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- Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery
- Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery (April 15, 1933 – May 18, 1995) was an American film, stage, and television actress whose career spanned five decades.
She is best remembered for her role as Samantha Stephens on the television series Bewitched.
The daughter of actor Robert Montgomery, she began her career in the 1950s with a role on her father's television series Robert Montgomery Presents, and won a Theater World Awardfor her 1956 Broadway debut in the production Late Love. In the 1960s, she became known for her role as Samantha Stephens on the ABC sitcom Bewitched. Her work on the series earned her five Primetime Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations. After Bewitchedended its run in 1972, Montgomery continued her career with roles in numerous television films, including A Case of Rape(1974), as Ellen Harrod, and The Legend of Lizzie Borden(1975) in the title role. Both roles earned her additional Emmy Award nominations.
Throughout her career, Montgomery was involved in various forms of political activism and charitable work. She has been cited as one of the earliest celebrities to support gay rights and advocate for AIDS victims, volunteering with the AIDS Project Los Angeles and amfAR at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
Frederick Gallatin Cammann (m. 1954; div. 1955)
Gig Young (m. 1956; div. 1963)
William Asher (m. 1963; div. 1973)
Robert Foxworth (m. 1993–95)
Children - 3
Elizabeth Bryan Allen
Relatives Martha-Bryan Allen (maternal aunt)
Montgomery was born on April 15, 1933, in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of actor Robert Montgomery and his wife, Broadway actress Elizabeth Daniel Bryan Montgomery (née Allen), a native of Kentucky. She had an older sister, Martha Bryan Montgomery, who died as an infant (named after her aunt Martha-Bryan Allen) and a younger brother, Robert Montgomery, Jr. (1936–2000). Montgomery was of Irish and Scottish descent. Her great-grandfather, Archibald Montgomery, was born in Belfast, and emigrated to the United States in 1849. Genealogical research conducted after Montgomery's death revealed that Montgomery and accused 19th-century murderer Lizzie Borden were sixth cousins once removed, both descending from 17th-century Massachusetts resident John Luther. Montgomery later played Borden, not knowing of their real-life relationship.
She attended Westlake School for Girls (now Harvard-Westlake School in Holmby Hills). After graduating from Spence School in New York City, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for three years.
1951–1963: Early work
Montgomery made her television debut on her father's series Robert Montgomery Presents (later appearing on occasion as a member of his "summer stock" company of performers). In October 1953, Montgomery made her debut on Broadway, starring in Late Love, for which she won a Theater World Award for her performance. She then made her film debut in Otto Preminger's The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955). Montgomery returned to Broadway in 1956, appearing in The Loud Red Patrick.
Montgomery's early career consisted of starring vehicles and appearances in live television dramas and series, such as Studio One, Kraft Television Theater, Johnny Staccato, Burke's Law, The Twilight Zone, The Eleventh Hour, Boris Karloff's Thriller, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1960, Montgomery was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of southern prostitute Rusty Heller in an episode of The Untouchables, playing opposite David White, who later portrayed Darrin's boss Larry Tate on Bewitched. She played the part of Rose Cornelius in the Rawhide episode "Incident at El Crucero" (1963).
In 1963, Montgomery was featured in a role as a socialite who falls for a gangster (Henry Silva) in Johnny Cool, directed by William Asher, and the film comedy Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?, with Dean Martinand Carol Burnett, this time directed by Daniel Mann. After her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Alfred Hitchcock had her in mind to play the sister-in-law of Sean Connery, who sees herself as a rival to the troubled heroine in the movie Marnie (1964), but Montgomery was unavailable.
1964–1972: Bewitched Main article: Bewitched
Montgomery played the central role of lovable witch Samantha Stephens with Dick York (and later with Dick Sargent) as her husband in the ABC situation comedy Bewitched. Starting in the second season of the series, she also played the role of Samantha's mischievous cousin, Serena, under the pseudonym Pandora Spocks.
Bewitched became a ratings success (it was, at the time, the highest-rated series ever for the network). The series aired for eight seasons, from 1964 to 1972, and despite low ratings, it was renewed for a ninth season to run from 1972 to 1973. However, Elizabeth Montgomery's marriage to Bewitched director William Asher was in trouble and the couple had separated by the end of the eighth season, causing severe friction in their professional relationship and ending any possibility of another season. As a consolation to ABC, Montgomery and Asher (under their company name Ashmont, which produced Bewitched) offered a half-hour sitcom, The Paul Lynde Show, to the network for the 1972–1973 season. Lynde's series lasted only one year.
In a parody of her Samantha Stephens role, she made a cameo appearance as a witch at the end of the beach party film How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). This was directed by William Asher, her husband at the time. That same year she also provided the voice of Samantha for an episode of the animated series The Flintstones.
Montgomery received five Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations for her role on Bewitched.
The show added to the increasing popularity of the name Samantha. It was first recorded in 18th-century New England with an unknown etymology, and, while its use was relatively rare until 1958, it has remained consistently popular since 1965 due chiefly to Montgomery's character.
1973–1995: Later career
Montgomery returned to Samantha-like twitching of her nose and on-screen magic in a series of Japanese television commercials (1980–83) for "Mother" chocolate biscuits and cookies by confectionery conglomerate Lotte Corp. These Japanese commercials provided a substantial salary for Montgomery while she remained out of sight of non-Japanese fans and the Hollywood industry.
In the United States, Montgomery spent much of her later career pursuing dramatic roles that took her as far away from the good-natured Samantha as possible. Among her later roles were performances that brought her Emmy Award nominations: a rape victim in A Case of Rape (1974), and the accused (but later acquitted) murderer Lizzie Borden in William Bast's The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975). Rhonda McClure, the genealogist who documented the Montgomery–Borden connection after Montgomery's death which revealed that Montgomery was Borden's distant cousin, said "I wonder how Elizabeth would have felt if she knew she was playing her own cousin."
Montgomery made many appearances on the game show Password. Allen Ludden, the show's longtime host, called her the "Queen of Password". Montgomery later played a pioneer woman facing hardship in 1820s Ohio in the miniseries The Awakening Land (1978), which earned her an Emmy nomination.
Montgomery played a police detective having an affair with her married partner, played by O. J. Simpson, in A Killing Affair (1977). She played a rare villainous role in the television movie Amos (1985), as a vicious nurse in a home for senior citizens who abuses her wards, played by, among others, Kirk Douglas and Dorothy McGuire. Montgomery returned to Broadway one last time in 1989 in a production of Love Letters, opposite Robert Foxworth. One of her last roles was in an episode of Batman: The Animated Seriesentitled "Showdown", in which she played a barmaid; this was also her final work to be screened, since the episode aired posthumously. Her last television series was the highly rated Edna Buchanan detective series – the second and final film of the series received its first airing on May 9, 1995, only nine days before Montgomery died.
Montgomery's first marriage was to New York socialite Frederick Gallatin Cammann in 1954; the couple divorced less than a year later. She was married to Academy Award-winning actor Gig Young from 1956 to 1963, and then to director-producer William Asher from 1963 until their 1973 divorce. They had three children: William Asher, Jr. (July 24, 1964), Robert Asher (October 5, 1965), and Rebecca Asher (June 17, 1969). The latter two pregnancies were incorporated into Bewitched as Samantha's pregnancies with Tabitha and Adam Stephens. During the 8th year of the show Elizabeth fell in love with director Richard Michaels. Their affair ended both their marriages and the series as well. They moved in together at the end of shooting in 1972. The relationship lasted 2½ years. On January 28, 1993, she married for a fourth time to actor Robert Foxworth, after living with him for nearly twenty years. She remained married to Foxworth until her death.
Many references to Patterson, New York, were made on Bewitched throughout the run of the series. The Putnam County town was the site of the Montgomery homestead, and it was also where Elizabeth spent her childhood summers. In later years, her mother lived in the family farmhouse on Cushman Road where Montgomery spent summers during her childhood.
Montgomery was personally devoted to liberal political beliefs, and she "lent her name, along with a great deal of time, money, and energy to a wide variety of charitable and political causes". Montgomery had progressive political views, being an outspoken champion of women's rights, AIDS activism, gay rights, and was pro-choice throughout her life. She was an ardent critic of the Vietnam War, and in later years, she was an active advocate for AIDS research and outreach to the disabled community. Professionally, she lent her voice as narrator to two controversial political documentaries, Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair(1988) and the Academy Award-winning The Panama Deception (1992). In June 1992, Montgomery and her former Bewitched co-star Dick Sargent, who had remained good friends, were Grand Marshals at the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade.
Throughout the last year of her life, Montgomery was a volunteer for the Los Angeles Unit of Learning Ally, a nonprofit organization which records educational books on specially formatted CDs and in downloadable formats for disabled people. In 1994, Montgomery produced several radio and television public-service announcements for the organization's Los Angeles Unit. In January 1995, she recorded the 1952 edition of the best-selling book of poetry titled When We Were Very Young for Learning Ally.
After her death, the Los Angeles Unit of Learning Ally dedicated the 1995 Record-A-Thon to Montgomery and secured 21 celebrities to assist in the reading of the book titled Chicken Soup for the Soul, which was also dedicated to her memory.
Illness and death
In the spring of 1995, Montgomery was diagnosed with colon cancer. She had ignored the influenza-like symptoms during the filming of Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan, which she finished filming in late March 1995. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, it was too late for medical intervention. With no hope of recovery and unwilling to die in a hospital, she chose to return to the Beverly Hills home that she shared with Foxworth. Early on the morning of May 18, 1995, Montgomery died at home eight weeks after her diagnosis. She was 62.
On June 18, 1995, a memorial service was held at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills. Herbie Hancockprovided the music, and Dominick Dunne spoke about their early days as friends in New York City. Other speakers included her husband, Robert Foxworth, who read sympathy cards from fans; her nurse; her brother; her daughter; and her stepson. Her body was cremated at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
Montgomery had a summer home in Patterson, Putnam County, New York. Following her death, the 794-acre (321 ha) estate was sold to New York State and became Wonder Lake State Park.
- On April 19, 1998, an auction and sale of Montgomery's clothing was held by her family to benefit the AIDS Healthcare Foundation of Los Angeles. Erin Murphy, who played Tabitha on the series, modeled the clothing that was auctioned.
- Wonder Lake State Park in New York has been expanded and fully opened to the public; as of 2015, it contains over eight miles of walking trails on more than a thousand acres of land.
- In June 2005, a bronze statue of Montgomery as Samantha Stephens was erected in Salem, Massachusetts.
- A star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame was presented in honor of Montgomery's work in television on January 4, 2008. The location of the star is 6533 Hollywood Blvd.
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