Bewitched

Cultureify: July 21,2013/ By Mr. Cathode

Welcome to my TV Corner. During my recent travels I have engaged in conversation with many people, and once they discover that I write about old television, the question that comes up most frequently is…. “Have you written about ‘Bewitched’ yet?” ….

Although I brushed against the series on a few past articles, I thought it was time to take a deeper look at the program.

As almost all Americans know, “Bewitched” is a situation comedy originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC Television Network from 1964 to 1972.

The concept of “Bewitched” is appealing. Samantha is a comely lass engaged to marry up-and-coming ad man Darrin Stephens. Just prior to the nuptials, Samantha reveals to Darrin her deep dark secret. She is a witch – with supernatural powers, and has lived for hundreds, possibly for thousands, of years.

Samantha is tired of the hoopla surrounding witchcraft and decides to abandon the practice. Darrin, taken aback by the news, as anyone would be, agrees to marry the witch on the condition that “Sam” promises to curtail her use of “witchy” powers. Darrin and Samantha tie the knot on the first episode, and that’s about the last “normal” thing that happens throughout the entire run of the series.

There are a continuous host of domestic issues that are a challenge to Samantha’s promise. Simple things like stacks of dirty dishes, or carpet stains or shattered glasses coax Sam to twitch her nose or cast a spell to put things back in order.

And while these small violations by Sam, played by the lovely Elizabeth Montgomery, irritate Darrin, the real bane of his existence comes from his enchanted mother-in-law, Endora.

Endora is mortified that Samantha would marry a mere mortal, as well as promise to forego her power. Out of spite, and slight loathing, Endora finds that tormenting Darrin with her bewitching prowess is a source of immense amusement. Endora is portrayed as a regal, devilishly playful, slightly sadistic trouble-maker by the astonishingly talented actress, Agnes Moorehead. Endora has no remorse belittling and undermining the mortal Darrin at every opportunity, at work or at home. She won’t even stoop so low as to call him by his proper name, preferring insulting epithets such as “Dum-Dum” instead.

While Darrin tries in vain to hide Samantha’s background from the rest of the world, Endora befuddles and embarrasses Darrin at every turn. Adding to Darrin’s chaos, Samantha has a plethora of assorted family members and friends, also with magical powers, that pop in from time to time. Few of these visitors respect Darrin’s wishes.

Dr. Bombay, played by Bernard Fox, is a womanizer who is often accompanied by a buxom assistant, and who constantly cracks bad jokes.

Paul Lynde chews the scenery with his smarmy, oily, over-ingratiating style as Samantha’s Uncle Arthur. He and icy Endora are hilarious and play well off of each other. Alice Ghostly is Esmeralda, a maid/witch so timid that she fades if people speak harshly to her.

 Also showing up from time to time is Samantha’s father Maurice, played by veteran actor Maurice Evans (that’s him under the monkey make-up as Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes). One of Mr. Cathode’s favorite characters was sweet, confused, addled Aunt Clara, played by Marion Lorne, who was awarded an Emmy for her portrayal in the series. Her spells were never quite correct and always misfire at the worst possible times.

There is a maxim in comedy that states: “watching someone being funny is not funny. But watching someone who is watching someone being funny, is funny”

To that end, the writers provide Gladys Kravitz .The Stephens live at 1164 Morning Glory Circle. Across the street lives a retired couple, the nosy and tactless Gladys Kravitz (played by Emmy Winner Alice Pearce until her death, then by Sandra Gould) and her long-suffering husband Abner (George Tobias). Gladys’ snooping often results in her witnessing witchcraft or its strange side effects. She frequently tries to prove Samantha is a witch, only to fail and be branded as “delusional” by Abner.

Darrin was an adman at the Agency of McMann and Tate. Larry Tate is your average, stereotypical executive of the 60s; enjoys his cocktails, concerned about his job. But this is a silly comedy after all, so there is no hard-hitting expose of corporate life here. Larry was played with appropriate innocence by David White.

The first Darrin -.the original Darrin, was portrayed by Dick York. For the first 116 of the 254 total episodes, York played the put-upon, tortured, beleaguered Darrin Stephens. Suffering from a back injury received during the filming of “They Came to Cordura” in 1959, York collapsed while filming the episode “Daddy Does His Thing” and was rushed to the hospital in January 1969.

Dick Sargent took over the role from 1969 to 1972. Though bearing a vague resemblance to York, Sargent brought a slightly different dynamic to the role. He was less quick to react, not quite so flustered by the antics around him, and was a bit softer spoken than the original Darrin. Dick York gave Darrin the persona of a man in hyper-mode, frustrated and at the end-of-his-rope. Seems everyone has their own favorite Darrin Stephens.

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Elizabeth Montgomery was the lovely Samantha Stephens. Casting her in the series was an easy decision; she was married to the show’s producer/director William Asher. But the part was very much her own. The daughter of veteran movie star Robert Montgomery, Elizabeth brought a sensual, yet dignified quality to Samantha.

“Bewitched” was an imaginative, well written show that earned several Emmys. It was extremely popular, and was the number one program on ABC at the time. It ran from September 17th, 1964 to July 1, 1972. In fact, was it the longest-running of the so-called “fantasy sitcoms” that dominated the airwaves in the mid-1960s.

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Most people don’t know that the catchy theme, written by Jack Keller, also has lyrics provided by Howard Greenfield.

Here is the sultry Peggy Lee with her interpretation of the song…

{play}images/audio/Bewitched – Peggy Lee.mp3{/play}

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