Elizabeth Montgomery, known for her iconic nose twitch as Samantha Stephens on the beloved sitcom Bewitched, remains an unforgettable name in entertainment history.
During the 1960s, this stunning actress captivated audiences worldwide, becoming a household name and a global phenomenon. Tragically, her unexpected demise in 1995 left a void in the industry. At Newsner, we have had the pleasure of celebrating numerous beautiful and talented women, yet none stole my youthful heart quite like Ms. Montgomery.
Unlike many of her peers, Elizabeth possessed an innate beauty that required no embellishment from makeup artists or hair stylists. Her natural radiance was a sight to behold, and I found immense joy in watching her on Bewitched.
But what transpired in Elizabeth Montgomery’s life after her memorable portrayal of Samantha Stephens in the 1960s sitcom? As we reach the year 2023, a milestone when she would have celebrated her 90th birthday, let us reflect on her illustrious career in film and television, cut short by her untimely passing in 1995.
Born on April 15, 1933, in Los Angeles, Elizabeth Montgomery inherited a passion for acting from her Broadway actress and film star mother. Her destiny seemed predetermined. In a 1954 interview with the Los Angeles Times, she revealed, “Dad tells me I often climbed on his lap after dinner and remarked, ‘I’m going to be an actress when I grow up.’ I don’t know whether he encouraged me or not, but he told me he would humor me and would tell me to wait and see what happened when I grew up.”
Robert Montgomery, her father, himself an esteemed and celebrated actor, played a pivotal role in shaping Elizabeth’s early career. Grateful for his assistance and guidance, she candidly acknowledged, “I’ll be real honest and say that Daddy did help me get a break in TV, and I’m really grateful for his assistance and guidance. He’s my most severe critic, but also a true friend as well as a loving father.”
After attending school in California, Elizabeth Montgomery embarked on a journey to New York City, where she enrolled at the prestigious Spence School. Following her graduation, she honed her craft at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for a remarkable three years.
Even in her teenage years, Elizabeth displayed her acting prowess, making her television debut on her father’s show, Robert Montgomery Presents. Subsequently, she made numerous appearances on his program, carving a path for her own remarkable career.
Elizabeth Montgomery’s legacy endures, as her contributions to the entertainment world continue to inspire generations. Although her life was tragically cut short, her timeless talent and undeniable beauty ensure her place among the legends of Hollywood.
In 1953, Elizabeth made her debut on Broadway, captivating audiences in the production Late Love. Her talent shone through, and by 1955, she ventured into the world of film, appearing in her first movie, The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell. Two years later, she returned to the Broadway stage, further cementing her versatile skills.
Amid her blossoming career, Elizabeth encountered love, but unfortunately, it proved to be fleeting. In 1954, she tied the knot with Frederick Gallatin Cammann, but their union dissolved merely a year later. Following this, she married Gig Young, an acclaimed actor, in 1956, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1963.
During the filming of Johnny Cool, fate intervened when Elizabeth crossed paths with William Asher, a director and TV producer. Their connection extended beyond professional realms, and their romantic compatibility was undeniable. In 1963, they exchanged vows and went on to have three children together.
While Elizabeth Montgomery’s portfolio boasted notable appearances in shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Loretta Young Show, The Untouchables, and The Twilight Zone, it was her portrayal of the bewitching Samantha Stephens that truly defined her career.
The enchanting sitcom, Bewitched, aired for eight seasons from 1964 to 1972, propelling Elizabeth into the stratosphere of fame. In this iconic role, her nose-twitching antics became synonymous with the character, captivating audiences worldwide. Overnight, she became a household name, and everyone sought to replicate Samantha’s famous bewitching gestures.
“In 1965, Elizabeth shared her perspective on television series, revealing, ‘I’d never thought much about a series because I liked the idea of picking a script I liked with a character I thought I could sustain for an hour. In a series, you live with one character day in and day out – and you only hope it will be one that will not drive you crazy,’ as she candidly expressed to AP.
Following the conclusion of Bewitched and the end of her marriage with Asher, Elizabeth embarked on a remarkable journey of starring in numerous made-for-television movies, embracing roles that stood in stark contrast to her previous portrayal on Bewitched. Her versatility shone in projects such as Mrs. Sundance (1973), A Case of Rape (1974), The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), Black Widow Murders (1993), The Corpse Had a Familiar Face (1994), and Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan (1995).
It was during the filming of Mrs. Sundance that Elizabeth crossed paths with Robert Foxworth, with whom she formed a lasting connection. Though they didn’t marry until 1993, they remained together until Elizabeth’s untimely passing in 1995.
‘Before Jane Seymour, before Lindsay Wagner, and before Valerie Bertinelli, Elizabeth was the first Queen of the TV movies; she went from the queen of the witches to the queen of the TV movie, and it was no longer a struggle to break away from Bewitched,’ remarked Herbie J Pilato, author of two books dedicated to Elizabeth Montgomery.
Unfortunately, her career was tragically cut short when, on May 18, 1995, after a long battle with colon cancer, Elizabeth Montgomery passed away. Despite some discrepancies regarding her age, as her family reported her as 57 at the time of her death, while many sources listed her birth year as 1933, making her 62, her impact on the industry was undeniable.
Elizabeth had fought valiantly against the disease for years, believing she had achieved remission. However, while filming Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan, her health took a turn for the worse. By the time she sought medical attention in March 1995, it was already too late, as the cancer had spread to her liver.
In the comfort of her Beverly Hills home, Elizabeth peacefully passed away in her sleep, surrounded by her loving husband and three children. One month later, a memorial was held at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills to honor her memory. Renowned jazz musician Herbie Hancock graced the occasion with his music, while Dominick Dunne, Elizabeth’s lifelong friend, reminisced about their early years of friendship in New York City, paying tribute to the profound bond they shared.”
Elizabeth Montgomery, the beloved star of Bewitched, found her final resting place at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, where her body was cremated.
Throughout her illustrious career, Elizabeth embraced a diverse range of characters, as she revealed in a 1992 interview: “They all have different kinds of ‘feels’ to them, and that’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve pursued them. I receive letters from people expressing their appreciation for the unpredictability of my roles since ‘Bewitched.’ They enjoy not knowing what I will do next.”
In both life and art, Elizabeth Montgomery captivated audiences with her versatility, leaving an enduring legacy as an actress who continually surprised and delighted her fans.