Bewitched was a fantasy sitcom that premiered September 17, 1964, until March 25, 1972. Ranked as one of the “TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time,” Bewitched starred Elizabeth Montgomery as the stunningly beautiful witch, Samantha Stephens, along with Dick York (later Dick Sargent) as her husband, Darrin Stephens.
The show centered around the married couple and how they navigate the maze of inter-magical marriage, in a world that doesn’t know magic exists. Throughout the eight seasons and 254 episodes, many characters were changed around, behind the scenes drama ensued, and the genius that is Bewitched was created. However, despite what was going on behind the scenes, this TV series managed to become one of the most-watched shows of all time. Even the biggest Bewitched fans may not know some of the unique things that went on behind the scenes, so we have uncovered all of the greatest secrets and on-set drama for you to sink your teeth into.
The debut season of Bewitched hit the ground running, becoming the second most-watched TV show in America at that time. It was also the longest-running supernatural sitcom in the ‘60s and ‘70s, spanning eight years. Over those years, the writers focused on the comical aspect of Samantha trying to hide her powers from all of the mortals around her. Unfortunately, the effects of Samantha’s spells were often hard to hide, which led to a lot of cover-ups from herself and her husband, Darrin. To cast her spells, Samantha would often wiggle her nose, which became one of the most memorable things from Bewitched – and is still something people do today if you talk about the show! Bewitched was such a popular series, that it later spawned its own spin-off named Tabitha, along with a movie in 2005 that starred Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.
While the light-hearted fun may have been apparent on-screen, filming the show wasn’t all magic spells and nose wrinkling. There are plenty of things that went on behind the scenes that weren’t quite so joyful. From illnesses leading to an actor swap halfway through the eight seasons, through to the story behind the nose wiggle, we have gathered all of the juicy secrets from the Bewitched set. The next time you watch this epic supernatural sitcom, which always has reruns on cable, keep an eye out for some of these hidden secrets that you may not have noticed before.
Every person who watched Bewitched noticed that there was an actor change after a few episodes. The show started off with Dick York as Darrin, Samantha’s husband, however he couldn’t continue with the role due to chronic back pain. Dick York was replaced by Dick Sargent. No fan of the show ever mentioned a thing, most people either pretended not to notice or just couldn’t care less about Darrin, seeing as Samantha and magical crew were the center of attention. This fast switch of actors for the same character was later named, The Darrin Syndrome.
Unlike the replaced characters on the show, Elizabeth Montgomery not only played Samantha, but a plethora of other characters belonging to her family as well. Here we see her as cousin Serena, a tough as nails , Joan Jet style rocker with an attitude. Even though we recognize that it’s Elizabeth under the black wig and makeup, just like us, fans decided to go with the flow of the show, deciding not to call them out on the obvious costume change.
Throughout the eight seasons of Bewitched, actress Elizabeth Montgomery was pregnant three times in real life. Two of those pregnancies were written into the show, with the birth of daughter Tabitha and son, Adam. We love that producers and writers were so accommodating to the beautiful actress, who truly made the show the great success it was, and essentially is today. The additions to the magical family made ratings skyrocket at the time, especially with the Tabitha’s birth.
Samantha the witch was known for her nose wiggle whenever she would cast a spell or do something magical. However, the wiggle was actually a camera trick, actress Elizabeth Montgomery couldn’t actually do the nose wiggle herself. Considering this show is from the 60s, it’s pretty advanced stuff to manipulate an actors appearance like that. If you look very closely on the screen, you will see that Montgomery is moving her lips, along with her nose, giving the illusion of a wiggle.
The creator of the original Bewitched show, Sol Saks, revealed that the inspiration for the show came from the film, I Married A Witch and Bell, Book and Candle. Legally it wasn’t a problem for Sol to create Bewitched because the film was owned by Columbia Pictures, the same company that owned Screen Gems, which is the company that produced Sol’s show, Bewitched. All is well and legal up in old Hollywood!
Very much like Darrin himself, nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz was switched to another actress as well after a few episodes. Alice Pearce was the first to play the annoying neighbor, while Sandra Gould would later come and take her spot. Again, fans didn’t mind the change as her character was a nuisance to begin with, and she was not related to the magical storyline that captivated Americans so much. Honestly, if she would just go away it would make it all the better!
Speaking Alice Pearce, the original Gladys Kravitz, the reason she needed to be replaced on the show was due to the unfortunate fact that she passed away from ovarian cancer in 1966. The actress was battling the disease before she was even given the role of Gladys. Sometime during the first seasons of the show, Alice has surgery for her cancer, but the diagnosis was terminal and there was no way to cure her. The saddest part was that her coworkers never knew about her illness, she kept the entire ordeal very quiet.
Actress, Kasey Rogers, who played the role of Louise Tate on the show, said that any actor other than the starring characters, had to bring in their own clothing from their personal closets. The wardrobe department would then clean and iron the clothes for the actors. Obviously the main characters had their own on-set wardrobes and stylists for them. Ah, the ranks of fame in Hollywood were very sharp back then, weren’t they?
Mother Daughter Stars
Actress, Agnes Moorehead played the role of Endora, Samantha’s mother, on the show. However, off-screen the two were also very close to each other. During the filming, Endora would often be seen wearing a stardust brooch (seen here as well), the brooch was her own and was set with 8.5 carats of diamonds. Agnes and Elizabeth were so close in fact that when Agnes passed away in 1974, she left the brooch to Elizabeth.
Despite the fact the on screen, Darrin and Endora hated one another, off-screen actors Dick York and Agnes Moorehead were actually very good friends, often enjoying their on-set downtime together. When Dick had to leave the show after his back injury and on-set seizure, Agnes took the Darrin switch very hard, but in professional way, keeping her grief to herself and not taking it out of the new Darrin, aptly also named Dick as well.
Anges Takes a Break
So when we said that Agnes was professional and didn’t take her sadness about Dick York leaving on the new Darrin, we meant that she decided to forego any filming for a while so as not to be unprofessional. Agnes was very close to Dick York and was very upset when he left the show, and even more upset when he was replaced so easily and quickly, with no mention of a switch. She decided not to appear in several episodes in order to make some cut.
Actress Marion Lorne, who played the role of forgetful and funny Aunt Clara, had her own personal collection of over 1,000 antique door knobs. Producers thought her collection was so unique in its interest that they decided that Aunt Clara herself would also have a thing for them. The whole thing worked out very well for everyone involved, as that quirky collection obsession was perfect for a character like Aunt Clara.
Larry and Louise Tate had a son named Jonathan on the show. What fans don’t know is that actor David White (Larry Tate) asked for the name Jonathan because that was his son’s name. Not only would it prevent any form of confusion for him when he is rehearsing his lines, but it represented a meaningful thing for White. White lost his wife during childbirth, so he raised his son Jonathan as a single father.
David White’s real-life Jonathan was on Flight 103 of Pan Am Airlines, the one that exploded over Scottish air in 1988. David passed away two years later of a heart attack. The two are buried next to each other at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The entire story here made us shed a tear, as no parent should have to bury their child, especially when David was also the one to raise Jonathan after the death of his wife in childbirth.
Although completely politically incorrect by today’s standards, there is an episode where Tabitha has an African-American friend who comes to play with her, while her parents also interact with Tabitha’s parents. The premise of the episode was that Samantha casts a spell on Darrin’s boss so that he would see everyone as black, in order to go back on his racist ways. The episode was written by 26 African-American students in a sophomore English class in LA.
After all, this show was about magic, and since magic isn’t real, and CGI had yet to be invented, the special effects weren’t so special back then, but had to be done nonetheless. When Samantha would cast some form of spell, the director would cut the scene, stage assistants would come and move whatever needed moving and then the scene would continue. It was all done very old school, if we do say so ourselves.
The First Samantha
Before Elizabeth Montgomery, producers wanted actress Tammy Grimes to play the leading role of Samantha Stephens. However, Tammy did not like the storyline of the magical show and decided to decline and accept a role on Broadway instead. Lucky for us! Elizabeth Montgomery was the next offer and she accepted, making everyone to ever watch Bewitched glad, we couldn’t imagine another Samantha other than Elizabeth (despite the fact that both actresses look very much alike)!
Theme Song Lyric
The theme song to Bewitched technically had lyrics, and nice ones too, but the words were never sung during the opening credits. The song went partly like this: “Bewitched, Bewitched, You’ve got me in your spell. Bewitched, Bewitched, You know your craft so well. Before I knew what I was doing / I looked in your eyes / That brand of woo you’ve been brewin’ / Took me by surprise.”
Over the many years that Elizabeth played Samantha Stephens, and all the years thereafter, Elizabeth seemed to never age herself! Only towards the last days of her life you could see that she was failing, but for the longest time it seemed as though Elizabeth cast a spell on herself! The blonde haired beauty became America’s sweetheart while becoming the most beloved witch on television.
Actress Alice Pearce, who we discussed earlier for playing nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, and was sadly replaced on the show after she passed away from ovarian cancer in 1966. The actress was honored with a posthumous Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role as Gladys. The award was given in her name two months after she passed away.
When Elizabeth Montgomery passed away in 1995, almost all of the obituaries of her passing were wrong, because of the fact that she was so private that the press knew very little about her. First they wrote that she passed away at the age of 57 when she was in fact 62 years old when she passed. Second they wrote that she was single upon her death, which was also incorrect, the actress was married to Robert Foxworth at the time of her death. The beauty passed away from colon cancer.
Thirsty on Set
Get this – the cast members would often drink on set, a lot of the time getting to the point where they were drunk. Producer and ex-husband of Elizabeth, William Asher, was also guilty of drinking on set. The drinking bit became such a thing that fans created logs in order to number the amount of times a character was sipping his or her drink during a given episode. Sounds like a cool place to work!
The set of the Stephens home was actually the reverse of the set of the film Gidget that was filmed in 1959. The patio and living room were also duplicated from another film. The exterior of the home was seen in television shows like I Dream of Jeannie, and Dennis the Menace. Back then the budgets were more limited and as such, the sets were often duplicated. These days you would rarely see such repurposing of sets.
Tabitha I and Tabitha II
Just like most television shows where they are young children, a lot of the time the producers will use twins in order to film one child. The idea behind this is that they can film one child, and when one gets tired, the other can sub in. The role of Tabitha went to twin girls, Erin and Diane Murphy, they were fraternal twins, but looked enough alike that they were able to be filmed as one.
Not Created Equal
While Erin Murphy (Tabitha I) seemed to be a total natural at this whole acting thing, she was great at saying her lines on command and being in close up shots, while her sister Diane was not so forthcoming. Diane was mostly used for long shots where Tabitha was in the room but not saying anything or being the focus of attention for any length of time.
Bewitched debuted on NBC in 1964, while I Dream of Jeannie debut just one year later on the competition network, ABC. Elizabeth was said to have been livid at this competitive move and did her best to make sure that audiences loved Bewitched more than they did the competition show. At the end of the day Bewitched was very much loved, and has since become almost a cult classic, but the same goes for the other show.
Elizabeth and Barbara
Despite the fact that Elizabeth didn’t like ABC’s competitive streak with their own magical spin off, I Dream of Jeannie – where a genie emerges from a bottle after being rubbed by NASA astronaut- Elizabeth never had a personal problem with I Dream of Jeannie stars, Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman. The similarities of the show are that of the physical appearance of the leading ladies and the fact that they were magical, other than that the shows were pretty difference in their plots.
We are not one for conspiracy theories, but this one is slightly strange for sure. On April 4th, 1968, Bewitched was stopped mid-way to announce the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. What makes this even more strange was that the show began rehearsing on November 22nd, 1963 – the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Back then, and even today, stopping a show for breaking news is something that is very rarely done, and if it is done, we all know it is something very serious.
Puff the Magic Dragon
Most of the cast of Bewitched were heavy smokers. Elizabeth was known for being a chain smoker, Paul Lynde as well. Dick York was said to smoke up to three packs a day, sheesh! In an interview, Erin Murphy, one of the twins who played Tabitha, said that, “I remember my parents were always saying ‘smoking is bad, smoking is bad,’ and I remember thinking ‘If smoking is bad, then why is everybody around here doing it?”