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Elizabeth Montgomery: Iconic Star of 'Bewitched'
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Elizabeth Montgomery was an acclaimed American actress best known for her iconic role as Samantha Stephens on the popular television series Bewitched. Born into a family of performers, she enjoyed a prolific career spanning five decades in film, stage, and television, earning multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations while also being a dedicated activist for various social causes.

 

Montgomery's Early Life and Education

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Elizabeth Montgomery was born into a family of performers on April 15, 1933, in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Robert Montgomery, was a prominent film star of the 1930s and '40s, and her mother, Elizabeth Allen, was a Broadway actress. Montgomery attended the exclusive Westlake School for Girls in Holmby Hills, California for 11 years. She later graduated from the Spence School in New York City before studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan for three years.
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Montgomery's Early Film Roles

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Elizabeth Montgomery's early television career was marked by a variety of roles that showcased her versatility and talent. Here are some notable highlights:
  • First TV Appearance: Montgomery made her television debut on her father's show, Robert Montgomery Presents, in 1951.
  • Early TV Roles: She appeared in over 200 live programs during the 1950s, including Studio One, Kraft Theater, G.E. Theater, Alcoa Theater, The Twilight Zone, Thriller, 77 Sunset Strip, Rawhide, and Wagon Train.
  • Emmy Nomination: Her role in The Untouchables (1959) earned her the first of many Emmy Award nominations.
  • Broadway Debut: In addition to her television work, Montgomery's performance in the Broadway play Late Love won her a Theater World Award.
These early roles laid the foundation for Montgomery's later success and established her as a prominent figure in television.
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Bewitched Breakthrough: Samantha Stephens

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Elizabeth Montgomery's breakthrough role came with the television series Bewitched, where she portrayed Samantha Stephens, a charming witch married to a mortal man. The show aired from 1964 to 1972 and became a cultural phenomenon, making Montgomery a household name. Her performance earned her five Primetime Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations, solidifying her status as a television icon. Montgomery's portrayal of Samantha Stephens was notable for its blend of humor, warmth, and relatability, which resonated with audiences and critics alike. The character's ability to navigate the complexities of a magical life while maintaining a suburban household provided a unique and entertaining premise that set Bewitched apart from other shows of its time. Additionally, Montgomery's dual role as Samantha's mischievous cousin Serena showcased her versatility and comedic talent. The success of Bewitched not only elevated Montgomery's career but also had a lasting impact on television, influencing subsequent shows that featured supernatural elements and strong female leads. The series remains a beloved classic, and Montgomery's performance continues to be celebrated for its charm and originality.
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Elizabeth Montgomery's Post-'Bewitched' Career: A Star in Made-for-TV Movies

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After the conclusion of Bewitched in 1972, Elizabeth Montgomery continued her successful career by starring in numerous made-for-TV movies. Two of her most notable performances during this period were in A Case of Rape (1974), where she portrayed a rape victim seeking justice, and The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), in which she played the infamous Lizzie Borden, who was accused of murdering her parents with an axe in 1892. Both roles showcased Montgomery's range as an actress and earned her additional Emmy Award nominations. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Montgomery appeared in a variety of TV movies, cementing her status as the "Queen of the TV Movies". Her final on-screen role was in the 1995 TV movie Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan, where she portrayed the real-life Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter Edna Buchanan. Montgomery's last acting credit was a voice role as a barmaid in an episode of the animated series Batman: The Animated Series, which aired posthumously in 1995. Despite her untimely death, Elizabeth Montgomery's post-Bewitched career demonstrated her versatility and enduring talent as an actress.
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Elizabeth Montgomery's Marriages and Family Life

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Elizabeth Montgomery's personal life was marked by multiple marriages and a long-term relationship with actor Robert Foxworth. She was married four times: first to New York socialite Frederick Gallatin Cammann in 1954, then to actor Gig Young in 1956, followed by producer and director William Asher in 1963, with whom she had three children—Rebecca, Robert, and Bill Asher. Her final marriage was to Robert Foxworth, whom she lived with for nearly 20 years before marrying in 1993. The couple remained together until her death in 1995.
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Elizabeth Montgomery Book Chapters

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Elizabeth Montgomery's life and career have been extensively documented in several books, most notably "Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery" by Herbie J Pilato. This biography, based on exclusive interviews with Montgomery and those close to her, provides a comprehensive look at her professional achievements and personal struggles. It covers her early life, her rise to fame with Bewitched, and her later work in television movies such as A Case of Rape and The Legend of Lizzie Borden. The book also delves into her political activism, including her support for AIDS research and the peace movement, and her advocacy for minority rights. Additionally, "Elizabeth Montgomery: A Bewitching Life" by Rita E. Piro offers insights into her family background and early career, though it is noted for being less in-depth. These works collectively paint a detailed portrait of Montgomery's multifaceted life and enduring legacy.
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Activism and Philanthropy

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Elizabeth Montgomery was deeply committed to political activism and philanthropy throughout her life. A staunch liberal, she championed women's rights, AIDS research, and gay rights, and was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. She supported Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1968 and later backed Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential bid. Montgomery also lent her voice to political documentaries critical of U.S. foreign policy, such as Cover Up: Behind the Iran Contra Affair (1988) and The Panama Deception (1992). Her charitable efforts included significant support for the American Cancer Society, UNICEF, and Learning Ally, where she recorded educational audiobooks for disabled individuals. Montgomery's dedication to these causes reflected her desire to use her platform for positive social change.
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Closing Thoughts

Elizabeth Montgomery passed away from colon cancer on May 18, 1995, at the age of 62, after a brief but intense battle with the disease, which had metastasized to her liver by the time it was diagnosed. She chose to spend her final days at her Beverly Hills home, surrounded by her family. Montgomery's legacy endures through her significant contributions to television and her activism. A bronze statue of her as Samantha Stephens was erected in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2005, and she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008. Her work in television, particularly her role in Bewitched, and her advocacy for various social causes continue to be celebrated and remembered by fans and activists alike
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