Everyone knows and loves Bewitched! The classic fantasy sitcom graced airwaves from 1964 to 1972. Who could forget adorable baby Tabitha, or Samantha’s trademark nose twitch? However, things weren’t always perfect behind the scenes. Read on to find out what the producers didn’t want you to know!
A Different Samantha?
Though it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else playing Samantha, Elizabeth Montgomery actually wasn’t the producers’ first choice for the role! The part was originally offered to Tammy Grimes, who turned it down.
Samantha Vs. Cassandra
The main character Samantha was originally developed with a different name – Cassandra! Apparently, lead actress Elizabeth Montgomery flexed her muscles and threatened producers with leaving the show if the name wasn’t changed. After some back and forth, the producers relented and changed the name of the main female character to Samantha. Funny enough, they ended up using the name Cassandra later in the series, as the name of an evil witch who wreaked havoc amongst the Stephens family.
A Family Affair
You may not have known it due to her trim figure, but lead actress Elizabeth Montgomery was pregnant multiple times during the filming of Bewitched. Who was the father? Her husband at the time, William Asher, who was the director and co-producer of the show. Talk about a family affair! Elizabeth’s pregnancies were written into the show and naturally explained the addition and development of two children to the show – Tabitha and Adam Stephens. Life imitating art at its finest.
In Living Color
The classic show originally hit the airwaves back in 1964, so naturally the series’ first few seasons were filmed in black and white. However, with the advent of more modern film technology, plus the sky high ratings of the show, convinced network executives to transition to color. Because of the huge profits made from commercial breaks, there was no problem spending more to film in color.The last black and white episode of the series was “Prodigy” which aired in 1966.
It’s an entertainment industry standard – no matter how small the show, from a primetime drama to a reality show, there’s always a wardrobe department, replete with stylists and costume designers, to make sure that the actors are perfectly polished for their onscreen appearances. Shockingly, this wasn’t the case with Bewitched! Supporting actors (who were still part of the main cast) had to supply their own costumes, which the wardrobe department would clean and press for them. A very unusual policy!
No Special Effects
Nowadays, TV shows have entire departments dedicated to creating special effects and crews of trained professionals (whether makeup artists or computer whizzes) who are experts at creating magic. However, back in the days when Bewitched was on the air, the magic was created in a more low-tech way by stagehands. For example, in a scene where Samantha cast a spell in order to clean a room quickly, Elizabeth Montgomery would stand perfectly still while stagehands rushed in and cleaned!
That Sounds Familiar…
If you think some of the lines and plots of Bewitched sounded familiar, it’s because you might have heard them before – but on a different show: I Love Lucy! William Asher was the co-producer and director of both shows, and sometimes reused plots and dialogue from Lucy on Bewitched. Nowadays, this would be totally unacceptable – fans would go crazy on social media, and can you imagine the lawsuits? It was a different era back then and nobody seemed to care.
While Elizabeth Montgomery is definitely best known as an actress for her leading role as Samantha Stephesn on Bewitched, you probably didn’t realize that Elizabeth actually played more than one character on the series! The hippie-esque witch Serena, who was Samantha’s cousin, bore a striking resemblance to Samantha for good reason – they were both played by Elizabeth. Elizabeth was nearly unrecognizable clad in a black wig, and in the shows end credits she was listed as “Pandora Spocks.”
History Comes Knocking
The 1960s were an undeniably tumultuous time in American history, with major events affecting all Americans. The cast and crew of Bewitched were no exception. Elizabeth Montgomery struggled to film the pilot, as it was the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Then, five years later, an episode of Bewitched was interrupted by breaking news coverage of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. The show ended up lasting well into the calmer 1970s.
Again, it seems that the rules in the 1960s in terms of copyright infringement were much less strict than they are nowadays. Sol Saks, who created Bewitched, borrowed heavily from 2 movies – “I Married A Witch” and “Bell, Hook and Candle.” However, there was no issue about having modeled Bewitched so closely after the movies, because all three belonged to the same media company. The two films were made by Columbia Pictures and Bewitched’s production company was a division of Columbia.
Sometimes, TV show characters become such an important part of the American cultural landscape that they take on a life of their own outside of the small screen. This is definitely the case with the nosy neighbor character of Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched. Her name became, and remains, a synonym for an annoying neighbor whose constantly poking into your business. Though Gladys Kravitz barely had screen time, and didn’t appear on every episode, she made enough of an impact.
Everyone understands that sometimes the actors on a series will change. Due to circumstances beyond their control, sometimes actors leave a successful show due to personal issues or a desire to pursue other projects. But Bewitched is unusual in the fact that there were so many main characters who were replaced with different actors during the series – there were 2 actors that played Darrin, 2 actresses who played Gladys, 2 actresses who played Louise, and 2 actors who played Darrin’s dad!
Bewitched relied heavily on its sponsors, and one of its most memorable ones was Chevrolet. When watching the show, it’s easy to see that it’s Chevrolet heaven, as all the main characters drive Chevrolets. even most of the cars in the background on the street are Chevrolets! At the time, the Chevys featured on the show were the most state of the art and modern. Now, pretty much every car featured on Bewitched is considered a classic.
Unfortunately, Dick York suffered a devastating back injury in a stunt sequence gone wrong while filming the movie They Came To Cordura. Medical technology was not as advanced as it is now, so the injury couldn’t be helped much and Dick was left with pain for the rest of his life. One of the ways the producers of Bewitched made life easier for Dick was by making sure the set was furnished with special pieces that helped alleviate his back pain.
The network executives were on top of the world when Bewitched first went on the air. The show was an instant smash hit, drawing huge audiences of viewers week after week. They figured the popularity of the show was impossible to break – that is, until actor Dick York left the series and was replaced by Dick Sargent. Ratings immediately took a major hit and sponsors pulled back from the series. Though the show eventually recovered, producers were shocked.
Veteran stage actress Marion Lorne played bumbling Aunt Clara on 27 episodes of the series. Her character was the absent minded but lovable older maiden aunt of Samantha, whose magical spells often went awry. Obviously, Marion wasn’t a witch in real life, but she did share one interesting thing in common with her character – they were both avid door knob collectors! In fact, Marion told the producers to add this quirk to Aunt Clara in order to spice up the role.
The Winner Is…Bewitched
The massive success of Bewitched sparked an era of fantasy sitcoms, which flooded the airwaves in the late 1960s. I Dream Of Jeannie, The Addams Family, and The Munsters all incorporated elements of Bewitched into their premises, mostly revolving around suburban housewives with magical powers. But despite the copy cats being hits as well, Bewitched had the last laugh. Bewitched lasted the longest out of all the series, with a total of an impressive 8 seasons and 254 episodes.
Who Almost Played Tabitha?
The actress who played little witch in training Tabitha Stephens had big shoes to fill. Although the character was originally a baby, producers decided the show would be more interesting having a little girl who could talk and interact with her parents. A-List super stars Jodie Foster and Helen Hunt, who were both child actresses, were seriously considered for the role. In the end, Tabitha was played by Erin Murphy. Obviously, both Jodie and Helen’s careers didn’t suffer!
The Theme Song Had Lyrics?
This might come as a surprise, but yes, the Bewitched theme song actually had lyrics! While they were never used on the show, everyone remembers the distinctive opening song with its appealing 1960s style animated intro. Written by Howard Greenfield, the lyrics included lines like “Bewitched, bewitched, you’ve got me in your spell. Bewitched, bewitched, you know your craft so well.” Peggy Lee and Steve Lawrence recorded versions of the theme, but producers went with an instrumental in the end.
It’s an unusual situation – a show’s writers aren’t sure whether one of the major main characters will be well enough to work during any given week, so there has to be a surplus of scripts on hand that explain away the character’s absence in order to keep production coming smoothly. Because of Dick York’s chronic back pain, producers instructed the writers to always have episodes ready where Darrin wasn’t included. Sometimes, Dick’s lines were simply given to Larry Tate!
The Show Was Controversial
It may seem hard to imagine in today’s anything-goes atmosphere, but Bewitched was actually protested when it first came on the air. Many people were afraid the show would be about promoting witchcraft and the occult and were worried about its potential impact on children. There was also a major scandal when Samantha revealed her birthday as being June 6 – as in, 6-6, which some audiences claimed had a Satanic theme. The show was a big hit anyway.
The Stephens family home on Bewitched was said to be located at 1164 Morning Glory Circle. However, the house was actually located on a fake street on Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California. The street was used on a ton of different shows – The Partridge Family and The Donna Reed Show both used the same exterior shots, making it clear that all three shows were filmed in the same spot. The Kravitz house was the exact same one as the Partridges’!
How Many Babies?
You might be shocked to learn that during the second season of Bewitched, a grand total of 5 different babies played Tabitha Stephens! The part originally went to Cynthia Black, then twins Heidi and Laura Gentry. The role then was played by another set of twins, Tamar and Julie Young. Then there was yet another casting change in season three – the role went to twins Erin and Diane Murphy. Finally, the part was played by just Erin Murphy.
The Flintstones Connection
Bewitched was a fantasy sitcom, which used real actors. The Flintstones was a cartoon where all the characters were animated. So you might be surprised to hear that the Stephens family had a crossover episode in which they appeared on the Flintstones! A Flintstones plot revolved around the concept of the Stephens moving into the Flintstones’ neighborhood and going on a multi-family camping trip together. However, as you could have guessed, things don’t exactly go according to plan!
Dick Wasn’t Supposed To Be Darrin
It may be hard to imagine, but Dick York actually wasn’t the producers’ first (or even second) choice for the leading male of the series Darrin Stephens. The part of the patriarch was originally offered to actor Richard Crenna. He turned it down because he said he was tired of acting in TV shows after finishing several seasons on the series The Real McCoys. Unfortunately, Richard never really went on to do any more projects of note afterwards.
Bewitched’s Christmas Eve special “Sisters At Heart” was considered ground breaking at the time for directly addressing taboo issues in American society. But what you probably did not know is that this very special episode wasn’t written by the series’ regular writers – it was entirely written by a class of high school students from Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles. William Asher visited the school. The episode ended up receiving a special Governor’s Award at the 1971 Emmys.
On Set Seizure
Dick York had suffered from the lingering after effects of a back injury for years, but everything came to a breaking point during the filming of the episode “Daddy Does His Thing.” After several seasons filled with absences from work, Dick pushed himself a little too hard and showed up to set even though he had a sky high 105 degree fever. Triggered by the flickering of a light, he ended up having a massive seizure and never returned to the show.
Many people think of Bewitched as being a silly fantasy sitcom which was reflective of the optimistic era in which it was created. But the show had serious dramatic chops, and was nominated for 22 Emmys and ended up winning 3! Two actresses, Marion Lorne and Alice Pearce, both won the Emmy for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy. It was a bittersweet victory though, as both the actresses were only awarded the statuettes after they passed away.
Tabitha…Courtesy of Elizabeth
Changing the name of her character from Cassandra to Samantha wasn’t the only creative naming decision that Elizabeth Montgomery made on the set of Bewitched! She was the one who chose Tabitha as the name for the Stephens’ baby daughter. In a 1967 interview, Elizabeth explained that she loved the name because it was so old fashioned. “I got it from one of the daughters of Edward Andrews, the actor. The two Andrews girls are named Tabitha and Abigail.”
Agnes Moorehead, a strict Baptist and Dick York, though he was more interested in new age philosophy and Eastern religions, bonded over their shared spirituality. So Agnes was devastated when Dick left the series and was replaced with Dick Sargent. She had felt almost like a mother figure to Dick York and said in front of the entire cast, when asked to welcome Dick Sargent on his first day on the Bewitched set, “I don’t like change.”bee
The 60s and 70s were a classic era of TV, and everyone remembers the cute Hanna-Barbera animate intros that were standard fare for sitcoms of that time. Popularized by I Dream Of Jeannie and Gilligan’s Island, it was unheard of not to have title credits featuring a little bit of animated magic. However, Elizabeth Montgomery was not a fan of the very popular Bewitched cartoon introduction. In multiple interviews, she stated that she felt it could have been done better.
A Hard Bargain
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that a big part of Bewitched‘s success came from the stunning good looks and captivating charm that Elizabeth Montgomery brought to the role as Samantha Stephens. However, after five seasons on the show, Elizabeth was ready to branch out to other projects. Producers were so afraid of losing her – and therefore, the series – that they renegotiated her contract and granted her partial syndication rights. The move made Elizabeth tens of millions of dollars.
Agnes Moorehead was a well accomplished stage, TV, and film actress before Bewitched, but there’s no denying that she is best known for her role on the classic sitcom. However, the way she got the part was totally by chance! She happened to meet Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha, and her husband, Bewitched’s producer William Asher, in a Beverly Hills Bloomingdale’s department store. The two thought she looked perfect for the part and the rest is history!
And Baby Makes Three?
It’s useful when the lead actress becomes pregnant or some of the plots are getting stale- the writers add a kid to the family and boom! Instant freshness that will re-interest viewers. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that baby Tabitha became a major character on Bewitched after a few seasons on the air. But, you probably didn’t know that the Stephens family had a son named Jonathan, who audiences didn’t like and was subsequently not on the show.
Bewitched originally went into syndication in January 1984. However, the DFS Program Exchange decided not to syndicate the first two seasons of the series. Why? They explained that “studies show the majority of viewers would rather watch color programming.” Many fans were outraged and demanded that the first two black and white seasons be syndicated as well. The fans got their way and to this day, all seasons and all episodes of Bewitched, are still syndicated by Sony Pictures Television.