Elizabeth Mongtomery, television actress

From her earliest days appearing on her dad's weekly dramatic serial to her numerous television movies, Elizabeth Montgomery was simply made for the spotlight, a ravishing beauty with class and wit to spare. She was equally known for her politically liberal views and her bouts with domestic abuse with the troubled actor Gig Young. And yet in the years to come, she will simply be remembered as Samantha, that bewitching housewife that stole America's hearts in 1964.

Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery was born April 15, 1933 in Hollywood, California. Her father Robert was an actor and dramatist making his living in the studios and on the radio. Elizabeth grew up privileged, attending private school in the area and becoming an expert horseback rider. In 1950, her dad was given his own TV show, "Robert Montgomery Presents", and in January of 1951 the 18 year old Elizabeth was given her first TV role, playing an anonymous extra in an episode. In 1954, she married TV director Frederic Cammann, but the marriage only lasted two years, when she met and married the Oscar-winning actor Gig Young.

From 1952 to 1958, she appeared on a number of the playhouse dramas that developed, including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", "Playhouse 90", and "Kraft Television Theatre." In 1960, her portrayal of the criminal Rusty Heller on "The Untouchables" earned her an Emmy nomination. In 1961 she appeared opposite Charles Bronson in the acclaimed episode "Two" from Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone." She also made cameo appearances on "Wagon Train", "77 Sunset Strip", and "Rawhide", among others.

In 1963, after 7 years of marriage to the alcoholic and abusive Young the two were divorced. Later Elizabeth would become a strong advocate of women's rights and helped lead the fight against domestic abuse. That same year she starred as an uptight teacher in the AIP surf flick Beach Party. By now Elizabeth was already 30 years old, too old to become the breakout star of the new generation. Instead, she found herself auditioning for roles as teachers, nurses, and old spinsters. This was unacceptable.

In 1964, she married TV producer William Asher, who was working on sitcom ideas for ABC. When a friend suggested a story about a witch, Bill knew he had a hit idea. He asked Elizabeth to audition for the role, and soon Samantha Stephens was brought to life. "Bewitched" became a huge sensation, earning Elizabeth 5 more Emmy nominations and critical acclaim. In 1972, the show went off the air after 8 seasons. Elizabeth had also succumbed to alcohol abuse, and her marriage with Bill ended in 1973. The couple had three children together.

After her brief appearance in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini in 1965, Elizabeth never made another appearance in a major motion picture. Overcoming her alcoholism, from 1972 to 1980, she portrayed a number of female characters in dark TV movies about rape, murder, and kidnapping. Perhaps most famously she played Lizzie Borden in the 1975 biopic "The Legend of Lizzie Borden."

In 1980, she took on the title role of the short-lived TV series "Belle Starr", based on the famous Wild West bandit queen. Elizabeth performed well, but the plots were fairly outlandish and the show was cancelled after just one season. Throughout the 1990s Elizabeth became a strong supporter of gay rights, appearing alongside her longtime TV husband Dick Sargent at a gay pride parade in 1992. She also narrated the bizarre Anne Rice trilogy The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, a dark departure from the wiggly-nosed witchcraft of Samantha. Elizabeth continued to act in a number of acclaimed TV movies all the way up until her death on May 18, 1995 in Los Angeles of colorectal cancer. Always bewitching, beautiful, and bawdy, Liz will be missed.

Filmography

  • "Deadline for Murder" (1995) .... Edna Buchanan
  • "The Corpse Had a Familiar Face" (1994) .... Edna Buchanan
  • "With Murder in Mind" (1992) .... Gayle Wolfer
  • "Sins of the Mother" (1991) .... Ruth Coe
  • "Face to Face" (1990) .... Dr. Diana Firestone
  • "Between the Darkness and the Dawn" (1985) .... Abigail Foster
  • "Amos" (1985) .... Daisy Daws
  • "Second Sight: A Love Story" (1984) .... Alaxandra McKay
  • "Missing Pieces" (1983) .... Sara Scott
  • "The Rules of Marriage" (1982) .... Joan Hagen
  • "When the Circus Came to Town" (1981) .... Mary Flynn
  • "Belle Starr" (1980) (TV) .... Belle Starr
  • "Act of Violence" (1979) .... Catherine McSweeney
  • "Jennifer: A Woman's Story" (1979) .... Jennifer Prince
  • "The Awakening Land" (1978) .... Sayward Luckett Wheeler
  • "A Killing Affair" (1977) .... Vikki Eaton
  • "Dark Victory" (1976) .... Katherine Merrill
  • "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" (1975) .... Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Borden
  • "A Case of Rape" (1974) .... Ellen Harrod
  • "Mrs. Sundance" (1974) .... Etta Place
  • "The Victim" (1972) .... Kate Wainwright
  • How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) .... Bwana's Daughter
  • "Bewitched" (1964-1972) .... Samantha Stephens/Serena
  • Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963) .... Mellisa Morris
  • Johnny Cool (1963) .... Darien 'Dare' Guiness
  • Beach Party (1963) .... Miss Sims
  • The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955) .... Margaret Lansdowne
  • "Robert Montgomery Presents" (1951-1954) .... Various Roles

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