Bewitched first aired on September 17, 1964, and it went on to become one of the most popular sitcoms of the ’60s. The show followed the shenanigans of pretty witch Samantha and her long-suffering husband Darrin, making superstars of actors Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York and – later – Dick Sargent. In fact, even decades later, its eight-season run would inspire a 2005 film with Nicole Kidman as well as a planned NBC remake scheduled for 2016. And so half a century after its original broadcast, we take a look back at this classic show and the astonishing secrets behind its production.
20. Twitching Trickery
One of Bewitched’s most endearing elements came from Samantha’s nose, which would famously twitch whenever something magical was about to happen. But while many fans tried to replicate Elizabeth Montgomery’s trademark wiggle, the move was actually the work of some studio hocus pocus. In an interview with Parade, actress Erin Murphy – who played Samantha’s daughter Tabatha – revealed that it was nothing more than a “camera trick.”
19. Seeking Inspiration
But although Samantha’s trademark twitch was the result of studio trickery, the credit for the move has to go to Elizabeth Montgomery herself. That’s because, according to biographer Herbie Pilato, the quirk stemmed from a real-life wriggle that Montgomery would involuntarily make when nervous. And so director William Asher – who was also Montgomery’s husband – subsequently wrote her tic into the show.
18. Repeat Prescription
When Dick York, who played Darrin, left Bewitched in 1969 owing to back pain and a painkiller addiction, producers hoped that viewers would come to love Dick Sargent as his replacement. And to this end ABC actually reran every episode in which York did not appear in an effort to make the audience more receptive to Sargent instead.
17. The Darrin Syndrome
But though some people may have been fooled by the transition from York to Sargent, more attentive viewers immediately picked up on the differences between the two actors. In fact, the switch was so jarring for some that the term “Darrin Syndrome” – the act of replacing lead actors with new stars – was forever entered into the Hollywood vocabulary.
16. On-Set Hostility
And while most fans would eventually warm to Sargent, Agnes Moorehead – who played Samantha’s mother Endora – just couldn’t accept the new Darrin. It led to some pretty awkward moments on set, too. Indeed, in an interview with Chicago Outlines, Sargent revealed, “About the third or fourth show I was in [Moorehead] said to people in front of me, ‘They should never meddle with success.’” Whatever could she have meant?
15. Casting Choices
One role that would prove to be vital to the show was that of Tabatha – Samantha and Darrin’s daughter, who was introduced in 1966. But although fans know Tabatha as the role brilliantly owned by Erin Murphy, the part almost went to future Silence of the Lambs star Jodie Foster. What’s more, actress Helen Hunt was actually considered for the role, too.
14. Driven to Distraction
Paul Lynde was another key casting choice; after his popular appearance as the wacky Uncle Arthur, he quickly became a beloved recurring star. However, this wasn’t the only character Lynde played on the sitcom. The actor actually made his Bewitched debut as a nervous driving instructor in the episode “Driving is the Only Way to Fly,” and this would eventually lead to his more prominent role.
13. First Impressions
Even those who somehow haven’t seen an episode of Bewitched will be familiar with its iconic animated intro sequence, which was the work of Hanna-Barbera. But it seems that, despite its long-lasting appeal and influence, the sequence did little to impress Elizabeth Montgomery. It’s been reported, moreover, that Montgomery believed the show’s production team could have come up with something more creative.
12. A Word from our Sponsor
Besides its famed opening sequence, Bewitched also benefited from a catchy theme tune, penned by Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller. But while the famous ear-worm has now become synonymous with the show, it was actually infiltrating eardrums long before it as a variation of a jingle used by Chevrolet in their commercials. And seeing as how Chevy in fact sponsored the sitcom, we can’t help but wonder if any subliminal messaging was at work.
11. Friendly Competition
The show’s mix of fantasy and comedy inspired countless imitators, too – most notably NBC’s I Dream of Jeannie. But as well as the obvious similarities in plot and characterization, Jeannie shared features with Bewitched that only eagle-eyed observers would notice. In particular, the two sitcoms were able to actually swap sets and props thanks to the close proximity of their sound stages.
10. Welcome to the Neighborhood
The use of the Warner Brothers Ranch in Burbank, California, for exterior shooting meant that Bewitched had similarities with more shows than just I Dream of Jeannie, though. For one, the house owned by the Kravitzes – Samantha’s curious neighbors – shot to fame when it was used as the home of The Partridge Family in their equally successful sitcom.
9. Pregnant Pauses
Elizabeth Montgomery gave birth three times during the show’s lifetime, but only two of her pregnancies were written into the series for her character, Samantha. Montgomery’s first pregnancy during season one was covered up on screen because, bizarrely, the network deemed it inappropriate for Sam and Darrin to be expecting a child so quickly after saying “I do.”
8. Wardrobe Functioning
Working on any TV show has its perks, and Bewitched’s wardrobe department gave its actors some pretty convenient benefits. Speaking to the website Bewitched.net, star Kasey Rogers explained, “I wore all my own clothes on the show. You would take your clothes in the week before and wardrobe would make sure they were all cleaned, pressed and altered for you.”
7. Elegantly Wasted
Anyone who’s seen an episode of Mad Men understands that attitudes to drinking in the workplace were a lot different in the ’60s. The set of Bewitched was no exception to this, and – whenever each of their characters had a drink in their hand – actors would often sip on real liquor. As a result, many scenes were shot while the stars were intoxicated.
6. Doorknobs and Broomsticks
Like Paul Lynde, Marion Lorne garnered much acclaim for her supporting appearance on the show, and her performance as Aunt Clara actually earned the actress a posthumous Emmy following her death in 1968. But did you know that the character’s famous penchant for collecting antique doorknobs was actually based on a real-life hobby of Lorne’s? So much so, in fact, that the actress would often use items from her own cache as props.
5. Smoke and Mirrors
Samantha’s spells required Bewitched to utilize special effects, but the show was severely limited by the technology of the time. For her house-cleaning spell, for example, producers literally stopped taping while crew cleaned up the set; they then began rolling again when the stage was clear. Unfortunately, this required Montgomery to stand in the same awkward pose until all was ready.
4. We Interrupt This Program…
The 1960s was a politically turbulent decade in the United States, and many significant events occurred during the show’s eight-year run. Besides production starting on the same day as John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Bewitched’s run also coincided with the murder of Martin Luther King – and the broadcast of 1968’s “I Confess” episode had to be paused to run news of his death.
3. A Different Era
One of the show’s most unusual episodes aired in 1970; “Sisters at Heart” was actually conceived and written by minority students attending Los Angeles’ Jefferson High School. But although the episode had noble intentions at heart – dealing, as it did, with the issue of racism – there’s little doubt that the episode would be deemed unacceptable by today’s standards. Why? Because its stars appeared in blackface.
2. An Offer She Can’t Refuse
Despite earning a considerable amount of wealth and fame from the show, Elizabeth Montgomery fairly soon fell out of love with her role. The actress wanted a chance to challenge her acting chops and consequently tried to leave Bewitched shortly after its fifth season. However, studio heads offered her a massive sum of money to stay, which she indeed did for three more seasons.
1. Parting Gifts
But while Montgomery might have had very little love for Bewitched by the time it came to an end in 1972, she still reaped the benefits long after its cancelation. In fact, because the actress owned a 20 percent stake in the production, she earned millions from syndication. At the time of her death in 1995, then, she was estimated to be worth a whopping $40 million.