Friday, November 14, 2008

Origins: Bewitched




Who wouldn't want Elizabeth Montgomery's signature character Samantha Stephens as a mother? She was as beautiful as a storybook princess, calm, occasionally silly, loving, forgiving and--in a pinch--she could wiggle her nose and conjure up ice cream or a pony, take you back in time to meet real royalty or turn neighborhood burglars into pigs or instantly produce a backyard birthday party with circus animals and a giant cake.

Bewitched was a 1/2 hour tv comedy about Darrin and Samantha Stephens--Darrin was your basic ad man and Samantha was a full-blooded witch. They lived a quiet life in Westport, Connecticut, with Samantha trying very hard to get through the day without using witchcraft to help. Darrin was controlling in that way, never wanting her to use her witchcraft. Given that feminism was in its early days then, their relationship seems almost metaphorical now: Darrin obviously wanted to be in charge of everything and Samantha was to be subservient. It never worked out for Darrin, of course.

But I was only two years old when it came on in 1964, and ten when it went off the air ; I knew absolutely nothing about the politics between the sexes. I just knew that everything seemed possible for that half hour I watched each week. Supernatural beings were always showing up in the living room while Darrin was in the kitchen filling the ice bucket. My only experience with the supernatural--magic, even--up to that point had come from bad amateur magicians at parties and the more entertaining fairytales.

It just all seemed so darned plausible. I loved it when Samantha would catch "witchy" illnesses that made her break out in polka dots and caused her magic to spin out of control. I adored Samantha's mother Endora and her pseudo-wicked ways. I adored Sabrina, Samantha's twin cousin, and recall understanding very early on that it was Montgomery playing both roles.



I'm glad that my first real thoughts about the supernatural world weren't necessarily dark. They were bright with possibility and comic relief. (Though I will admit to being a tad afraid of Endora--she's the character who I most imagined would come out of the television and get me.)

I could go on and on about this show. There's a wonderful website that has more information on Bewitched than anyone could read in a week: Bewitched@Harpies Bazaar.

And with apologies to otherwise brilliant Ephron sisters--don't get me started on this abomination.

BTW--Elizabeth Montgomery was the best Lizzie Borden ever!

10 comments:

Lilithas said...

Sadly, I never watched the original "Bewitched". What I did watch was the 2005 Nicole Kidman version (the abomination), and was left feeling utterly disappointed.

I will, however, see if I can try to find the classic. It sounds like it's worth watching.

Laura Benedict said...

Bewitched is one of those series that started out being shot in b&w. Unlike some long-running series, it didn't completely jump the shark, but it was somewhat better at its beginning (which I saw in reruns, of course!) and middle. They did eight episodes in Salem and a European vacation near the end--both a little odd.

Thanks for coming by!

Pinckney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pinckney said...

Darrin was an idiot. I, on the other hand, welcome it when you conjure up ponies and ice cream. Yum!

Also, since they were both played by E Montgomery: Why is Serena way hotter?

And any thoughts on Darrin's mid-series transmogrification?

FWIW The captcha for me to post this comment is "fibbag," which seems pretty insulting, but maybe accurate for a writer.

Laura Benedict said...

I disagree that Serena was hotter. I think she was sexier, yes, but she wasn't as pretty as Samantha....

The Harpies Bazaar site has great bios on the cast. Poor Dick York was in a terrible accident on a film set long before Bewitched. He was apparently in horrible pain all the time and finally just couldn't act anymore.

Dick Sargeant was never as funny. He made Darrin kind of a prig.

Tia Nevitt said...

I loved "Bewitched!" I think every little girl loved "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Genie". I also loved the annual showing of Leslie Ann Warren's "Cinderella". I loved it so much, in fact, that I purchased the DVD for my own daughter.

Now if I can only find the DVD for Mary Martin's Peter Pan.

Tom said...

It was a cotton-candy world, wasn't it?

I hadn't realized, until recently, how much 'Bewitched' owed to 'Bell, Book and Candle.'

Kim Novak became Elizabeth Montgomery. James Stewart became Dick York. Hermione Gingold became Agnes Moorehead. And believe it or not, a young Jack Lemmon became a . . . not so young . . . Paul Lynde.

Is this a great industry or what?

Michelle's Spell said...

Hi Laura,

Love this show! I really loved Endora and the whole bunch. You're right about the supernatural not being dark and scary in this show. I just wish I had the house-cleaning talent thing going!

Laura Benedict said...

Tia--You're so right about "I Dream of Jeannie" and that version of Cinderella, too! Jeannie was just so racy--I didn't realize how racy until I watched it years later. It was my very favorite Halloween costume as well!

Tom--Ah, cool, blond Kim Novak. What a lovely witch she made.

Michelle--Me, too! Their house was always so, so tidy. And we don't want darkness all the time...I don't romanticize it the way I did when I was, say, a teenager, thank goodness.

paris parfait said...

I loved the magic of Bewitched too - and you're right about E. Montgomery in Lizzie Borden.