Saturday, April 15, 2023

Elizabeth Montgomery: A Bewitched Life, on Reelz

It is a little odd that nobody ever thought of Elizabeth Montgomery as a genre star, even though she is best known for playing a witch and an axe-murderer. She also guest-starred in four of the five greatest genre anthologies: The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, One Step Beyond, and Thriller (hosted by Boris Karloff). They only talk about the Zone is this nostalgia-baiting profile, but obviously, there is a long discussion of Bewitched in Elizabeth Montgomery: A Bewitched Life, which premieres tomorrow on Reelz.

Sadly, Montgomery died far too young in 1995, so a lot media consumers probably have not thought about her much in recent years, even though her titular sitcom has constantly remained in reruns. She was the daughter of Oscar-nominated Robert Montgomery, but their relationship was always fraught with issues, including political disagreements. They never worked together on-screen, even though she invited him to play her dad on
Bewitched, of which he did not approve. However, The Legend of Lizzie Borden really scandalized him.

Of course, the greatest amount of time is devoted to
Bewitched, the beloved sitcom about Samantha Stephens, a witch who is married to the mortal Darren. Naturally, the whole “Two Darrins” phenomenon is covered at length, but when you understand how much pain Dick York (Darrin #1) was in during his final days on the show, it now longer seems so funny.

In fact, you could consider it one of those “cursed” projects, along with “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Twilight Zone Movie,” because the first day of rehearsals started under the shadow of the Kennedy Assassination. Plus, Montgomery and her then husband, the show’s producer and frequent director, William Asher, both had affairs with people associated with the series, which led to their ultimate divorce.

Still, it was always a family show. In fact, Erin Murphy, who played young Tabitha on the original series (but not the teenaged Tabitha in the short-lived spinoff) narrates the profile and serves as one of the primary talking heads.

Unfortunately, the sentimental appeal starts to wane in the final fifteen minutes, which largely pay tribute to Montgomery’s political activism. Sure, it is nice she was an early advocate of tolerance and acceptance, but, as usual, nobody (evidently including her) had any second thoughts regarding her anti-war campaigning, despite the subsequent plight of the Vietnamese Boat People, the oppressive corruption of the current Communist regime, and the hostile reception many returning American servicemen experienced. The truth is there is probably room for second thoughts and reflections for everyone on all sides of the Vietnam issue, so maybe glossing over it more quickly here would have been wiser.

Regardless, it is sort of interesting to revisit the era of Network made-for-TV movies. The way we relate to media and entertainment is so different now. A quickie survey like this helps put that in perspective. Be that as it may,
Elizabeth Montgomery: A Bewitched Life is only recommended for fans who still remember and care, when it premieres tomorrow (4/16) on Reelz.