good witch Samantha Stephens in the situation comedy Bewitched, the blonde-haired, green-eyed Elizabeth Montgomery became one of the biggest stars on American television in the Sixties and Seventies.

The show was based on the storyline of an advertising executive marrying a woman who turns out to be a witch but craves a life as a "normal" housewife, although she cannot resist twitching her nose to have the dishes washed, the kitchen cleaned and the laundry folded. It was apparently a one-joke comedy, but Bewitched ran for eight years, with viewers anxious to learn of the latest antics of Samantha and her even "witchier" mother, Endora.

Montgomery was born in Los Angeles in 1933, the daughter of the actress Elizabeth Allen and the stage and screen actor Robert Montgomery, who was one of the first film stars to work prominently on television. She trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, in New York, and made her television debut in her father's series Robert Montgomery Presents, in a story entitled "Top Secret" (1951), at the age of 17. She appeared in another 26 episodes of the programme over the next five years, as well as acting in other live dramas in series such as Armstrong Circle Theater, Kraft Theater, Studio One, Warner Brothers Presents and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Montgomery's many other television appearances included guest roles in Appointment with Adventure (1955), Climax (1956), Suspicion (1958), Cimarron City (1958), The Loretta Young Show (1959), Riverboat (1959), Wagon Train (1959), The Untouchables (1960, nominated for an Emmy award for her portrayal of the sex siren Rusty Heller), Twilight Zone (1961), Burke's Law (1963 and 1964), Rawhide (1963) and 77 Sunset Strip (1963), before finding fame in Bewitched.

Montgomery was actually the second actress to be approached for the role of Samantha Stephens, after Tammy Grimes turned it down. Montgomery and her husband-to-be, the director William Asher, were looking for a show to work on together and, after reading the script, she told the programme's co-creator William Dozier, "This is a series I just must do, that's all."

Montgomery and Asher were hired and Bewitched became the second most popular programme on American television during its first series, in 1964- 65. It was the first "fantasy sitcom" on the small screen and was set to be followed by others such as I Dream of Jeannie, although that genre had already become a part of cinema, most notably in I Married a Witch, the 1942 film starring Veronica Lake.

Dick York and, later, Dick Sargent played Montgomery's screen husband, Darrin Stephens, and Agnes Moorehead acted her mother. Montgomery also played Samantha's mischievous identical cousin Serena and provided the voice of "Samantha" in a 1965 episode of the Flintstones cartoon series. Since it finished in 1972, Bewitched's 306 episodes have been regularly repeated around the world.

In the Seventies, Montgomery turned to drama and acted in some of the most popular television films screened in the United States: The Victim (1972), as a woman in a remote farmhouse stalked by a psychotic killer during a thunderstorm; Mrs Sundance (1974), as the widow of the Sundance Kid, who is duped into believing that her husband is still alive; A Case of Rape (1974), as a married rape victim; The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975) as the infamous New England spinster tried for the axe murders of her father and stepmother; and Dark Victory (1976), as a woman dying of a brain tumour, in a remake of the 1939 Bette Davis classic cinema feature. More recently, she played the Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter Edna Buchanan in The Corpse Had a Familiar Face (1994) and Deadline for Murder (1995).

Montgomery's other screen appearances included the television films A Killing Affair (1977), Jennifer: A Woman's Story (1979), Belle Starr (1980), When The Circus Came to Town (1981), Second Sight: a love story (1984), Amos (1985), Between the Darkness and the Dawn (1985) and Sins of the Mother (1991); and the mini-series The Awakening Land (1978) and The Rules of Marriage (1982).

She also appeared in half a dozen films, including The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), Johnny Cool (1963), Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963) and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). On stage, her Broadway debut as Janet Colby in Late Love, at the National Theater (1953), won her a Theater World Award for Most Promising Newcomer. She later narrated the theatrical documentaries Cover Up: Behind the Iran Contra Affair and The Panama Deception.

In all, Montgomery received eight Emmy Award nominations for her television work, including five for Bewitched. A keen artist, she wrote and illustrated an unpublished children's book, Annabelle, and sold several water-colours. She was also active for the Aids Project, Amnesty International and the peace movement. Three times divorced, Montgomery lived until her death with her fourth husband, Robert Foxworth, with whom she appeared in several television films.

Elizabeth Montgomery, actress: born Los Angeles 15 April 1933; married 1954 Frederick Gallatin Cammann (marriage dissolved 1955), 1956 Gig Young (marriage dissolved 1963), 1963 William Asher (two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1974), fourthly Robert Foxworth; died Beverly Hills, California 18 May 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions