Elizabeth Montgomery

Last updated
Elizabeth Montgomery
Elizabeth Montgomery Bewitched 1971.jpg
Montgomery in 1971
Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery

(1933-04-15)April 15, 1933
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedMay 18, 1995(1995-05-18) (aged 62)
Resting placeCremated at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary, Los Angeles
Education Westlake School For Girls
Spence School
Alma mater American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1951–1995
Known for Samantha Stephens on Bewitched
Frederick Gallatin Cammann
(m. 1954;div. 1955)

Gig Young
(m. 1956;div. 1963)

William Asher
(m. 1963;div. 1973)

Robert Foxworth (m. 1993)
Parent(s) Robert Montgomery
Elizabeth Bryan Allen
Relatives Martha-Bryan Allen (maternal aunt)
AwardsTV Land Superlatively Supernatural Award

Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery (April 15, 1933 – May 18, 1995) [1] was an American film, stage, and television actress whose career spanned five decades. She is best remembered for her leading role as Samantha Stephens on the television series Bewitched .

<i>Bewitched</i> American sitcom (1964-1972)

Bewitched is an American television sitcom fantasy series, originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from September 17, 1964 to March 25, 1972. It is about a witch who marries an ordinary mortal man, and vows to lead the life of a typical suburban housewife. The show enjoyed great popularity, finishing as the number two-rated show in America during its debut season, staying in the top ten for its first three seasons, and just missing this mark with an eleventh place ranking for both seasons four and five. The show continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and on recorded media.


The daughter of actor Robert Montgomery, she began her career in the 1950s with a role on her father's television series Robert Montgomery Presents , and won a Theater World Award for her 1956 Broadway debut in the production Late Love. In the 1960s, she became known for her role as Samantha Stephens on the ABC sitcom Bewitched. Her work on the series earned her five Primetime Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations. After Bewitched ended its run in 1972, Montgomery continued her career with roles in numerous television films, including A Case of Rape (1974), as Ellen Harrod, and The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975) in the title role. Both roles earned her additional Emmy Award nominations.

Robert Montgomery (actor) American film and television actor

Robert Montgomery was an American film and television actor, director, and producer. He was also the father of actress Elizabeth Montgomery. He began his acting career on the stage, but was soon hired by MGM. Initially assigned roles in comedies, he soon proved he was able to handle dramatic ones as well. When WWII broke out, he drove ambulances in France until the Dunkirk evacuation. When the United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, he enlisted in the Navy, and was present at the invasion at Normandy. After the war, he returned to Hollywood, where he worked in both films and, later on, in television.

<i>Robert Montgomery Presents</i> television series (1950-1957)

Robert Montgomery Presents is an American dramatic television series which was produced by NBC from January 30, 1950, until June 24, 1957. The live show had several sponsors during its seven-year run, and the title was altered to feature the sponsor, usually Lucky Strike cigarettes, for example, Robert Montgomery Presents Your Lucky Strike Theater, ....The Johnson's Wax Program, and so on.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

Throughout her career, Montgomery was involved in various forms of political activism and charitable work. She has been cited as one of the earliest celebrities to support gay rights and advocate for AIDS patients, volunteering with the AIDS Project Los Angeles and amfAR at the height of the AIDS epidemic. [2]

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research organization

AmfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research – previously known as the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the origin of "amfAR" – is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of AIDS-related public policy.

HIV/AIDS in the United States HIV/AIDS in the United States

The AIDS epidemic, caused by HIV, found its way to the United States as early as 1960, but was first noticed after doctors discovered clusters of Kaposi's sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia in young gay men in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco in 1981. Treatment of HIV/AIDS is primarily via a "drug cocktail" of antiretroviral drugs, and education programs to help people avoid infection.

Early life

Montgomery was born on April 15, 1933, in Los Angeles, California, to Broadway actress Elizabeth Daniel Bryan (née Allen; 1904 1992) and film star Robert Montgomery (19041981). Montgomery's mother was a native of Kentucky and her father was from New York. She had an elder sister, Martha Bryan Montgomery (named after her aunt Martha-Bryan Allen), who died as an infant, and a younger brother, Robert Montgomery Jr. (19362000). [3] Montgomery was of Irish and Scottish descent. Her great-grandfather, Archibald Montgomery, was born in Belfast and emigrated to the United States in 1849. Genealogical research conducted after Montgomery's death revealed that Montgomery and accused 19th-century murderer Lizzie Borden were sixth cousins once removed, both descending from 17th-century Massachusetts resident John Luther. Montgomery had played Borden, not knowing of their real-life relationship. [3]

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

A movie star is an actor who is famous for their starring, or leading, roles in motion pictures. The term is used for actors who are marketable stars and whose names are used to promote movies, for example in trailers and posters.

Kentucky State of the United States of America

Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it, (because in Kentucky's first constitution, the name state was used) Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth. Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.

She attended Westlake School for Girls in Holmby Hills, California. [4] After graduating from Spence School in New York City, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for three years. [5]

Harvard-Westlake School High school in Los Angeles

Harvard-Westlake School is an independent, co-educational university preparatory day school consisting of two campuses located in Los Angeles, California, with approximately 1,600 students enrolled in grades seven through 12. Its two predecessor organizations began as for-profit schools before turning non-profit, and eventually merging. It is not affiliated with Harvard University despite being named after it.

The Spence School is an American all-girls private school school in New York City, founded in 1892 by Clara B. Spence.

American Academy of Dramatic Arts drama school

The American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) is a two-year performing arts conservatory, with two locations: 120 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, and at 1336 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles. The Academy offers an associate degree in occupational studies, and teaches drama and related arts in the areas of theater, film, and television. Students also have the opportunity to audition for the third-year theater company. Students can usually transfer completed credits to a 4-year college or university to finish a bachelor's degree if they choose. Many well-known stars, from the past and the present, made their start at the academy.


1951–1963: Early work

Montgomery made her television debut in her father's series Robert Montgomery Presents and later appeared on occasion as a member of his "summer stock" company of performers. In October 1953, Montgomery made her Broadway debut, starring in Late Love, [6] for which she won a Theater World Award for her performance. [5] 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. [6]

Otto Preminger American director, producer, actor

Otto Ludwig Preminger was an American theatre and film director, originally from Austria-Hungary.

<i>The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell</i> 1955 film by Otto Preminger

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell is a 1955 American CinemaScope Warnercolor film directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gary Cooper as Billy Mitchell, Charles Bickford, Ralph Bellamy, Rod Steiger and Elizabeth Montgomery in her film debut. It is based on the notorious court-martial of General Billy Mitchell, who is considered the founder of the U.S. Air Force. When it was released, Mitchell's sister Ruth, who served in World War II with Yugoslavian Chetnik guerrillas and later wrote a book about her brother, toured doing publicity for the film.

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 . [5] In 1960, Montgomery was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of southern nightclub performer Rusty Heller in an episode of The Untouchables , playing opposite David White, who later portrayed Darrin's boss Larry Tate on Bewitched. [7] She played the part of Rose Cornelius in the Rawhide episode "Incident at El Crucero" (1963). [8]

In 1963, Montgomery was featured in a role as a socialite who falls for a gangster (Henry Silva) in Johnny Cool , directed by William Asher, and the film comedy Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? , 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 movie Marnie (1964), but Montgomery was unavailable. [9]

1964–1972: Bewitched

Bewitched co-stars Dick York, Agnes Moorehead, and Montgomery Agnes Moorehead Dick York Elizabeth Montgomery Bewitched 1964.JPG
Bewitched co-stars Dick York, Agnes Moorehead, and Montgomery

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). [10] The series aired for eight seasons, from 1964 to 1972, and despite low ratings late in the series run, it was renewed for a ninth season to run from 1972 to 1973. However, Montgomery's marriage to Bewitched director William Asher was in trouble and the couple had separated by the end of the eighth season.

This caused severe friction in their professional relationship and 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 lasted only 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 .

For her role on Bewitched, Montgomery received five Emmy [2] and four Golden Globe nominations.

The show added to the increasing popularity of the name Samantha. While its use was relatively rare until 1958, it has remained consistently popular since 1965 due chiefly to Montgomery's character. [11]

1973–1995: Later career

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 by 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.

Montgomery (right) and Katherine Helmond as Emma and Lizzie Borden Elizabeth Montgomery Katherine Helmond Legend of Lizzie Borden 2.JPG
Montgomery (right) and Katherine Helmond as Emma and Lizzie Borden

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 later acquitted) murderer Lizzie Borden in William Bast's The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975). Rhonda McClure, the genealogist who documented the Montgomery–Borden connection after Montgomery's death which revealed that Montgomery was Borden's distant cousin, said "I wonder how Elizabeth would have felt if she knew she was playing her own cousin." [3]

Montgomery made many appearances on the game show Password . Allen Ludden, the show's longtime host, called her the "Queen of Password". [12] 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 movie 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, among others, Kirk Douglas and Dorothy McGuire. Montgomery returned to Broadway one last time in 1989 in a production of Love Letters , opposite Robert Foxworth. [6] 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, [13] only nine days before Montgomery died.

Personal life

In 1954, Montgomery married her first husband, New York City socialite Frederick Gallatin Cammann; [14] the couple divorced less than a year later. She was married to Academy Award-winning actor Gig Young from 1956 to 1963, and then to director-producer William Asher from 1963 until their divorce in 1973. [14] They had three children: William A. Asher (b. 1964), Robert Asher (b. 1965), and Rebecca Asher (b. 1969). The latter two pregnancies were incorporated into Bewitched as Samantha's pregnancies with Tabitha and Adam Stephens. During the eighth year of the show, Elizabeth fell in love with director Richard Michaels. Their resulting affair led to the end of both their marriages, as well as the end of the series. They moved in together when shooting ended in 1972; the relationship lasted 2 12 years. On January 28, 1993, she married for a fourth time to actor Robert Foxworth, after living with him for nearly 20 years. She remained married to Foxworth until her death.

Throughout the run of Bewitched, many references to Patterson, New York, were made in the series. The Putnam County town was the site of the Montgomery homestead, and it was also where Elizabeth spent her childhood summers. In later years, her mother lived in the family farmhouse on Cushman Road. [15]

Political activism

Montgomery was personally devoted to liberal political beliefs, and she "lent her name, along with a great deal of time, money, and energy to a wide variety of charitable and political causes". [16] She had progressive political views and was an outspoken champion of women's rights, AIDS activism, and gay rights. [17] Montgomery was also pro-choice throughout her life. She was 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. [16] Professionally, she lent her voice as narrator to two political documentaries critical of US foreign policy, Cover Up: Behind the Iran Contra Affair (1988) and the Academy Award-winning The Panama Deception (1992). [18] In June 1992, Montgomery and her former Bewitched co-star Dick Sargent, who had remained good friends, were grand marshals at the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade. [2]

Charity work

During the last year of her life, Montgomery was a volunteer for the Los Angeles Unit of Learning Ally, a nonprofit organization which records educational books on specially formatted CDs and in downloadable formats for disabled people. In 1994, Montgomery produced several radio and television public-service announcements for the organization'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.

After her death, the Los Angeles unit of Learning Ally dedicated the 1995 Record-A-Thon to Montgomery and secured 21 celebrities to assist in the reading of the book titled Chicken Soup for the Soul , which was also dedicated to her memory.[ citation needed ]

Illness and death

For many years, Montgomery had struggled with colon cancer, which she believed she had beaten. In the spring of 1995, however, she was told that the cancer had returned. [19] 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 spread to her liver and it was too late for medical intervention. [20] 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. Early on the morning of May 18, 1995, Montgomery died at home, eight weeks after her diagnosis. [2] She was 62 years old.

On June 18, 1995, a memorial service was held at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills. Herbie Hancock provided the music, and Dominick Dunne spoke about their early days as friends in New York City. Other speakers included her husband, Robert Foxworth, who read sympathy cards from fans; her nurse; her brother; her daughter; and her stepson. Her remains were cremated at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Montgomery had a summer home in Patterson, Putnam County, New York. Following her death in 1995, the 794-acre (321 ha) estate was sold to New York State and became Wonder Lake State Park. [21]



1955 The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell Margaret Lansdowne
1958 Bitter Heritage Mary BreckerTelevision movie
1960 Bells Are Ringing Girl reading bookUncredited
1961 The Spiral Staircase Helen WarrenTelevision movie
1963Boston TerrierMillie CurtainTelevision movie
1963 Johnny Cool Darien "Dare" Guinness
1963 Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? Mellisa Morris
1964 Bikini Beach Lady Bug (voice)Uncredited
1965 How to Stuff a Wild Bikini Bwana's Daughter, The Witches WitchUncredited
1972The VictimKate Wainwright Television movie
1973Mrs. Sundance Etta Place Television movie
1974 A Case of Rape Ellen HarrodTelevision movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series
1975 The Legend of Lizzie Borden Lizzie Borden Television movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special Program - Drama or Comedy
1976 Dark Victory Katherine MerrillTelevision movie
1977 A Killing Affair Vikki EatonTelevision movie
1978 The Awakening Land Sayward Luckett Wheeler Miniseries
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series
1979Jennifer: A Woman's StoryJennifer PrinceTelevision movie
1979Act of ViolenceCatherine McSweeneyTelevision movie
1980Belle Starr Belle Starr Television movie
1981 When the Circus Came to Town Mary FlynnTelevision movie
1982The Rules of MarriageJoan HagenTelevision movie
1983Missing PiecesSara ScottTelevision movie
1984 Second Sight: A Love Story Alaxandra McKayTelevision movie
1985 Amos Daisy DawsTelevision movie
1985Between the Darkness and the DawnAbigail FosterTelevision movie
1988Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra AffairNarrator Documentary film
1990Face to FaceDr. Diana FirestoneTelevision movie
1991Sins of the MotherRuth CoeTelevision movie
1992With Murder in MindGayle WolferTelevision movie
1992 The Panama Deception NarratorDocumentary film
1993 Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story Blanche Taylor Moore Television movie
1994 The Corpse Had a Familiar Face Edna Buchanan Television movie
1995Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna BuchananEdna BuchananTelevision movie


1951–1956 Robert Montgomery Presents Various roles30 episodes
1953–1954 Armstrong Circle Theatre Ellen Craig2 episodes
1954–1957 Kraft Television Theatre Various roles7 episodes
1955–1956 Appointment with Adventure 2 episodes
1955–1958 Studio One Various roles3 episodes
1956 Warner Bros. Presents Laura WoodruffEpisode: "Siege"
1956 Climax! BetsyEpisode: "The Shadow of Evil"
1958 Playhouse 90 Mary BreckerEpisode: "Bitter Heritage"
1958 Suspicion EllenEpisode: "The Velvet Vault"
1958 DuPont Show of the Month Miss KellyEpisode: "Harvey"
1958 Cimmarron City Ellen WilsonEpisode: "Hired Hand"
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents KarenEpisode: "Man with a Problem"
1959 The Loretta Young Show MillieEpisode: "Marriage Crisis"
1959 The Third Man LorraineEpisode: "A Man Take a Trip"
1959 Riverboat Abigail CarruthersEpisode: "The Barrier"
1959 Johnny Staccato Fay LinnEpisode: "Tempted"
1959 Wagon Train Julie CrailEpisode: "The Vittorio Bottecelli Story"
1960 The Tab Hunter Show Hilary FairfieldEpisode: "For Money or Love"
1960 One Step Beyond Lillie ClarkeEpisode: "The Death Waltz"
1960 The Untouchables Rusty HellerEpisode: "The Rusty Heller Story"
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
1961 The Twilight Zone The WomanEpisode: "Two"
1961 Thriller Rosamond "Ros" DenhamEpisode: "Masquerade"
1961 Frontier Circus Karina AndrewsEpisode: "Karina"
1962 Checkmate Vicki PageEpisode: "The Star System"
1962 Alcoa Premiere Iris HecateEpisode: "Mr. Lucifer"
1963 Saints and Sinners Eadie DonelliEpisode: "The Homecoming Bit"
1963 Rawhide Rose CorneliusEpisode: "Incident at El Crucero"
1963 77 Sunset Strip Charlotte DelavilleEpisode: "White Lie"
1963 The Eleventh Hour Polly SaundersEpisode: "The Bronze Locust"
1963–1964 Burke's Law Various roles2 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"
1979 Password Plus HerselfGame Show Participant / Celebrity Guest Star
1995 Batman: The Animated Series Barmaid (voice)Episode: "Showdown"

Stage credits

1953-1954Late LoveJanet Colby Theater World Award for Best Actress
1956The Loud Red PatrickMaggie Flannigan
1974 28th Tony Awards Herself
1989-1990 Love Letters Melissa Gardner

Awards and honors

YearAwardCategoryTitle of workResult
1961 Emmy Award Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role The Untouchables Nominated
1966Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress - Comedy Series BewitchedNominated
1967Emmy AwardOutstanding Lead Actress - Comedy SeriesBewitchedNominated
1968Emmy AwardOutstanding Lead Actress - Comedy SeriesBewitchedNominated
1969Emmy AwardOutstanding Lead Actress - Comedy SeriesBewitchedNominated
1970Emmy AwardOutstanding Lead Actress - Comedy SeriesBewitchedNominated
1974Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series A Case of Rape Nominated
1975Emmy AwardOutstanding Lead Actress in a Special Program - Drama or Comedy The Legend of Lizzie Borden Nominated
1978Emmy AwardOutstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series The Awakening Land Nominated
1965 Golden Globe Award Best TV Star (Female)BewitchedNominated
1967Golden Globe AwardBest TV Star (Female)BewitchedNominated
1969Golden Globe AwardBest TV Star (Female)BewitchedNominated
1995 Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards Lucy Award In recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television. [25] Awarded posthumously


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