Sony Pictures TV recently green-lighted a pilot for a revamped version of the supernatural classic sitcom Bewitched. The new show will feature Samantha’s granddaughter, who is also a witch but who finds her magic useless when it comes to finding true love. For those who truly loved the original series, here are 14 fun facts about the show and the actors that might surprise you.
1. CREATOR SOL SAKS WAS INSPIRED BY TWO MOVIES.
Sol Saks, credited onscreen as the creator of Bewitched, has admitted in several interviews that his script for the pilot episode was inspired by the films I Married a Witch and Bell, Book and Candle. Saks wasn’t worried that some litigious types might find too many similarities between his TV show and those movies, though; both films were owned by Columbia Pictures, which in turn also owned Screen Gems, the company that produced Bewitched.
2. HE WANTED TAMMY GRIMES TO PLAY THE SHOW'S WITCH.
Tammy Grimes, who’d won a Best Actress Tony Award in 1961 for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, was under contract to Screen Gems in 1964 and was the studio’s first choice for the role of “Cassandra” (as the lead character was named at the time). Grimes was not a fan of the premise, asking why she wouldn’t use her powers to stop wars or deal with Los Angeles traffic. The producers didn’t agree, so she accepted a role in High Spirits on Broadway and the witch character, now named “Samantha,” had to be recast.
3. RICHARD CRENNA COULD HAVE BEEN DARRIN.
Elizabeth Montgomery and her then-husband, producer/director William Asher, were looking for a television project they could work on together, and Harry Ackerman encouraged them to look at Saks’ Bewitched pilot script. The Ashers thought the show had possibilities, and Liz signed on to be Samantha. While Grimes was still scheduled to play the lead, a young actor named Richard Sargent was close to being signed on to play Darrin Stephens. Sargent took another job while the pilot was in search of a new Samantha, and interestingly enough he would go on to play Tammy’s twin brother on her short-lived show. Richard Crenna was the next actor offered the part of Darrin, but he’d just spent several years on The Real McCoys, so he passed as well. Enter Dick York, who had an impressive list of acting credits in film, on Broadway and on TV. His 1959 role in They Came To Cordura changed his life forever.
4. DICK YORK HAD TO LEAVE THE SHOW BECAUSE OF PAIN CAUSED BY AN OLD INJURY.
During the second-to-last day of filming Cordura, York was operating a railroad handcar carrying wounded men. When the director yelled “Cut,” one of the “wounded” extras reached and pulled himself up on the opposite side of the handle that York was about to upswing. He unsuspectingly lifted the extra’s entire weight, and being unprepared for that additional 180 pounds, he tore most of the muscles on the right side of his back, and his spine never healed correctly. There was no type of surgery that would repair his injuries at that time; instead, the best the specialists could do was supply him with a steady supply of increasingly strong pain medications. York managed to work through his severe pain for the first four seasons. In the middle of Season Five, however, he was run-down and it showed on camera. On the day of filming the “Daddy Does His Thing” episode, he skipped lunch to see his doctor, who was out. The replacement doctor instead gave him B-12, and while filming a scene with Maurice Evans on a scaffold 15 feet in the air, the hot lights, exhaustion and medications combined to send York into a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital and never returned to the Bewitched set. Some Darrin-less episodes were filmed until Dick Sargent took over the role.
5. ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY WAS PREGNANT DURING EARLY FILMING ON THE FIRST SEASON.
Montgomery wore progressively looser clothing to disguise her expanding waistline. Her subsequent two pregnancies were written into the Bewitched script, adding Tabitha and Adam to the Stephens family.
6. IT WAS MONTGOMERY'S IDEA TO NAME HER CHARACTER'S DAUGHTER TABITHA.
"I loved it, because it was so old-fashioned," she said in 1967. "I got it from one of the daughters of Edward Andrews, the actor. The two Andrews girls are named Tabitha and Abigail. ... But, somehow or other, her name came out 'Tabatha' on the credit roll, and that's the way it's been ever since. Honestly, I shudder every time I see it. It's like a squeaky piece of chalk scratching on my nerves."
7. ALICE PEARCE HAD TERMINAL CANCER WHEN SHE TOOK THE PART OF THE STEPHENS' NOSY NEIGHBOR.
Alice Pearce played the part of a nosy busybody so well that even today the local neighborhood buttinski is referred to as a “Gladys Kravitz.” When Pearce was 9, she fell from a playground swing and landed on her chin, stunting its growth. Her undershot jaw prevented her from landing any leading lady roles when she took up acting, but she could be counted on as a good comic foil. Four months prior to receiving a phone call from her agent telling her that William Asher wanted her for a role on his new TV show, Pearce was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She’d had surgery, but the doctors informed her that her case was terminal. She told none of her coworkers of her condition, and other than her being a little tired on the set now and then, no one suspected her of being ill. Pearce passed away in March 1966, and was awarded a posthumous Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy Award two months later. Sandra Gould took over the role of Gladys Kravitz for the remainder of the series.
8. MOST OF THE SUPPORTING ACTORS ON THE SHOW WORE THEIR OWN CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES ONSCREEN.
According to Kasey Rogers (“Louise Tate”), they’d bring their clothes in a week prior to filming and the wardrobe department would clean and press them. Agnes Moorehead was often pictured wearing a starburst brooch that was set with 8.5 carats of old-mine diamonds. Montgomery admired the pin, and when Moorehead passed away in 1974, she bequeathed it to her TV daughter. You can see Moorehead wearing the brooch on an episode of Password above.
9. YORK AND MOOREHEAD WERE CLOSE OFF-CAMERA.
Even though Endora barely tolerated Darrin on the show, off-camera Moorehead was closer to York than any other cast member. Moorehead was a very religious Fundamentalist, and she admired York’s New Age-type spirituality. She also admired his acting talent and was not at all pleased when he was replaced with Dick Sargent.
10. MARION LORNE, WHO PLAYED AUNT CLARA, COLLECTED DOORKNOBS.
Lorne turned bumbling into an art form with her portrayal of loveable Aunt Clara. The character’s unusual fascination with door knobs was based on Lorne’s real-life fetish; she had a collection of over 1000 antique door openers. Aunt Clara was so endearing that even Darrin (who despised most of Sam’s relatives) loved her, even when her spells went wonky and turned him into a chimpanzee or a seal.
11. LARRY TATE'S SON ON THE SHOW WAS NAMED AFTER ACTOR DAVID WHITE'S OWN SON.
David White, who played unctuous advertising exec Larry Tate, had a son named Jonathan whom he’d raised as a single father after his wife died due to complications during her second pregnancy. When Larry and Louise Tate were blessed with a son on Bewitched, the child was named Jonathan at White’s request. Tragically, Jonathan was a passenger on Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 souls on board. David died two years later of a heart attack, and is inurned with his son in a niche at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
12. ONE CHRISTMAS EPISODE WAS WRITTEN BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOLERS.
The Christmas episode entitled “Sisters at Heart” would be considered politically incorrect today, to say the least (Tabitha, her parents, and even Larry Tate all appear in blackface at one point). But the story idea and basic script was written by 22 African-American 10th graders in Marcella Saunders’ English class at Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles.
The plot involved unabashed racist Mr. Brockway, owner of a toy company whose million-dollar advertising account McMann and Tate was eager to land. However, Brockway refused to allow Darrin to handle his account, since he mistakenly believed that Darrin was married to a black woman (actually the wife of Darrin’s co-worker). Meanwhile, that co-worker’s daughter was Tabitha’s close friend and was spending the weekend with the Stephens. Tabitha liked to pretend that the two were sisters, and tried to make them both the same color so that they’d be twins. Her spell went haywire and Tabitha ended up with black polka dots on her face and pal Lisa with white spots. In the end, Samantha explained that all men and women are brothers and sisters despite the color of their skin, and then for good measure zapped everyone at their Christmas party into blackface when Mr. Brockway arrived. Of course mean ol’ Brockway immediately saw the error of his ways and not only asked Darrin to handle his account, he also shared Christmas dinner with an ethnically diverse group of guests.
13. SAMANTHA'S "MAGIC" WAS MADE BY STAGE HANDS.
There was no such thing as computer-generated hocus-pocus in the 1960s; all the “magic” on Bewitched was created by a team of hard-working stagehands. For example, if Samantha wanted to quickly tidy up the living room for a surprise visit from her in-laws, she’d raise her arms in the air and “zap” the room clean. In a case like that, Elizabeth Montgomery had to stand in place, arms upraised, while the director called “cut” and members of the crew then rushed around to remove the laundry, newspapers, and other clutter from the set. Once the living room was nice and neat, “action” was called and Montgomery could lower her arms and continue the scene.
Other effects included fast-motion film, backward-motion film, and “invisible” wires for levitation. When a character popped in and out and changed clothes in the interim, the director made sure that the actor’s shoes were firmly affixed in place on the stage while the actor dashed backstage to change costume. That way when he returned he’d be standing in exactly the same spot. Bernard Fox, who played Dr. Bombay, reported that he’d gotten some minor surface burns on occasion from the pyrotechnics that were used to pop him into various scenes.
14. THE THEME SONG HAD LYRICS.
They were never actually sung over the opening credits, but the Bewitched theme song does have lyrics. Here’s Steve Lawrence swinging the tune in his trademark ring-a-ding style: