The Untold Truth Of Bewitched

Throughout the 20th century, Columbia Pictures was known for its sitcoms, many of which put a quirky, comedic spin on the ups and downs of domestic life. One such sitcom was Bewitched, created by Sol Saks. The show, which ran from 1964 to 1972, follows the adventures of a young witch named Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), who can work wonders with a simple twitch of her nose. Much to the dismay of her mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead), Samantha falls in love with a very mortal advertising executive named Darrin Stephens (first Dick York, later Dick Sargent). When she marries him, she agrees to tone down her magic for his sake — but she just can't keep her promise and often uses her powers to deal with problems. Sometimes her charms backfire and create an even greater catastrophe. However, she and Darrin always patch things up — and come to a better understanding of each other — by the end of each episode. 

Has Bewitched cast its spell on you? Are you twitching for some insider info on the beloved show? If so, read on for a brief history of the sitcom — including some fun facts you might not have known before.

Sol Saks created Bewitched after watching a 1942 film

The idea for Bewitched didn't appear to screenwriter Sol Saks in a puff of smoke, nor did he use a magic spell to cook it up. Rather, according to Bewitched fan encyclopedia Harpies Bizarre, Saks was inspired to create the sitcom after watching I Married a Witch — a quirky rom-com shot during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

As stated on Turner Classic MoviesI Married a Witch was adapted from a 1941 Thorne Smith novel called The Passionate Witch. The 1942 picture, directed by French filmmaker René Clair, tells the story of a woman named Jennifer, who just so happens to be a witch living in 1600s New England. When Jennifer is burned at the stake in Salem, she vows to get revenge on those who ordered her execution. Centuries later, her spirit is accidentally set free, and she is able to roam the Earth once more. She develops an interest in a local politician named Wallace Wooley — but things get complicated when she realizes that her perfect man is a descendant of those who had her killed. Ultimately, the power of romance overcomes their differences. Iconic Hollywood starlet Veronica Lake played Jennifer, while Academy Award-winner Fredric March played her lover and all his ancestors.

Bewitched was also inspired by a Broadway play

I Married a Witch wasn't the only story that charmed Sol Saks while he was developing Bewitched. As Harpies Bizarre explains, he was equally inspired by the 1950 John Van Druten play, Bell, Book and Candle, as well as the 1958 film adaptation of the work (directed by Richard Quine). The plot (according to IMDb) follows Gillian Holroyd, a modern-day witch, who meets a young publisher named Shepherd Henderson. Finding him attractive, she casts a spell on him, and they have a brief fling. When he develops feelings for her, she's intrigued... but an old rule states that if a witch falls in love, she must forsake her powers. In the end, Gillian chooses to be with Shepherd and make the ultimate sacrifice. The play premiered on Broadway with Lilli Palmer and Rex Harrison as the central couple, whereas the movie featured Kim Novak and James Stewart (previously seen together in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo) in the lead roles.

Although the premise of Bewitched was fairly similar to that of Bell, Book and Candle and I Married a Witch, Saks wasn't concerned about getting sued. Columbia Pictures, who was producing Bewitched through its Screen Gems division, owned the copyright to both of the films.

Elizabeth Montgomery was married to the show's producer

Bewitched fans loved the chemistry and camaraderie between Elizabeth Montgomery's character Samantha and her onscreen husband Darrin. In real life, Montgomery had a husband she was just as wild about — William "Bill" Asher, one of the show's producers.

Montgomery met Asher on the set of 1963 TV movie, Johnny Cool, which she starred in, and he directed. As detailed in Herbie J. Pilato's biography, Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery, Asher and Montgomery were attracted to each other at the time, but neither of them were emotionally available, having just come out of separations with other celebrities. By the time Screen Gems executives William Dozier and Harry Ackerman started working on Bewitched, Asher and Montgomery had spent more time together and were a happy couple. Dozier was a friend of Montgomery's and had been wanting to collaborate with her for some time. After New York actress Tammy Grimes turned down the part of Samantha, Dozier offered the part to Montgomery, and she gladly accepted. Asher joined the show as a director. Eventually, he would take the reins in a full-time producing role.

Elizabeth Montgomery was pregnant three times during Bewitched

According to Harpies Bizarre, Elizabeth Montgomery was pregnant three times over the course of Bewitched. Throughout much of the first season, she was expecting her first son with Bill Asher, William. However, because her character was so recently married, the producers opted to disguise her pregnancy with carefully chosen clothing and camera angles. By the time she was expecting second son Robert, characters Samantha and Darrin had already been married for a while. Instead of recommending the show's previous approach, the network censors allowed the Bewitched writers to weave Montgomery's pregnancy into the script. Thus, when Robert was born, so was Tabitha, the first Stephens baby.

During season six of the show, Montgomery became pregnant again — this time with third child, Rebecca. Once again, the Bewitched team decided to write the new baby into the sitcom. Samantha and Darrin's second child was a boy named Adam, who would eventually become a warlock.

Seven different actresses played Sam's daughter Tabitha

When most people think of the Tabitha character, actress Erin Murphy comes to mind. However, according to Harpies Bizarre, the role of Samantha and Darrin's daughter was actually filled by seven different children over the course of the show's run. 

First was Cynthia Black, who was only 2 and a half weeks old when she appeared in the episode "And Then There Were Three," which depicts Tabitha's birth. Next up was a set of twins — Heidi and Laura Gentry, who took turns portraying the baby witch in the episode "My Baby the Tycoon." The Gentry girls were shortly replaced with another set of twins — Tamar and Julie Young, who played Tabitha for the rest of Season Two. Season Three, which showed Tabitha growing up, featured older twins Erin and Diane Murphy in the role. When the differences between the girls became apparent, Erin, who looked more like Elizabeth Montgomery, took over full time. Her sister Diane wasn't left in the dust — she was brought in for various guest roles, such as a girl who gets punched in the stomach in "A Bunny for Tabitha" and a human version of Raggedy Ann in "Samantha and the Troll."

There was tension between Agnes Moorehead and "the new Darrin"

Many devoted fans of Bewitched were upset when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as Samantha's husband Darrin in Season 6. It turns out that Agnes Moorehead, who played Endora, might not have been so pleased with the decision to recast him either. As detailed in J. Pilato's Twitch Upon a Star, there was often an uncomfortable dynamic between the two on the set. 

David White, who played Darrin's boss Larry Tate on the show, recalls that at the first table read with Sargent as Darrin, Moorehead rose from her seat and announced, "I am not fond of change." Later, when the cast flew to Salem, Mass., for an on-location shoot, White saw Sargent crying. Sargent explained that he had been hurt by something Moorehead had said. However, the actors did ultimately reconcile. In a 1992 interview, Sargent told author Owen Keehnen, "She was certainly the most professional woman in the world, and she was so good [an actress]. Thank God we became friends eventually." According to Moorehead biographer Charles Tranberg, Agnes Moorehead even started inviting Sargent to her "annual Christmas-Birthday bashes" after a while.

A 1970 episode of Bewitched tackled racism

Bewitched is primarily known for its humorous riffs on gender dynamics — but the show, which aired during the civil rights era, also discussed racism in an episode called "Sisters at Heart," thanks in large part to a woman named Marcella Saunders. 

In 1969, USA Today reports, Saunders was an English teacher working at Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. Hoping to get her students interested in writing by creating a connection to television, Saunders reached out to several popular shows, including Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery and William Asher wrote back to her, inviting her students to the set of the show. After the exciting field trip, the students wrote a sample storyline for the sitcom and sent it to the Bewitched team as a thank you. The plot revolved around an interracial friendship between Tabitha and a Black classmate of hers. Staff writer Barbara Avedon felt so strongly about the concept that she turned it into a real episode — the show's 1970 Christmas special.

In "Sisters at Heart," Tabitha is friends with a Black girl named Lisa, whom she refers to as her "sister." When a high-profile client of Darrin's comes to the house and sees the girls playing together, he assumes that Darrin is married to a Black woman and stops doing business with him out of prejudice. After being called out by Larry, Darrin's boss, the businessman comes to recognize the error of his ways and apologizes for his racism.

The set has been used for several iconic TV shows and films

If you watch a lot of classic sitcoms, the Bewitched house might look a little familiar to you. According to Harpies Bizarre, different parts of the set have been used in various television shows and films. 

The outside of the Stephens house is not a real home but a set called "the 1164 Facade," located on the Columbia Ranch (where many Screen Gems sitcoms were shot at the time). It was used as the house of Dr. Alfred Bellows in I Dream of Jeannie, another sitcom that featured a magical wife with a mortal husband. Later, in the early 2000s, it was revamped as the house in The Geena Davis Show. It has since appeared in commercials.

Some of Bewitched's interior sets can be seen in other shows, as well. The Stephenses' living room was used by the teenagers of Gidget, while the living room of their neighbors the Kravitzes was used by I Dream of Jeannie and The Donna Reed Show. Bewitched sets were also repurposed for the 1969 movie, Hook, Line and Sinker, and 1971 movie, Brian's Song.

Fans of the National Lampoon movies might be surprised to learn of the series' Bewitched connection — according to Mental Floss, the Stephens house was used as Clark Griswold's childhood home in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

The characters appeared in two cartoon specials

Bewitched is famous for its cartoon intro, created by Hanna-Barbera Productions. Every fan of the series can instantly recognize the iconic sequence, which depicts Samantha flying over the city on a broomstick, turning her hat into a frying pan, transforming into a cat, and finally jumping into the arms of Darrin. However, even some diehards may be surprised to learn that the Bewitched characters also made two other animated appearances.

As detailed on IMDb, Samantha and Darrin's second adventure in the cartoon world took place in 1965, when Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York guest starred on a special crossover episode of The Flintstones. The episode, appropriately titled "Samantha," shows the Stephenses moving to Bedrock and befriending Fred, Wilma, Betty, and Barney. Like many Bewitched plots, the story deals with gender stereotypes and conventions — when Fred and Barney go on a camping trip "for the boys," Samantha sets up camp with Betty and Wilma to prove that they can handle the wilderness just as well. 

Seven years later, the Stephens children got their own animated special with Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family. According to Jeff Langburn's Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons, this hourlong program, part of ABC's "Saturday Superstar Movie" program, follows Tabitha and Adam as they visit an aunt who works with the circus.

A spinoff about Samantha's daughter was created

Many viewers of Bewitched were enamored by Tabitha, Samantha and Darrin's mischievous daughter. In 1977 — five years after the sitcom's final episode — ABC decided to give audiences more of the fan favorite by creating Tabitha, a spinoff starring a grown-up version of the character. According to IMDb, the series followed the adventures of Tabitha and her brother Adam as they worked at Los Angeles television station KXLA. As in the original series, Tabitha was a witch who sometimes employed her nose-twitching power to get herself out of predicaments. Adam, who was a warlock in the Bewitched universe, was rewritten to be a mortal so that he could fulfill the role of the rational cynic, much as Darrin did initially. Other recurring characters included Aunt Minerva, who encouraged Tabitha to use her witchcraft more often, and Paul Thurston, a TV host who acted as Tabitha's on-again-off-again love interest. 

Erin Murphy, who played the original Tabitha, was just 12 when the spinoff went into production. Therefore, the network had to find a new star. They ultimately landed on 21-year-old Lisa Hartman (who would later become a musician). David Ankrum played the role of her brother, while Karen Morrow and Robert Urich stepped into Minerva's and Paul's shoes.

Bewitched inspired a 2005 feature film

Bewitched made it to the big screen decades after its run in 2005, when it was made into a feature film by famous rom-com director Nora Ephron. As reported by IMDb, the film puts a meta spin on the original sitcom — it tells the story of an actual modern-day witch who auditions for the part of Samantha in a Bewitched remake and uses her powers to make her co-star fall in love with her. Nicole Kidman plays Isabel Bigelow, the Samantha actress, while Will Ferrell plays Jack Wyatt, the Darrin actor. Shirley MacLaine, Sir Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, and Kristen Chenoweth all had starring roles, as well.

Not everyone was a fan of the Bewitched movie. The film currently has a 24% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — and the New York Times called it "an unmitigated disaster." However, Kidman and Ferrell received high praise for their performances. Australian film critic Margaret Pomeranz said that Kidman "captures the sweet naivete of Isabel well" of Samantha and called Ferrell "really impressive in a part that is really demanding," while Roger Ebert referred to the duo as "funny and likable."

Japanese and Russian versions of Bewitched exist

In retrospect, it's impressive how far Bewitched's influence has reached. The sitcom was so critically acclaimed and well received that it spawned remakes around the world, in countries as far as Japan and Russia.

As stated on IMDb, the Japanese version of Bewitched was aired in 2004, 50 years after the original gained popularity. There, the sitcom was known as Okusama wa majo, which translates to "my wife is a witch." It was also called Bewitched in Tokyo. Arisa — the Japanese counterpart of Samantha — was played by Ryoko Yonekura, while Joji — the Darrin character — was played by Taizo Harada.

The Russian version of Bewitched, known as "Моя любимая ведьма" or "My Favorite Witch," was broadcast in 2009. According to the official website of Russian network TV3, this adaptation reimagined Samantha as Nadya Stoletova, the great-great-granddaughter of a Baba Yaga, a fearsome type of witch in the Russian folklore tradition. Nadya was played by Anna Zdor, while her husband Ivan was played by Ivan Grishanov.