Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery
April 15, 1933
|Died||May 18, 1995 (aged 62)|
|Alma mater||American Academy of Dramatic Arts|
|Known for||Samantha Stephens on Bewitched|
|Relatives||Martha-Bryan Allen (aunt)|
Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery (April 15, 1933 – May 18, 1995) was an American actress whose career spanned five decades in film, stage, and television. She portrayed the good witch Samantha Stephens on the popular television series Bewitched, which earned her five Primetime Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations.
The daughter of actor, director and producer Robert Montgomery, she began her career in the 1950s with a role on her father's television series Robert Montgomery Presents, and she won a Theater World Award for her 1956 Broadway debut in the production Late Love. After Bewitched ended in 1972, Montgomery continued her career with roles in numerous television films, including A Case of Rape (1974) and The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), as Lizzie Borden. Both performances earned her additional Emmy Award nominations.
Throughout her career, Montgomery was involved in various forms of political activism and charitable work.
Montgomery was born on April 15, 1933, in Los Angeles, California, to Broadway actress Elizabeth Daniel Bryan Allen and film star Robert Montgomery. Montgomery's mother was a native of Kentucky and her father was a native of New York. She had an elder sister who was born in 1931 and died in infancy, Martha Bryan Montgomery (named after her aunt Martha-Bryan Allen) and a younger brother, Robert B. Montgomery Jr. Montgomery was of Irish and Scottish descent. Her great-grandfather, Archibald Montgomery, was born in Belfast and he emigrated to the United States in 1849. Genealogical research which was conducted after her death revealed that she and Lizzie Borden, acquitted of the murder of her father and stepmother in 1893, were sixth cousins once removed, both of them were descended from 17th-century Massachusetts resident John Luther. Montgomery portrayed Borden in the television film The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), unaware that Borden was her distant cousin.
After attending the Westlake School for Girls in Holmby Hills, California, Montgomery graduated from the Spence School in New York City. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan for three years.
Montgomery made her television debut in her father's series Robert Montgomery Presents and on later occasions, she appeared as a member of his "summer stock" company of performers. In October 1953, Montgomery made her Broadway debut, starring in Late Love, for which she won a Theater World Award for her performance. She then made her film debut in Otto Preminger's The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955). Montgomery returned to Broadway in 1956, appearing in The Loud Red Patrick.
Montgomery's early career consisted of starring roles and appearances in live television dramas and series, such as Studio One, Kraft Television Theater, Johnny Staccato, Burke's Law, The Twilight Zone, The Eleventh Hour, Wagon Train, Boris Karloff's Thriller, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Montgomery was nominated at the 13th Primetime Emmy Awards for her portrayal of southern nightclub performer Rusty Heller in a 1960 episode of The Untouchables, playing opposite David White, who later portrayed Larry Tate on Bewitched. She played the part of Rose Cornelius in the Rawhide episode "Incident at El Crucero" (1963).
Montgomery was featured in a role as a socialite who falls for a gangster (Henry Silva) in Johnny Cool (1963), directed by William Asher, and the film comedy Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (also 1963), with Dean Martin and Carol Burnett, this time directed by Daniel Mann. After her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 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 film Marnie (1964), but Montgomery was unavailable.
Main article: Bewitched
In the ABC situation comedy Bewitched, Montgomery played the central role of lovable witch Samantha Stephens, with Dick York (and later with Dick Sargent) as her husband. Starting in the second season of the series, she also played the role of Samantha's mischievous cousin, Serena, under the pseudonym Pandora Spocks (a pun on Pandora's Box).
Bewitched became a ratings success (it was, at the time, the highest-rated series ever for the network). The series aired for eight seasons, from 1964 to 1972, and Montgomery received five Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations for her role on Bewitched. Despite low ratings late in the series run, it was renewed for a ninth season to run from fall of 1972. However, Montgomery's marriage to Bewitched director William Asher was failing and the couple had separated by the end of the eighth season.
This situation caused severe friction in their professional relationship and it also ended any possibility of another season. As a consolation to ABC, Montgomery and Asher (under their company name Ashmont, which produced Bewitched) offered a half-hour sitcom, The Paul Lynde Show, to the network for the 1972–1973 season. Lynde's series only lasted one year.
In a parody of her Samantha Stephens role, she made a cameo appearance as a witch at the end of the beach party film How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). The film was directed by Asher, her husband at the time. That same year she also provided the voice of Samantha for an episode of the animated series The Flintstones.
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 which were produced by the confectionery conglomerate Lotte Corp. These Japanese commercials provided a substantial salary for Montgomery while she remained out of sight of non-Japanese fans and the Hollywood industry.
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 were performances that brought her Emmy Award nominations: a rape victim in A Case of Rape (1974), and the accused (but acquitted) murderer Lizzie Borden in William Bast's The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975). After the actress died, Rhonda McClure, a genealogist, discovered that Montgomery and Borden were distant cousins.
Montgomery made many appearances on the game show Password. Allen Ludden, the show's longtime host, called her the "Queen of Password". Montgomery later played a pioneer woman facing hardship in 1820s Ohio in the miniseries The Awakening Land (1978), for which she earned her ninth Emmy nomination.
In A Killing Affair (1977), Montgomery played the role of a police detective who has an affair with her married partner, played by O. J. Simpson. In the television film Amos (1985), she played a rare villainous role, as a vicious nurse who abuses her wards in a home for senior citizens. The wards are played by Kirk Douglas and Dorothy McGuire, among others. In 1989, Montgomery returned to Broadway one last time in a production of Love Letters, opposite Robert Foxworth. She played one of her last roles in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series entitled "Showdown", in which she played a barmaid; this was also her final work to be screened, since the episode aired posthumously. Her last television series was the highly rated Edna Buchanan detective series – the second and final film of the series received its first airing on May 9, 1995, only nine days before Montgomery died.
In 1954, Montgomery married New York City socialite Frederick Gallatin Cammann; the couple divorced less than a year later. She was married to Academy Award winning actor Gig Young from 1956 to 1963 and then she was married to director-producer William Asher from 1963 until their divorce in 1973. They had three children: William, Robert and Rebecca. The latter two pregnancies were incorporated into Bewitched as Samantha's pregnancies. During the eighth year of the show, Montgomery fell in love with director Richard Michaels. Their resulting affair led to the end of both of their marriages, as well as the end of the series. They moved in together when shooting ended in 1972; the relationship lasted two and a half years. On January 28, 1993, she married actor Robert Foxworth, after living with him for nearly twenty years. They remained married until her death in 1995.
According to author Herbie J Pilato, Montgomery had an affair with Alexander Godunov while she was living with Foxworth but was not yet married to him. Godunov was found dead on May 18, 1995, the day Montgomery died, but it is believed that he died several days before Montgomery.
Throughout the run of Bewitched, many references to Patterson, New York, were made on the series. The Putnam County town was the site of the Montgomery homestead, and it was also the place where she spent her childhood summers. In later years, her mother lived in the family farmhouse on Cushman Road.
Montgomery was personally devoted to liberal political causes, and she lent her name, along with a large amount of her time, money, and energy, to a wide variety of charitable and political causes. She was a champion of women's rights, AIDS activism, and gay rights. She was also an ardent critic of the Vietnam War, and in later years, she was an active advocate for AIDS research and outreach to the disabled community. Professionally, she lent her voice as the narrator of two political documentaries which were critical of U.S. foreign policy, Cover Up: Behind the Iran Contra Affair (1988) and its Academy Award-winning sequel The Panama Deception (1992). In June 1992, Montgomery and Dick Sargent, her former Bewitched co-star as well as her good friend, were grand marshals at the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade.
During the last year of her life, Montgomery was a volunteer at the Los Angeles Unit of Learning Ally, a nonprofit organization which records educational books on specially formatted CDs as well as in downloadable formats for disabled people. In 1994, Montgomery produced several radio and television public-service announcements for Learning Ally's Los Angeles unit. In January 1995, she recorded the 1952 edition of the best-selling book of poetry titled When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne for Learning Ally.
On June 3, 1995, sixteen days after her death, Learning Ally's Los Angeles unit dedicated its 1995 Record-A-Thon to Montgomery and it also secured 21 celebrities to assist in the recording of the book titled Chicken Soup for the Soul, which was also dedicated to her memory.
For several months before her death, Montgomery had struggled with cancer. She had ignored the influenza-like symptoms during the filming of Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan, which she finished filming in late March 1995. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, it had metastasized from her colon to her liver, so it was too late for medical intervention.
With no hope of recovery and unwilling to die in a hospital, she chose to return to the Beverly Hills home that she shared with Foxworth. At 8:22 a.m. Pacific time on the morning of May 18, 1995, Montgomery died in her sleep at home, eight weeks after her diagnosis; she was 62 years old.
On June 18, 1995, one month after her death, a memorial service was held at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills. Herbie Hancock played music, and Dominick Dunne spoke about the early years of their friendship when both of them lived in New York City. Other speakers included her widower, Robert Foxworth, who read sympathy cards which were sent to him by fans, her nurse, her brother, her daughter, and her stepson. Her body was cremated at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
Montgomery kept her parents' home in Patterson, Putnam County, New York. After her death, the estate was sold and then it became a part of Wonder Lake State Park.
|1955||The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell||Margaret Lansdowne|
|1958||Bitter Heritage||Mary Brecker||Television film|
|1960||Bells Are Ringing||Girl reading book||Uncredited|
|1961||The Spiral Staircase||Helen Warren||Television film|
|1963||Boston Terrier||Millie Curtain|
|Johnny Cool||Darien "Dare" Guinness|
|Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?||Melissa Morris|
|1964||Bikini Beach||Lady Bug||Voice, uncredited|
|1965||How to Stuff a Wild Bikini||Bwana's Daughter, The Witches Witch||Uncredited|
|1972||The Victim||Kate Wainwright||Television film|
|1973||Mrs. Sundance||Etta Place|
|1974||A Case of Rape||Ellen Harrod||Television film|
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series
|1975||The Legend of Lizzie Borden||Lizzie Borden||Television film|
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special Program - Drama or Comedy
|1976||Dark Victory||Katherine Merrill||Television film|
|1977||A Killing Affair||Vikki Eaton|
|1978||The Awakening Land||Sayward Luckett Wheeler||Miniseries|
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series
|1979||Jennifer: A Woman's Story||Jennifer Prince||Television film|
|Act of Violence||Catherine McSweeney|
|1980||Belle Starr||Belle Starr|
|1981||When the Circus Came to Town||Mary Flynn|
|1982||The Rules of Marriage||Joan Hagen|
|1983||Missing Pieces||Sara Scott|
|1984||Second Sight: A Love Story||Alaxandra McKay|
|Between the Darkness and the Dawn||Abigail Foster|
|1988||Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair||Narrator||Documentary film|
|1990||Face to Face||Dr. Diana Firestone||Television film|
|1991||Sins of the Mother||Ruth Coe||Television film|
|1992||With Murder in Mind||Gayle Wolfer||Television film|
|The Panama Deception||Narrator||Documentary film|
|1993||Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story||Blanche Taylor Moore||Television film|
|1994||The Corpse Had a Familiar Face||Edna Buchanan|
|1995||Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan||Edna Buchanan|
|1951–1956||Robert Montgomery Presents||Various roles||30 episodes|
|1953–1954||Armstrong Circle Theatre||Ellen Craig||2 episodes|
|1954–1957||Kraft Television Theatre||Various roles||7 episodes|
|1955–1956||Appointment with Adventure||2 episodes|
|1955–1958||Studio One||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1956||Warner Bros. Presents||Laura Woodruff||Episode: "Siege"|
|Climax!||Betsy||Episode: "The Shadow of Evil"|
|1958||Playhouse 90||Mary Brecker||Episode: "Bitter Heritage"|
|Suspicion||Ellen||Episode: "The Velvet Vault"|
|DuPont Show of the Month||Miss Kelly||Episode: "Harvey"|
|Cimmarron City||Ellen Wilson||Episode: "Hired Hand"|
|Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Karen||Episode: "Man with a Problem"|
|1959||The Loretta Young Show||Millie||Episode: "Marriage Crisis"|
|The Third Man||Lorraine||Episode: "A Man Take a Trip"|
|Riverboat||Abigail Carruthers||Episode: "The Barrier"|
|Johnny Staccato||Fay Linn||Episode: "Tempted"|
|Wagon Train||Julie Crail||Episode: "The Vittorio Bottecelli Story"|
|1960||The Tab Hunter Show||Hilary Fairfield||Episode: "For Money or Love"|
|1960||One Step Beyond||Lillie Clarke||Episode: "The Death Waltz"|
|The Untouchables||Rusty Heller||Episode: "The Rusty Heller Story"|
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
|1961||The Twilight Zone||The Woman||Episode: "Two"|
|Thriller||Rosamond "Ros" Denham||Episode: "Masquerade"|
|Frontier Circus||Karina Andrews||Episode: "Karina"|
|1962||Checkmate||Vicki Page||Episode: "The Star System"|
|Alcoa Premiere||Iris Hecate||Episode: "Mr. Lucifer"|
|1963||Saints and Sinners||Eadie Donelli||Episode: "The Homecoming Bit"|
|Rawhide||Rose Cornelius||Episode: "Incident at El Crucero"|
|77 Sunset Strip||Charlotte Delaville||Episode: "White Lie"|
|The Eleventh Hour||Polly Saunders||Episode: "The Bronze Locust"|
|1963–1964||Burke's Law||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1964–1972||Bewitched||Samantha Stephens (and Serena)||254 episodes|
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Comedy Series (1966-1970)
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star (Female) (1965, 1967 & 1969)
|1965||The Flintstones||Samantha Stephens||Voice, episode: "Samantha"|
Game Show Participant / Celebrity Guest Star
|1968||The Carol Burnett Show||Herself||In the audience with William Asher|
|1979||Password Plus||Game Show Participant / Celebrity Guest Star|
|1995||Batman: The Animated Series||Barmaid||Voice, episode: "Showdown" (posthumously released)|
|1953–1954||Late Love||Janet Colby||Theater World Award for Best Actress|
|1956||The Loud Red Patrick||Maggie Flannigan|
|1974||28th Tony Awards||Herself|
|1989–1990||Love Letters||Melissa Gardner|
Rhonda R. McClure. Finding Your Famous (& Infamous) Ancestors. (Cincinnati: Betterway Books: 2003), pp. 14–16.
He had probably been dead for at least a couple of days before his body was discovered.