Bewitched

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Karon Hollis presents an overview of this popular 1960s show

In a time when British comedy was wallowing in the nostalgia and “realism” of situation comedy like  Steptoe and Son and Dad’s Army, American comedy took a very different turn into the world of escapism.  Shows such as The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Batman and The Monkees were produced to great success.

Perhaps the most successful of these American shows was Bewitched which ran from September 17th 1964 to July 1st 1972. When Bewitched was first introduced in 1964, it quickly became the number 2 rated show in the country, running second only to Bonanza.

 Bewitched told the story of witch Samantha Stevens and her mortal husband Darrin.  Samantha had promised Darrin that she would not use witchcraft, but daily events and the interference of her witchy family mean this is never possible.   During the series long run, Darrin and Samantha had two children Tabitha (spelled Tabatha in early seasons) and Adam, both of whom inherited their mother’s unearthly powers and so caused even more headaches for their father.  At the time when Bewitched was first shown, it was considered to be quite controversial because Samantha and Darrin were living in a “mixed marriage”.  Even though this was a mix of witch and mortal, it was frowned upon by some sections of society, a fact that seems almost unbelievable today.  

 


There were many recurring characters in the series and a full cast list of major characters is given below:

 


Cast of Characters

WITCHES
Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens and Serena,
Agnes Moorehead as Endora,
Maurice Evans as Maurice,
Marion Lorne as Aunt Clara,
Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur,
Alice Ghostly as Esmeralda,
Bernard Fox as Dr. Bombay,
Erin and Diane Murphy as Tabitha,
David and Greg Lawrence as Adam.

MORTALS
Dick York ('64-'69) and Dick Sargent ('69-'72) as Darrin Stephens,
Mabel Albertson as Phyllis Stephens,
Robert F.Simon and Roy Roberts as Frank Stephens,
David White as Larry Tate,
Irene Vernon ('64-'66) and Kasey Rogers ('66-'72) as Louise Tate,
Alice Pearce ('64-'66) and Sandra Gould ('66-'72) as Gladys Kravitz,
George Tobias as Abner Kravitz

Perhaps the most common recurring characters were Endora – Samantha’s mother, and Larry Tate, Darrin’s boss.  Endora has a passion of loathing for Darrin and does not even do him the courtesy of remembering his name.  He is given many different names by Endora throughout the series, but the most common one used is probably “Darwood”.   Endora usually casts a spell on Darrin when he has offended her, which causes him to act in an outrageous or unusual manner.  In a frequently used plotline he will unknowingly go to work with the spell upon him and puts his advertising job at risk.  Samantha is then called upon to set everything right again.  Larry Tate, as Darrin’s boss, is usually witness to these strange outbursts from Darrin and yet rarely seems to be troubled for long by this behaviour.  This seems to be mostly due to the fact that Larry is a highly unprincipled character.  He is often shown as being a “yes” man to his potential clients, or shown to steal the glory for Darrin’s advertising successes, or even consider cheating on his wife if the opportunity arises.  He is a selfish character who is out to protect his own back, so he rarely bothers to think about what is happening to Darrin for long.  He just sends him home “for a rest”.

 


There were 254 episodes of Bewitched, and in many of them familiar plot formulas were used.  In fact some of the episodes were direct remakes of earlier ones!  For example episode  #27 "There's No Witch Like an Old Witch" (aired in America 1st April 65) was remade for episode #243 "Samantha's Magic Sitter" (aired in America 5th January 1972),  and episode #39 "We're in for a Bad Spell" (aired US on 30th September 1965) was remade as #179 "Samantha's Secret Spell" (aired US on 13th November 1969).

 


The original premise for Bewitched was developed when Elizabeth Montgomery’s director husband of the time, William Asher, approached ABC with the idea of he and Elizabeth working together on a sitcom about a rich girl.  ABC already had the original Sol Saks pilot script for Bewitched and they suggested that Elizabeth be cast as the main character. 

The original idea for Bewitched was taken from the feature films  “ I Married a Witch” and “Bell, Book and Candle” which dealt with the problems arising from a mortal man marrying a beautiful witch.  During the filming of the pilot in December of 1963, Elizabeth was pregnant with her first child, William Allen Asher (born on July 24, 1964,) and filming for the series proper commenced in September of that year.  Elizabeth’s two other pregnancies were written into the script of “Bewitched” and left Samantha and Darrin Stevens with their two children Tabitha and Adam.

 


Originally, the character of Darrin was played by Dick York.  However in 1969, Dick York was forced to leave the show due to illness, and although the Ashers wanted to end the show rather than continue without York, they were offered a deal they could not resist and so they signed on for a further two years.  Darrin was then played by Dick Sargent, which was an excellent piece of casting as he bore more than a passing resemblance to the departed York.

Darrin was not the only character who had more than one person play him.  His daughter Tabitha also suffered from major appearance changes.  Tabitha was born unto her TV audience on January 13, 1966 and her name was originally spelled "Tabatha,". This uncommon spelling was changed to "Tabitha" in the credits of episode #143 (aired US October 10, 1968). The first "actresses" to fill the role of Tabitha were twins Heide and Laura Gentry. They were soon replaced by twins Tamar and Julie Young. The final role of Tabitha on Bewitched, went to twins Erin and Diane Murphy. They were hired during May of 1966 and started filming the day before their second birthday.  Erin and Diane were not "identical" twins and the fraternal pair soon began to look different. After one and a half seasons, Erin filled the role of Tabitha by herself. She was nearly 8 years old when the series ended.

The characters of Lousie Tate, Gladys Kravitz and Frank Stephens were also played by different actors during the show’s run.

 


Bewitched finally came to an end in 1972 and several spin-offs were attempted. The first of these was a  Hanna-Barbara cartoon entitled “Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family” made in the same year as the show went off air. The cartoon was centred around Darrin's sister Georgia, who ran the "McGuffin and McGurk circus" with her family. Darrin's sister had never been mentioned on the TV show, but was scripted in the original version of the show's pilot.  The cartoon was not a hit and only one episode aired during the 1973-74 season. A slightly more successful attempt to reuse the “Bewitched” characters came in 1977, when a series called “Tabitha“ was shot with Lisa Hartman in the tile role. The opening of the program included a potted history of Tabitha's childhood with parents Samantha
and Darrin. Actual footage of Bewitched featuring Erin Murphy was used, along with photos from Erin's personal photo album to show the "in-between" growing stages. As Erin Murphy was only 13 when this series was made and the producers wanted Tabitha to be 22, Erin Murphy could not play the role that she had made famous.


Unfortunately, many of the original cast of Bewitched are no longer with us.  Elizabeth Montgomery herself passed away on May 18, 1995, just a few weeks after being diagnosed with colon cancer. However, Erin Murphy who played, Tabitha still appears at memorabilia fairs and charity events in a bid to keep the series alive.  Constant reruns of this popular series means that there are new fans being born all the time, and the escapist quality of the basic premise helps the series to keep from dating too badly.


Channel Four still regularly show “Bewitched” during the daytime to fill gaps in the schedule.  I suppose there can be no greater testament to its longevity and popularity than that.

 


Karon Hollis


Page Last Updated Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 12:26:51