On October 25, 1963, Elizabeth Montgomery made a TV-guest star appearance on an episode of 77 Sunset Strip, titled, “White Lie,” in which she portrayed the conflicted half-white, half-black granddaughter of a character played by Juanita Moore. It was a monumental premise that Moore had explored with her Oscar-winning performance in the 1959 ground-breaking feature film Imitation of Life. It was also an historic theme that Montgomery would revisit in playing Samantha - the witch-with-a-twitch - Stephens on Bewitched, which began rehearsals on November 22, 1963 - the day President Kennedy was assassinated. The core message of both “White Lie” and Bewitched was prejudice, against which JFK (who was friends with Montgomery) had fought in an era which became increasingly volatile with race rioting, the Vietnam War, and future assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., each also bold endorsers of human rights.
On Bewitched, Montgomery’s other-worldly Samantha loved her mortal husband Darrin (first played by Dick York then Dick Sargent) despite their “differences,” which they ignored to concentrate on what made them the same: their humanity.
No episode of the show more clearly brought this message home than the Christmas segment “Sisters At Heart,” which debuted on Christmas Eve, 1970, during the show’s seventh season.
Here, Samantha and Darrin’s supernatural daughter Tabitha (played by twins Erin and Diane Murphy) befriends Lisa, a young African-American girl (played by Venetta Rogers). The two children get along so well, they want to be sisters. But after a bully in the park tells them that’s impossible because of their disparate physical appearances, Tabitha employs “wishcraft” (whatever she wishes comes true), and seeks to make both she and Lisa the same color. But the magic goes awry: white polka dots appear on Lisa, and black polka dots appear on Tabitha. Samantha of course is confounded and calls witch-doctor Dr. Bombay (Bernard Fox) for a remedy, though not before espousing to Tabitha and Lisa that, “All men are brothers, even if they’re girls.”
It’s a touching message that Montgomery believed represented the core message of Bewitched; and one to which she clung off-screen and talked in-depth about with author Herbie J Pilato (Bewitched Forever, The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom).
Pilato shares those talks and more insight from Montgomery in his new book, TWITCH UPON A STAR: THE BEWITCHED LIFE AND CAREER OF ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY, which is based on his exclusive interviews with the actress (who died of cancer in 1995).
Other topics covered: include Montgomery’s generous support of the Peace Movement and the disabled community; how she became one of the first celebrities to help those suffering from AIDS; and her many other charitable efforts.
This book also includes never-before-published commentary about Montgomery from other TV icons like: Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), June Lockhart (Lost in Space), Lydia Cornell (Too Close For Comfort), Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Eric Scott (The Waltons), as well Montgomery’s childhood best friend Sally Kemp, the Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson (in his final interview!), actor Ronny Cox (her co-star from A Case of Rape, one of her historic, ground-breaking TV-movies), and many others.
With an expansive perspective on her free spirit, intelligence and wit; her strong sense of politics, family, work ethic and general life priorities, Herbie J Pilato’s TWITCH UPON A STAR: THE BEWITCHED LIFE AND CAREER OF ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY offers a compelling chronicle of a legendary, charitable and very complex actress. Or as Shannen Devereau Sanford, of New York’s WTBQ Radio said it, “Wonderful book…terrific author . . .”
HERBIE J PILATO is the author of several pop-culture books, including “Life” Story – The Book of “Life Goes On”: TV‘s First and Best Family of Challenge. Pilato is also the founder of The Classic TV Preservation Society (a nonprofit that seeks to close the gap between popular culture and education), and writes the Classic TV Corner blog for Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers.com.
Kalen Landow * Taylor Trade Publishing * firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitch Upon a
Star: The Bewitched Life
and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery by Herbie J Pilato
November 2012 · ISBN 978-1-58979-749-9 · 456 pages · 6 x 9 · $24.95 · Hardcover · 40 B&W and Color Photos · Biography/Entertainment
Taylor Trade Publishing | An Imprint of the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
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